Receiving Blanket vs Swaddle: What Baby Actually Needs

New moms and dads often wonder – do I ACTUALLY need ALL of this baby stuff?

receiving blanket vs swaddle

So, how about a receiving blanket vs swaddle? Do you really need both?

And truthfully, there are some differences between the two you should know about before making a decision about these.

Keep reading to learn:

  • what exactly makes receiving blankets and swaddles different
  • how to use each type of baby blanket
  • how to use a swaddle blanket safely
  • how many swaddles and/or receiving blankets you should have
  • best receiving blanket and swaddles to consider
  • other creative non-traditional ways to use each item

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and I could earn a commission at no cost to you if you make a purchase using them.

Receiving Blanket vs Swaddle: New Moms Guide

receiving blanket vs swaddle - here's which one your baby needs

There are a ton of different kinds of baby blankets out there.

But during your newborn baby’s first few months, you’ll tend to rely on your receiving blankets and swaddles much more often than any other kind.

What is a receiving blanket

A receiving blanket is a thin soft blanket that is most commonly used to keep your little warm snug and warm when receiving him or her.

For instance, after they were just born.

They’re also great for keeping your newborn calm when introducing him or her to family and friends for the first time!

Here’s my youngest swaddled in a receiving blanket at 10 days old.

receiving blanket as swaddle to calm baby

Why is it called a receiving blanket?

Traditionally, a receiving blanket was used immediately after a newborn baby was delivered.

It was the first blanket a newborn baby was wrapped up in and then given to their parents the first time they “received” their baby.

swaddles folded under receiving blankets

Does the hospital give you receiving blankets?

In my experience, no – I’ve given birth twice and was never given a receiving blanket from the hospital.

Both of my girls were wrapped in towels by the hospital staff – we later took them out of the towels and used the receiving blankets we brought from home for both girls.

newborn baby in receiving blanket at hospital - brought from home

Here’s my little one wrapped in a receiving blanket with the hospital towel on top – it was a VERY cold and snowy day when she was born.

How many receiving blankets do I need?

I bought a set of four receiving blankets (they now sell them as a 7-pack for just a couple dollars more – this is a great deal!) with my first daughter and never needed to buy more for my second.

In fact, they’re still going strong more than 4 and a half years later.

If you invest in good quality receiving blankets and take care of them, four is enough to last you through multiple kids (if you use them alongside swaddles).

Haven’t had your baby just yet?

I recommend packing just one receiving blanket in your hospital bag – you don’t need any more than that after delivery!

receiving blanket on baby as swaddle

More tips for expecting moms:

What material is best for receiving blankets?

Receiving blankets are usually made of cotton, plush, or flannel.

My go-to choice was flannel.

These receiving blankets from Carter’s are exactly what we have and I like them because they’re breathable and lightweight.

Meaning they’re perfect for any season since they’re thin and you can layer them if need be.

These are the best receiving blankets we’ve ever used.

They’re also really inexpensive for a high-quality product – 10/10 would recommend!

soft baby blankets - comparison

How to use a receiving blanket

Receiving blankets are versatile pieces of fabric that can be stretched and pulled in multiple directions.

You can use it similarly to a swaddle by wrapping your baby like a burrito to comfort him or her.

Baby’s crave the warm snug sensation that they were used to in the womb and this type of blanket provides the best of both worlds – especially during colder months!

Other ways to use a receiving blanket include:

  • as a protective layer above your matress to keep baby warm and comfortable while he or she sleeps
  • on top of an infant lounger like a Boppy or DockATot
  • on top of your nursing pillow to protect ist from breastmilk leakage and/or spit-up
  • as an oversized burp cloth
  • as a stroller blanket – they’re smaller and warmer than swaddles, which make them perfect when you’re on the go with a newborn baby
receiving blanket vs swaddle as nursing pillow support

We added a receiving blanket on top of our Boppy nursing pillow to create a more supportive lounging cushion for our oldest (this was before the Boppy Newborn Lounger existed).

Related: DockATot vs Boppy Lounger: Which One is Right for Your Baby

What is a swaddle blanket

Swaddle blankets are used most often to soothe fussy babies.

As you get to know your baby more, and especially as awake times increase, using a swaddle will help relax your baby more quickly so that you can put him or her down for a nap without too much of a struggle.

They are meant to mimic the swaddled sensation babies felt in the womb because all of that open space can feel scary for an infant.

Swaddles provide a sense of safety and security to new babies.

swaddle vs receiving blanket - playard protector

How many swaddles do I need?

From personal experience, I recommend picking up 6 to 8 swaddles.

With six swaddles, you’ll have two for wear, two for the wash, and two to spare.

And TRUST me, you will USE and WASH them daily!

Babies are especially prone to spit-up and messy blowouts when they’re newborns, and you can anticipate a bit of a mess after feeding and nap times.

I invested in 8 of these swaddles and they’re still my top choice with another 6-month old.

receiving blanket vs swaddle newborn - wrap and protector

What material is best for swaddle blankets?

The most popular choice of material for swaddle blankets is cotton muslin followed by bamboo and jersey.

These Aden & Anais muslin swaddles are the best swaddle blankets we’ve ever used.

I loved them so much that I ended up selling all of our other swaddles on Facebook Marketplace.

They’re INCREDIBLY lightweight so you don’t have to worry about your baby burrito overheating (if they’re dressed for the right weather underneath)!

Here are our favorite swaddles in comparison to our favorite receiving blankets.

swaddles vs receiving blankets folded next to each other

How to use a swaddle blanket

The most common way to use a swaddle blanket is of course, to swaddle your baby! Here’s how to do it:

  1. To swaddle your baby, you’ll need to lay down your swaddle blanket so it’s flat in a diamond shape. 
  2. Then, fold the top triangle down so that you baby’s head will rest above it – this may take some practice as you learn to swaddle and as your baby grows!
  3. Place your baby on the swaddle blanket so that his or head does NOT touch the fabric – your child’s shoulders should be level with the line created by folding the top piece of fabric.
  4. Then, hold one of baby’s arms firmly but gently in place as you take the corner fabric from that side and lift it over baby’s shoulder – I like to start with the right arm.
  5. Turn baby to the side you are working on and tuck the fabric beneath his or her back
  6. Lay baby back down
  7. Pull up the bottom fabric below baby’s feet and roll your baby to the same side once more to tuck this fabric behind him or her
  8. Make sure there is enough wiggle room for baby’s feet – you want it to be snug NOT constraining!
  9. Tuck baby’s other arm down to the side and roll your baby to the opposite direction
  10. Bring across the last piece of fabric and tuck it all the way behind your baby’s back
  11. When baby’s arms feel snug but comfortable and he or she has enough wiggle room for those little feet, you’ve achieved a great swaddle

More of a visual person?

This is a great video that shows how to safely swaddle a baby – according to an RN šŸ™‚

Other innovative ways to use your swaddles include as:

  • nursing pillow covers
  • car seat covers
  • nursing covers
  • stroller covers
  • burp cloths

Since they’re lighter weight are larger than receiving blankets, swaddles are also quite a bit more versatile.

I’m sure there are dozens of other usages out there that I haven’t even thought of!

swaddle as car seat cover

Should I get both receiving blankets and swaddles?

Yes, they’re made for different things.

Swaddles are lighter and thinner which makes them more comfortable for newborns.

Receiving blankets are usually thicker and heavier, making them ideal for comforting a baby whose body temperature runs cooler.

While a receiving blanket can be used for swaddling, a swaddling blanket is much more effective for this purpose and is less likely to cause discomfort or irritation.

Receiving blankets are often slightly smaller than swaddling blankets.

carter vs aden anais size comparison

The soft warmth of receiving blankets makes them ideal for wrapping around an infant after he or she has been born.

But the combination of size and thickness makes swaddling blankets more versatile.

So, they’re great for wrapping around larger, older babies or infants who are at an increased risk of suffering from illnesses like the flu or colds.

Receiving blankets are also commonly used as stroller blankets since they’ll keep your baby warm without worrying about overheating.

swaddle blankets folded for storage

This is something I personally experienced a lot more when I used sherpa blankets with both of my babies.

My favorite swaddle blankets are Aden & Anais

Aden & Anais swaddles are softer, bigger, and more breathable than most receiving blankets.

Here is a photo of one of our Aden & Anais swaddles next to a Carter’s receiving blanket.

carters receiving blanket vs aden anais swaddle size comparison

Quite a bit bigger, right?

They’re incredibly soft and lighter weight than a traditional swaddle which makes them perfect for hot summer days and even in the winter on top of a cute and cozy zip-up pyjama. 

When to use receiving blanket vs swaddle?

I like to think of this question based on age, climate, and mood.

I found that my babies responded very well to receiving blankets as soothing mechanisms when they were VERY small – like up to 12 weeks old small.

So we essentially used receiving blankets as swaddles while they were this age.

Now, during hot days and especially heat waves (which apparently we need to get used to in Vancouver, BC), I would always opt for the Aden & Anais swaddles to calm down my fussy babies.

side by side swaddle blankets

They are just THAT much cooler and you don’t have to worry about your baby waking up from being too overheated!

You COULD release their arms or loosen the swaddle during a nap but you’re also risking them waking up due to the Moro reflex (the startle reflex) at this young age.

Between 4 to 6 months old though, you’ll no longer have to worry about the startle reflex as it eventually disappears as your baby gets used to the outside world.

A receiving blanket helps to keep babies warm and secure, depending on which type you use and how you wrap it around your baby.

I liked receiving blankets best when my brand new baby girl was just born – I also used them more often when my oldest was just born! 

But after about a month or two (and during hotter days), we found ourselves reaching for the Aden & Anais swaddle blankets more often. 

5 hand drawn black hearts as a banner

What’s the difference between a receiving blanket vs swaddle?

So, to wrap it all up (pun totally intended, lol), here are the main differences between receiving blankets and swaddles:

  • Shape: receiving blankets tend to be more square-shaped and, in my experience, a slightly thicker and warmer material than a swaddle
  • Purpose: where as a receiving blanket’s purpose is to keep a baby warm while receiving him or her, a swaddle is used to securely wrap a newborn baby so that they feel and are calmed by the snug sensation they are used to from inside the womb
  • Material: swaddles tend to be made of a thinner material than receiving blankets – swaddles are usually cotton muslin (the top choice of veteran moms), bamboo, or jersey while receiving blankets are cotton, flannel, or plush
  • Cost: swaddles tend to cost a bit more than receiving blankets – likely because they’re usually bigger and tend to be made of more premium fabrics

Picked up either Carter’s receiving blankets or Aden & Anais swaddles? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below!

Found this guide helpful? Say hello here or on Instagram šŸ™‚

Happy blanket shopping, friend!

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vancouver mom blogger nikki slivarich

Nikki Slivarich
Blessed mama of two beautiful little girls. Iā€™m a full-time blogger and social media content creator who teaches moms and boss babes how to start an online business. Follow me on social for clever ideas to make money using the platforms you already love!

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