What is a Receiving Blanket?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A receiving blanket is a soft, lightweight blanket which is used to wrap a baby. There are a number of uses for these blankets, and many new mothers like to keep a stack around the house for various tasks. They are often given as gifts at baby showers or parties to celebrate a new mother, and they are readily available from stores which stock baby supplies. They can also be handmade, for people who enjoy sewing projects and want to create a personalized present for a new mother.

Infant swaddled in a blue receiving blanket.
Infant swaddled in a blue receiving blanket.

These blankets are large enough to wrap a baby securely without being cumbersome. They are often used for swaddling new infants. In addition to being an ancient tradition, swaddling also appears to be beneficial for babies, as it can help calm them down. Receiving blankets can also be draped across a baby in a stroller for warmth, used for quick layers in baby bedding, spread on a surface for a quick diaper change, folded over the shoulder for burping, or used to cover a baby while breastfeeding for privacy. Many new mothers come up with other creative uses for the blanket, turning it into an excellent all-purpose item.

Receiving blankets can be spread out onto surfaces to protect against leaking during a diaper charge.
Receiving blankets can be spread out onto surfaces to protect against leaking during a diaper charge.

Depending on the design, a receiving blanket may be square or rectangular. Many are reversible, and some have one side which is extra soft for the baby's skin, and another side made from a moisture-resistant material to prevent leakage during burping and diaper changes. Bright colors are commonly used, since babies seem to respond to and enjoy brightly colored objects in their environment, although more toned down pastel versions are also available.

Women who have previously given birth may choose to reuse old receiving blankets.
Women who have previously given birth may choose to reuse old receiving blankets.

When selecting a receiving blanket, people may want to remember that babies have very sensitive skin. If a blanket feels rough and scratchy to an adult, it will feel even more unpleasant for the baby. Some parents also prefer to use natural fibers like untreated cotton, linen, and silk with their babies, because they are concerned about synthetic fibers or chemicals around their babies. For someone who tends to buy organic and use natural products, an unbleached, undyed cotton blanket might be a good choice. Buyers may also want to think about color choice: some parents don't care what color baby presents are, while others would prefer to receive (or avoid) gendered colors like pink and blue.

While gifts of new and handmade receiving blankets are often appreciated by new parents, parents can also get receiving blankets used from consignment stores if they find that their supplies are not ample enough. Baby consignment stores are often a great source for high quality, low cost baby supplies which have been gently used, and new parents can start a rolling account by bringing in items they no longer use such as a carseat which has become too small so that they can generate store credit for buying items they need.

A receiving blanket may provide privacy during breastfeeding.
A receiving blanket may provide privacy during breastfeeding.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@DylanB – Really? I've seen a lot of bright baby receiving blankets with animals and cartoons on them. We must shop at different stores!

I always want to buy the brightest, most interesting blanket I can find for a friend's baby shower, but I make myself stick to what is on their registry. Some of my friends have requested light blue or pink blankets, and even though I think these are not visually stimulating enough, I respect their wishes.

Also, I have one friend who wanted only gender-neutral colored items for her shower. She knew that she was having a girl, but she didn't want to force girlish things on her. So, I got her a green receiving blanket.


I've seen a lot of fleece receiving blankets in pastel colors. I don't think I've ever seen a brightly colored one.

I don't think the baby's reaction to the color matters so much at that stage of life. I mean, the blanket is actually just to keep them warm or swaddled. It isn't meant to be looked at, and if they are all wrapped up in it, they probably can't see it, anyway.


I have a friend who bought some cheap baby blankets, thinking that she was getting a great bargain. They were wrapped up in plastic, so she didn't have a chance to feel them before buying them.

When she unwrapped them, she found them to be rough and scratchy. She would not let something like that come in contact with her baby's skin.

So, it's always best to check the feel of a receiving blanket before you buy one. Also, if a blanket doesn't say that it's intended to be used for babies, it might not actually be a receiving blanket.


@cougars – I think that having a baby swaddled in a blanket makes him feel like he's being held, even if he isn't. I think we all long to feel wrapped up in someone's embrace, no matter our age, and because babies don't know the difference between human arms and a blanket, this is a convenient way to trick them!


Swaddling blankets are such a versatile baby necessity. We used them for everything, and we still use them as an intermediate layer in the baby's bed when she gets sick. They are absorbent, soft, and easy to clean. One thing I did make sure of is that we bought my baby organic receiving blankets. They spend so much time against her skin that I figured pesticide free blankets were best.


When my daughter was a new born, she would not sleep unless she was swaddled in a thermal receiving blanket or held in one of our arms. My fiancée’s midwife told us that it was because the tightness of the swaddling blanket made the baby feel secure, like she was still in the womb. It took me forever to learn how to wrap the blanket, but eventually I got it. How being wrapped up like a chimichanga is comfortable, I will never understand, but it was a fail-safe way to get her to stop fussing.

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