Receiving Blankets vs Swaddle Blankets: Do You Need Both for Baby?



Aug 18, 2021

Preparing for a new baby can be overwhelming. Curious about what is the difference between a receiving blankets vs swaddle blankets and what is this thing people call a swaddle suit? I will go over each in this article.

I talk you through the difference between receiving blankets vs swaddle blankets and the best ones! All my recommendations I have personally vetted with my own babies and found what works best.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase. Rest assured all products I suggest are products I have bought or would buy based on personal experience or through my network of other mommas.

What is a Receiving Blanket?

collection of receiving blankets
Picture is some of my collection of receiving blankets, the blue and pink stripes are the hospital receiving blankets while the others come from Carters.

Picture is some of my collection of receiving blankets, the blue and pink stripes are the hospital receiving blankets while the others come from Carters.

A receiving blanket gets its name from the iconic snapshot of a baby being placed in a blanket right after birth. This first blanket is the blanket you receive your newborn in and all new parents get sent home with one. 

Traditional receiving blankets have blue and pink stripes and measure 30 by 40 inches. They are 100% cotton and can serve many purposes throughout your baby’s first year of life. Many companies now make receiving blankets and it is common to find them in 30 by 30 inch squares and offered in a couple different materials and colors.

What are baby receiving blankets used for?

The primary use of a baby receiving blanket is to swaddle your newborn. Swaddling creates a warm and cozy feeling mimicking your baby's time in the womb. Over time you will find other purposes of receiving blankets that I touch on later.

Video demonstrating using receiving blanket to swaddle: 3 different techniques

What is a Swaddle Blanket?

collection of swaddle blankets
My favorite swaddle blanket are cute adorable safari animals made from CuddleBug that are great for either gender. I have used them on all my babies.

My favorite swaddle blanket are cute adorable safari animals made from CuddleBug that are great for either gender. I have used them on all my babies.

A swaddle blanket is similar to a receiving blanket but is typically larger and made of lighter material. Swaddle blankets have a longer life span as the size is larger and has multiple other practical uses.  I personally love using the Muslin swaddles as a breastfeeding cover because the material is light and breathable for baby.

Swaddle blankets have evolved and there is now the option of swaddle suits.  Swaddle suits are designed to make it easier for parents to securely swaddle your baby. They use velcro, zippers and/or additional weight to swaddle baby. They speed up the process of swaddling.

Swaddle suits also are more consistent with wrap quality than a blanket swaddle. When you use a blanket, your wrap tightness can vary each time. The suits addresses this inconsistency by making it easier to wrap your baby securely.

Video how to swaddle using a swaddle blanket(Muslin wrap) and a swaddle suit (Nested Bean)

Differences Between Receiving Blankets VS Swaddle Blankets?

Typical SizeMain UseCommon Material
Receiving Blanket
30 inches by 30 inches
Wrap Newborn, Warmth
Cotton, Banboo or Flannel
Swaddle Blanket
42 inches by 42 inches
Swaddle Baby, Light Blanket
Cotton, Muselin
Swaddle Suit
Sized to baby's age
Swaddle for Sleep
Cotton, Spandex, Bamboo

Chart of characteristics for Receiving Blanket, Swaddle Blanket and Swaddle Suit

Receiving blankets are smaller than swaddle blankets, made from thicker material and originally designed for hospitals to wrap newborns and keep warm. A baby will outgrow a receiving blanket in the first 3 months of life.

hospital receiving blanket
My newborn loosely wrapped in the hospital receiving blanket

Swaddle blankets are larger, designed to wrap babies for longer periods of time and are typically made of a more stretchy, breathable material. They work as great tuck blankets as well as to swaddle your baby.

The sole purpose of a swaddle suit is to swaddle a baby for sleep. Swaddle Suits use different closures such as velcro or zippers to hold the swaddle tight. Once a baby learns to roll over a swaddle suit becomes unsafe and shouldn't be used.

Other Uses for Receiving Blankets and Swaddle Blankets:

  • Hospital to swaddle your baby in
  • Snuggle your baby 
  • Swaddle your baby 
  • Burp cloth
  • Breastfeeding cover
  • Carseat Cover
  • Changing station cover
  • Tummy time blanket

swaddle blanket on my newborn outside
Swaddle blankets are great tuck blankets to keep a newborn warm while napping.

Why Swaddle A Baby?

Swaddling is a technique used to tightly wrap your baby to mimic the close quarters he/she was used to while in the womb. Babies spend 9 months in a packed warm space and it should be no surprise that babies like what they were used to.

Swaddling generally helps babies to feel warm and secure. This results results in better sleep, however this is not a guarantee with every baby. ( I called it the burrito wrap).

difference between receiving blankets vs swaddle blankets
My newborn swaddled like a burrito in hospital

Babies are born with a moro reflex, sometimes referred to as startle reflex. In reaction to a noise or other stimulus a baby will startle awake and fling one or both arms into the air.  This startle reflex will cause a sleeping baby to wake up and cry. 

According to the What To Expect article reviewed by an M.D. the Moro reflex normally goes away when the baby is 4 to 6 months old.  One technique for a new mom is to swaddle her baby. When the startle reflex occurs the baby’s arms will be secure and not wake baby.

Swaddling the baby using a blanket traps his/her arms so that the baby cannot move them. Because of this, swaddling is NOT safe once the baby starts to roll over. When a baby can roll over he/she can trap himself/herself on their stomach and might not be able to push up to reposition their head to breathe.

What Does The Hospital Provide: Receiving Blankets vs Swaddle Blankets?

All hospitals provide a receiving blanket, or several in my case, for each birth. The blanket is yours to take home and keep as a memento forever. 

Hospitals vary if they provide a swaddle suit or not. My hospital did and allowed me to take two home with me. It is best to ask your hospital during birthing class or your OBGYN what will be provided.  

receiving blankets vs swaddle blankets at hospital
My first son at the hospital his second night. The hospital had their receiving blanket as the cover of the bassinet and wrapped our baby in a swaddle to sleep.

Should You Buy Receiving Blankets or Swaddle Blankets For Baby?

I recommend buying a bit of each.

How Many Receiving Blankets Do I Need?

I don't recommend buying more than a couple receiving blankets. The hospital will send you home with some, but given their dual purpose for burp cloths and handy blankets receiving blankets will not go unused.

How Many Swaddle Blankets Do I Need?

I personally preferred swaddle blankets, especially Muslin swaddles, and used them for the full first year of my babies' lives. I recommend a pack to start; they normally come in packages of four.

I used Muslin swaddles to swaddle baby for the first 3 months of their lives while on the go. Past 3 months I always had one with me in my diaper bag as my nursing cover, tummy time blanket or to cover my baby for warmth.

How Many Swaddle Suits Do I Need?

I heavily used swaddle suits for overnight sleeping until my baby was able to roll over. My babies slept better in swaddle suits and I enjoyed the simplicity and better wrap quality you get when compared to a blanket.

Best Receiving Blankets

The hospital receiving blankets are great, but I wouldn’t personally buy the hospital design receiving blankets from a store. Since you get a couple free with the birth of your child I would suggest buying a couple receiving blankets in another design.

There are so many design choices for receiving blankets and a lot of it depends on personal preference. I didn’t know the gender so asked for all gender neutral items. 

Gender neutral receiving blankets..

Boy themed receiving blankets.

Girl themed receiving blankets

Best Swaddle Blankets

I used swaddle blankets more than receiving blankets to swaddle my baby. I loved the larger size and lighter material especially in the summer months.

swaddle blanket muslin blanket elephants
Swaddling when out helps my baby know its nap time

The Muslin wraps are a great breastfeeding cover when out in public. The larger size helped me drape the material loosely over my baby. Also the lighter fabric made it more breathable for my son and I. 

Above is my favorite swaddle blanket. I loved the adorable safari animals which was perfect for either a girl or a boy.

Best Swaddle Suits

Summary Best Swaddle Suits

Nested Bean Zen Swaddle

My first baby loved the Nested Bean Zen Swaddle. The Nested Bean has a weight that rests on the baby’s chest. The weightis designed to make the baby feel more secure.  My first son slept great in this swaddle.

The Nested Bean swaddle was easy to put on and could be configured with arms in or out. The different stages work as your baby transitions away form being swaddled.

I thought I would be all set with my Nested Bean when my second son was born. I was wrong. My second boy was a lot larger than my first son (by 3lbs and 2.5 inches). The Nested Bean arm wrapped (called wings) weren’t long enough for him. The wraps didn’t cover his entire arm length. Therefore, it didn’t work to keep his arms by his sides when he startled. 

Woombie Grow with Me Swaddle

The Woombie Grow With Me Swaddle was the winner with my second. The swaddle doesn’t have wings that wrap around your baby, but a zipper. This swaddle is built to grow with your baby and transform from a tight swaddle to a wearable blanket. The Woombie works for a baby up to 18 months old.

Woombie grow with me swaddle suit
My third in Woombie Grow with me Swaddle

The Woombie has a narrowed waistline to gently compress the stomach creating a womb like experience. It features a double way zip to facilitate easier middle of the night diaper changes. 

For a more information on the Woombie read my review here.

Swaddle suits are worth it for the first 3 months of a baby's life, or when the baby starts to roll over. The suits make it easier to create the “womb experience” that results in better sleep for your baby and ultimately you! I definitely contribute my boys being good sleepers early on to the use of the swaddle suits.

Hope this has helped you determine the difference between receiving blankets vs swaddle blankets and what to get for your bundle of joy!

If you are curious what I would and have packed in my hospital bag check it out here.