(Pictured: baby sleeping in 100% Bamboo Baby Blanket (Swaddle Blanket) - Frog design)
I have been wanting to write this blog post for some time based on my own personal experience as a first-time mum shopping for newborn and baby essentials. I can remember reading lots about cellular blankets, but not really understanding them and being faced with a huge amount of choice of baby blankets when at that stage in my life a blanket was a blanket! As you are probably aware, The Little Art Collection design and make Bamboo muslin swaddle blankets - this post is not so much about selling those to you but instead about providing a guide to the different types of baby blankets available on the market. It is about filling a huge information gap that I came across as a new mum, and hopefully about kitting you out with the information you need to make informed decisions about what you buy. I am by no means an expert; the information below has been pulled together from my own internet research. Please ensure that you always refer to the NHS and Lullaby Trust for safer sleeping advice, and if you are at all unsure please consult your midwife or paediatrician.
The term ‘receiving blanket’ originated in the late 19th century and is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as ‘a soft blanket in which to wrap a baby’. As the name suggests, they were originally used (and gifted) to ‘receive’ a baby at birth and were traditionally handmade (knitted/crocheted). Receiving blankets are usually quite small (for tiny babies!) and made from lightweight materials such as polyester, muslin, flannel, cotton and bamboo. They are used to wrap around newborn babies to help them maintain body heat since they are less able to regulate their own temperature in the first few weeks of life.
If your receiving blanket is lightweight then yes; Lullaby Trust advise that you should ‘use thin materials’ for swaddling.
A swaddle blanket is designed specifically for swaddling.
A swaddle blanket is usually larger than a receiving blanket to provide enough fabric with which to swaddle. Swaddle blankets tend to be made from breathable materials such as cotton or bamboo muslin. Bamboo muslin has additional thermo-regulating properties which helps to moderate baby’s temperature - find out more about bamboo here.
Both receiving blankets and swaddle blankets are multi-purpose. They can be used as lightweight crib or pram blankets, muslin squares, changing mat covers/makeshift changing mats, play mats, for lining cots and prams and more.
A security blanket is ‘a familiar blanket or other piece of soft fabric held by a young child as a source of comfort’ (Oxford Dictionary). If you shop specifically for security blankets you will find they are small and easy to carry around, sometimes with a soft toy attached. In my experience, babies tend to choose for themselves what they want for comfort - blankets, teddies, thumb, old t-shirts or babygrows (anything goes!) so I would avoid spending too much money on these if you can resist the temptation.
Crib blankets are larger than receiving blankets and security blankets. They come in various sizes, materials and weights. For safety reasons they should be free from loose threads, buttons, yarns and large holes. As the name suggests they are used as blankets in cots or cribs (so when baby is older and has transitioned from moses basket or sleeping pod into their own cot) and should not be used alongside sleeping bags. Lullaby Trust advise that “crib blankets and sheets are firmly tucked in (not above shoulder height) with sleeping baby in the feet-to-foot position. It is best to avoid using soft or bulky bedding such as quilts, pillows and duvets.”
Cellular blankets are considered the best type of blankets for newborns (safer than fleece blankets which can be hot) and are used in hospitals. They are lightweight and knitted or woven to create holes and ‘cells’ which allows for airflow whilst also trapping little pockets of air to provide extra insulation. This keeps your baby’s temperature regular – neither too hot or too cold. These blankets form an essential part of any newborn checklist
There are various different types of baby blankets on the market. Whilst I’m not in a position to personally advise which blankets are best for new babies, I would say that it is important to look at the materials, weight and construction of any blanket you intend to buy, and to pair this alongside how and when you intend to use it. For example whilst a bulky fleece blanket may not be suitable for a newborn baby or use as a crib blanket, lots of mums like to use them out and about in prams to protect baby from extremely cold weather. Newborn babies are less able to moderate their own body temperatures in the first few weeks of life, so it is your job to do this (it is best to layer lightweight blankets and add or remove clothing, and please bear in mind that folding a blanket will double its heat keeping capacity). Older babies can moderate their own temperature so you may prefer to swaddle or layer up with baby blankets at this stage. I hope you find this blog post useful, and wish you the very best of luck with your new arrivals.
Founder, The Little Art Collection