Everything you need for baby and nothing you don't
Bottom line necessities:
Optional, nice to have/will use later too:
When I made my registry/shopping list pre-baby, it bothered me: web sites and books all recommended I stock up on “receiving blankets.” Since I would be busy with the delivering part, I assumed my excellent OB would take care of the receiving bit and bring along any necessary accessories, including blankets.
What exactly is a receiving blanket? What is it used for post-reception? And why did I need, like, eight of them, especially since these same books and sites were adamant that only if I wanted to endanger the very life of my newborn would I ever think of putting a blanket in the crib with her before she was, say, twelve?
From the other side of having an infant, here’s the deal: you’ll need some blankets. Small ones. That’s it. That’s what they mean by “receiving blankets.”
And forget, “You will need 4-6 light receiving blankets and 4-6 heavy receiving blankets.” Just get a few (3-4) small-ish, regular blankets based on your climate and the time of year you’re due.
Here’s what you’ll need them for – buy/register accordingly:
Swaddling. The first few weeks of swaddling you’ll probably use blankets (vs. your other swaddling options). The hospital will send you home with a couple. If you aren’t delivering in a hospital or want some extra ones, buy them big so you won’t have to replace them in a month and you can use them on your toddler’s bed. Also, get jersey over flannel if you can because it’s softer and stretches better (= fewer broken swaddles later when Junior gets stronger).
Jersey blankets are weirdly hard to find, but they’re out there. My favorite, favorite, favorite baby blanket still – for swaddling or otherwise – is Tea Collection’s Lotus Print Blanket (pink or blue pattern). 40×40″ and $35 at their site or in stores. Soft, washable, single-ply jersey. Best, best, best.
Satsuma Designs makes one that will work: only 35×35 but the right weight and feel. $26 at Amazon, $32 at their store. Or Giggle’s Better Basics bold-stripe blankets ($36 online or at their stores.) And JJCole’s new line ($27 at BabyEarth) also looks about right, although I haven’t personally seen them.
SwaddleDesigns makes large (46×46″) flannel swaddling blankets that wash well and will be big enough to last you through all your months of swaddling and will still be serviceable for your toddler’s bed. $10-$25 at SwaddleDesigns.com or $12-$20 at Amazon. Giggle’s Better Basics Ultimate Swaddle Blanket is similar, $25 at Giggle.
Aden + Anais makes even larger (47×47″) muslin blankets that are definitely stretchy enough for swaddling and their patterns are really very cute. But they’re also very lightweight, so not ideal for cold-weather babies. Still, a great cross-purpose buy. $50 for four at Aden + Anais ($26 for single organic), $32 – $50 on Amazon
Warmth. You will not put these in the crib with your baby at night or nap time, but you will still need them to shuttle baby to and from the car on a chilly morning and cozy him up in his car seat or stroller. It’s also nice to have something toasty and fuzzy to put under him in his swing or bouncy seat. You do not need more than two of these (one for use, one for while the other one’s in the laundry). If you live in Florida, you’ll be fine with jersey or cotton – no need to invest in one of these.
If you have some warm, fleecy blankets around already, you can probably re-purpose those if they aren’t too big: just make sure to wash them in baby detergent first.
We were the lucky recipients of one of Little Giraffe’s chenille fleece blankets that are like a cloud of softness (until you wash them 100 times – or once, if you try putting it in the dryer!) Not cheap and the cloud part won’t last, although the warmth factor will. One still lives in our car for cold mornings. $65 at LittleGiraffe or $32-$65 at Amazon (or $80 from your local, high-end baby gift shop!)
American Baby Company makes a Little Giraffe knock-off for a fraction of the price, so that might be a good option if Uncle Warbucks doesn’t step up with the expensive option. ABC Fleece Blanket with Satin Trim, $12 at Amazon.
The floor. This might be the same as your Warmth category blankets, depending on how much you invest in your Warmth blankets and how dirty the floors we’re talking about are. Your infant will spend a lot of time on the floor, not all of it on a play mat. You will want to put little Violet down at Grandma’s house to get tummy time, at your new mom’s play group while you discuss the finer points of the dream feed, and in your kitchen while you mix yourself a nice cocktail (just after breastfeeding, naturally). I would recommend a pretty heavyweight material, so there’s some padding and warmth built in, and a very washable color and fabric.
Really, here, you may not need to buy anything new: you can absolutely re-purpose one of your softest household blankets or quilts, provided it’s relatively portable. (Do make sure to pick one that will be comfortable for someone who can’t lift up his head yet – no wide-wale corduroy! – and wash it in baby detergent before you use it.)
DwellStudio for Target Newborn blankets ($13 at Target) are only 28×38″ but are so heavy and the patterns are so nice, they’re still a great floor/multi-purpose blanket (although probably not for swaddling: I found their double-ply material too heavy for that.)
Aden + Anais also makes adorable 4-ply muslin Dream Blanket (47×47″) that would work well – although their backgrounds are always white. And they’re $50 each. But man, those patterns are cute…
Shade. In the car, in the stroller and out and about in the sun, you’ll need something to shade Willemina from the sun. Her eyes will not like any sun for a few months and, while indirect sun is great for Vitamin D, you won’t want her in the direct sun for some time after that either.
Many baby carriers (like the Ergo) come with a hood, baby slings will fold over her, and many car seats also have a collapsible hood that will come most or all the way over the baby, which is awesome for shading her eyes from the sun coming in your car’s back window or while she’s tooling around in your car seat/stroller combo.
If your carrier or car seat doesn’t have that option, no big deal: just keep a lightweight, dark-colored blanket handy. It can be one of your swaddling blankets, no problem. (Don’t use your heavy fleece warmth blanket though: she needs to breathe under there!)
Disasters. Well, messes anyway. There will be spitting up, possibly a lot of it on a long car ride, for example. Maybe at a gas station outside Tahoe at night after a very long day. I don’t want to get too specific. Buy cheap and not too many and just have a couple in the car for the day if you’re out.
Carters 4 Pack Receiving Blankets, $17 at Babies R Us (This is what comes up when you search for “receiving blankets” at Babies R Us, but these are both too lightweight and too small – 30×40″ – to really work for receiving much of anything, particularly a swaddle (unless Bertrand is a very small baby and stays that way). They are cute and very washable though and can wrap up a mess nicely. Or a baby in a pinch. A small baby.