There are a lot of questions that a new mom has before having her baby, especially if she is a first-time mom. Knowing what is needed and how much is needed can be really confusing.
Babies need a lot of accessories that include much more than simple clothing to wear. A great example would be swaddles, sleep sacks, and receiving blankets.
How many swaddles, sleep sacks, and receiving blankets do I need for a newborn? How do you find the ones that are easy to use, comfortable, and affordable?
As a mom of 3, I am here to give you a very good estimate on the number of swaddling blankets, sleep sacks, and receiving blankets you will need, and to explain the differences between all three items.
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A baby swaddle is a lightweight, breathable blanket in which you can wrap your baby to remind him of the womb. A swaddle looks like a burrito and is sometimes called a baby wrap.
Swaddling is a very old practice that people have followed for hundreds or maybe even thousands of years. Swaddling your baby can help him sleep longer and more comfortably.
It helps prevent your baby from being disturbed during startle reflexes. The startle reflex, also called the Moro reflex, is a natural response of infants when they encounter things like loud noises or bright lights.
Are Receiving Blankets the Same As Swaddles?
No, they are two different things. A receiving blanket is a square or rectangle-shaped thick blanket that can be used for many purposes like swaddling, burping, and sometimes as a towel too.
On the other hand, a swaddle is a lightweight, breathable cloth specifically made to swaddle a baby. It is however normal for people to use receiving blankets for swaddling.
Swaddles and receiving blankets can be used for the same purpose of swaddling a baby, but they are two different things. Check out the chart below for more details.
Single-use: Only for swaddling a baby.
Multipurpose: Can be used for swaddling or as burp cloths.
Swaddle or Rectangle shape: The swaddle shape is a sack-like structure with two wings on each side made specifically to swaddle a baby.
Square or Rectangle shape: A simple square or rectangle-shaped cloth.
Light material: Typically made of breathable, lightweight material.
Thick material: Typically made of thick material, like flannel.
Bigger in size: Bigger size makes it easier to swaddle a baby perfectly.
Smaller in size: Smaller when compared to swaddle blankets.
A sleep sack is a wearable blanket that is not something a newborn typically uses. When your baby moves to a crib, a sleep sack can replace a blanket.
It is dangerous to put a blanket in a crib with a baby. It can cover a baby’s face causing suffocation.
This is where sleep sacks come into play. They keep babies warm like a blanket – in a safe manner.
Swaddles come in a good variety of shapes and materials. They can be found as pods, sacks, or blankets. A variety of materials are used in the making swaddles including cotton, polyester, fleece, and bamboo.
The 3 most common types of swaddles are:
- Muslin swaddle blankets
- Flannel receiving blankets
- Velcro swaddles
Muslin swaddle blankets are made of muslin, which is a lightweight cotton or cotton blend cloth. These blankets are shaped more like receiving blankets.
As the name suggests, flannel receiving blankets are made up of flannel. Flannel is the king of soft woven fabric, which is normally made up of cotton or wool. It is slightly milled and raised.
Velcro swaddles are easy-to-use wraps that are specifically made for swaddling newborns. These look like sacks with 2 wings on each side – for simple baby swaddling.
As detailed in our baby registry checklist article, you should have a total of 8 swaddles for a newborn. Keep in mind it’s not uncommon to change a newborn’s clothing two or even three times a day between diaper leaks and spitting up.
If you also need to change swaddles for at least some of these outfit changes, this will give you the option to go about 3-4 days between doing laundry.
If you buy a pack of 4 muslin swaddles that should cover your needs. If your baby arrives and you think you need more, then get a second set.
As will be discussed below, you can get receiving blankets for free at the hospital. Between the hospital receiving blankets and one set of muslin swaddles, that will be enough to get you started with your baby.
I absolutely love and recommend these muslin swaddles from Aden + Anais. These versatile swaddle blankets are made of 100% cotton and are thin, stretchy, and breathable.
Another advantage of these blankets are their extra large size. This means you can use them for a long time and they can even be put to other uses once your baby outgrows swaddling.
First-time parents are usually very nervous about swaddling their baby tightly. It is not so necessary to buy Velcro swaddles, but if you are more comfortable having a device that makes swaddling super easy, then it’s nice to have Velcro swaddles on hand.
These are easy to wrap and they have the potential to stay in place much longer than a simple swaddle blanket. For Velcro swaddles I love the SwaddleMe Original organic swaddles.
These swaddles are also made up of 100% cotton and are very soft.
You are most likely to get receiving blankets at the hospital and they are usually the best ones. You might even get enough receiving blankets there, so there is no need to add these to your baby registry list.
Between the receiving blankets you get at the hospital and a pack of muslin swaddles that should be enough for your newborn baby. My advice is to aim to have four receiving blankets and four muslin swaddles.
Or, you could go with two receiving blankets, two Velcro swaddles, and four muslin swaddling blankets.
Let’s clarify one thing about sleep sacks versus swaddle sacks. The HALO brand has a line of swaddles that look like sleep sacks with Velcro on the sides.
Anything with Velcro or an aid for swaddling would still be considered a swaddle, which is appropriate for a newborn. Here is a photo of a HALO swaddle sleep sack (which is considered a swaddle).
After the age of swaddling – when your baby starts to roll over or break through the swaddle, you can start using sleep sacks or sleeping bags. When you switch from swaddles to sleep sacks you will require at least 2 sleep sacks.
You need two sleep sacks because if there is a diaper leak in the middle of the night – you have a backup. I do recommend the HALO sleep sacks.
They are really good quality at a very reasonable price point. Your material options include 100% cotton, 100% cotton muslin, or micro-fleece.
These sleep sacks also come in a variety of cute colors and designs. When transitioning out of a swaddle you will likely need one in size small or size medium.
The HALO sleep sacks have an inverted zipper at the bottom that makes diaper changes easy and prevents your baby from unzipping his sack. These sleep sacks also reduce the risk of overheating because they are sleeveless and allow some air to pass through them.
Swaddling is a very old tradition that has been used for many generations. There are so many benefits provided to your baby through swaddling, which is why it has been practiced for so long.
Here are some reasons you should swaddle your newborn.
1. Prevents Baby Waking From The Startle Reflex
The biggest and most known benefit of swaddling is that it prevents your the baby from waking when he has a startle reflex. A newborn might suddenly throw his arms back and wake up crying.
This is called the startle reflex. It is said that the sensation of falling can be a trigger. Swaddling helps reduce your baby’s movement, making him feel safe and comfortable and thus reducing the effects of the startle reflex.
Before birth babies live in a tight place inside the womb. After birth they are suddenly released from that “fitted” place. This can make them anxious.
Swaddling feels more like the womb, which can help babies feel protected and less anxious.
So many different hands might pick up your baby in a day. Some people wash their hands before holding the baby and some don’t.
A baby’s immune system is very sensitive meaning it’s easy to catch a seasonal cold or flu. If your baby is swaddled people will touch the swaddling cloth instead of your baby directly, which will provide some protection from germs.
A good swaddle made of quality material will help regulate the body temperature of your baby. Swaddling will keep your baby warm – especially in cold weather.
It is said that swaddling will help soothe a crying baby even if she is crying because of being colicky. You might even think your baby hates swaddling, but stick with it!
This is the advice provided by Dr. Harvey Karp a pediatrician and baby sleep expert who wrote the Happiest Baby On The Block. If your baby cries less, she will swallow less air and thus potentially reduce her colic symptoms.
A baby’s nails grow so fast. They grow enough within even a couple days that they can scratch a baby’s sensitive skin easily.
Your baby’s hands might reach her face causing her to get scratches on it. Thus, swaddling can prevent your baby from scratching herself while sleeping.
Babies can sleep for longer and more comfortably while swaddled. This can be very beneficial for parents and caretakers because they get more time to rest and do chores.
It is said that newborns or infants who sleep on their backs and are swaddled are ⅓ times less prone to SIDS.
There are two types of swaddles – Velcro and blankets. Below there are instructions on how to properly swaddle using both methods.
Swaddling in a Velcro swaddle is so easy! Just follow these steps.
- Put your baby in the sack-like area of the swaddle.
- Place your baby’s arms on his sides – down and straight.
- Take the right wing of the swaddle, wrap it tightly over your baby’s chest, then tuck it behind your baby’s back.
- Take the other wing and wrap it tightly over the chest of your baby. Use the Velcro to attach both wings.
Here are the steps you need to take to create a traditional swaddle using a swaddling blanket.
- Take your swaddle blanket and find a flat surface.
- Spread the blanket on the surface. Center one of the corners of the blanket, then fold the upper corner towards the middle of the blanket to make a triangle.
- Place your baby so his shoulders are centered on the section that is folded down. Your baby’s feet should be pointed towards the opposite corner of the folded side.
- Make your baby’s right arm straight and hold it so it is pointed down.
- Take the right side of the swaddle and wrap it tightly around your baby. Tuck this part of the swaddle beneath your baby’s arm and back. The right edge of the swaddle should be under your baby’s body.
- Hold the bottom corner of the swaddle and fold it to the upper side – from your baby’s feet towards his chin.
- If your swaddle blanket is long enough tuck the bottom corner in the upper corner of the swaddle – right below your baby’s chin. Make sure there is some room for your baby to move his legs.
- Hold your baby’s left arm in the same way as above. Take the left corner of the swaddle and wrap it around your baby. Tuck the edge under the body of your baby.
Sometimes a video can be more helpful. Here is a very good video showing you exactly how to swaddle a baby.
Around 2-4 months of age your baby will either start breaking out of her swaddle or rolling over. At this time you should stop swaddling.
If your baby rolls over while swaddled she might get stuck on her belly. So at this point swaddling may actually increase the risk of SIDS.
To be on the safe side, it is best to stop swaddling earlier than 4 months – ideally around 2.5 to 3 months old. This way before your baby starts to consciously roll over she isn’t in a swaddle anymore.
Figuring out how many swaddles, sleep sacks, and receiving blankets you need when creating your baby registry can be very confusing.
How often you plan to change your baby and how often you will do laundry will be a determining factor in how many of these items you need. In short our guidelines are below.
How many swaddles do I need? You should have approximately 4 swaddles on hand before your baby arrives. If you would like a variety get some muslin swaddle blankets and some Velcro swaddles too.
How many receiving blankets do I need? You don’t really need to buy receiving blankets. The ones you get at the hospital are usually of very good quality and the quantity is also usually enough.
How many sleep sacks do I need? You don’t need sleep sacks for a newborn baby, but you can switch from swaddles to sleep sacks when your baby is 2-3 months old. At that point you will need at least 2 sleep sacks.
Finally, a couple more helpful items before I sign off. Are you working on your baby registry or currently pregnant? If so, go ahead and get our FREE printable baby registry and pregnancy by trimester checklists. Just fill in the form below.
Lastly, we also have a Baby Registry Planner that will clarify EVERYTHING about your baby registry for you. The goal of the planner is to provide you stress-free and quick baby registry creation. It’s really the ultimate guide to making sure you get you what you need for your newborn (and not more or less).
I hope this guide helped you decide on your swaddling shopping list. Good luck!
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