Nothing says sweet, snuggly baby quite like a soft baby blanket. But if you’re buying for a new baby, whether it’s yours or someone else’s, you might have some questions. What kinds of blankets do babies need? What are they used for? How many will the new baby need? Well, here are some answers to those questions, as well as an explanation of the different types of baby blankets.
Receiving blankets are probably the most used type of baby blanket. They’re typically a lightweight blanket measuring about one square yard. This large size makes them very versatile. They can be used as play mats, to give the baby space to roll and crawl and play while keeping them out of direct contact with the floor. They can also be used for burping, swaddling, breast feeding, and as a changing table cover. Because these blankets have so many uses, it’s good to have several on hand. The new parent should have at least three or four of these blankets, and having a few more gives some options.
Security blankets are made to provide comfort to your baby. They’re also known as lovies and comfort objects. There are blankets specifically made for this, including some that have sweet stuffed animal heads attached to them. These blankets are often smaller in size, which makes them safer for very young children to play with. Security blankets, no matter what form they take, are important objects for children, and can help them deal with stressful situations. Security blankets should be soft for babies’ delicate skin. You may want two matching security blankets in the event that one goes missing, or to have a backup while one is in the laundry.
Swaddling blankets are blankets that are used to wrap your baby up snugly. This wrapping, or swaddling, is meant to keep your baby feeling safe and secure, and can encourage longer stretches of sleep. Being snugly bundled mimics the feeling of being in the womb, so can help keep babies calm.
Swaddling blankets should be large to allow for wrapping up the baby; usually 40” - 48” square. Swaddling blankets should be made of a light, slightly stretchy fabric, like cotton or bamboo. This makes the swaddle breathable and flexible.
A 2-in-1 swaddle is less a blanket and more a sleep sack or piece of clothing. Some parents find these easier to use than a traditional square blanket, and they often come with snaps or zippers to help secure the baby in the swaddle.
Swaddling should not be used with babies who are old enough to roll over, as they won’t be able to right themselves when swaddled.
Crib blankets are blankets that are designated specifically to the crib and/or nursery, rather than being used all over the house and beyond. These blankets are often chosen to match the nursery decor. These blankets are often bigger than other types of baby blankets, and should be soft enough that it doesn’t irritate baby’s skin.
During early infancy, a baby should not be left alone in their crib with a large blanket, as the blanket may fall over their face and they’re not strong or coordinated enough to remove the blanket on their own. This poses a suffocation hazard. Experts recommend that babies not be left with a blanket until they’re 12 months old. Swaddling or sleep sacks are a safer way keep baby cozy during early infancy.
Milestone blankets are blankets marked with weeks and or months, and come with a marker so that you can mark your baby’s age. These are wonderful for sweet milestone photos as your baby grows, and allows you to mark different stages in their development. These blankets vary in size, but usually have a space for baby to lie or sit while the photo is taken. Milestone blankets should be soft enough to not irritate baby’s skin. Other than that, there are all kinds of different styles of milestone blankets to choose from. These blankets make a fun baby shower gift.
Heirloom blankets are beautiful, high quality baby blankets intended to be passed down through generations. These blankets are often not the workhorse that a receiving blanket is, because the wear and tear of everyday use may damage them and prevent them from being passed down. Some of these blankets are used only for decorative purposes, in fact.
Heirloom blankets can be purchased or handmade, and are often knitted or quilted. While heirloom blankets are made to be beautiful, it’s important that if it’s going to be used by the baby at all that they are baby safe. That means that they shouldn’t have buttons or other small pieces that could come off and pose a choking hazard, or loops or ribbons that could become wrapped around a limb.
How to Choose Baby Blankets
There are a lot of baby blankets out there, and it can be difficult to choose which one is best for your baby, or for your expecting loved one. Here are a couple of tips on choosing baby blankets.
- Baby blankets are going to take a lot of wear and tear, and collect plenty of drips and stains. Make sure the fabric the blanket is made of is sturdy and machine washable.
- Baby blankets with prints and different textures will help your baby’s brain develop. Looking at shapes, patterns, and colors help develop cognitive processes related to vision, and textures help to develop tactile senses.
- To make sure that the blanket is safe, it should have no small hard objects that could come off and pose a choking hazard. It should also not have loops that could bind around limbs and cut off circulation.
- Baby blankets should be soft, because babies’ skin is very sensitive. Anything that feels rough to you can irritate your baby’s skin. Some fabrics that you might want to pass on include wool and polyester. This is doubly true if your baby has sensitive skin.