The difference between muslin blankets, receiving blankets, and swaddles.

The difference between muslin blankets, receiving blankets, and swaddles.

There are so many options when it comes to snuggling up the baby. Babies love being wrapped as it mimics the mother’s womb. But what is the difference between muslin blankets, receiving blankets, or just swaddles in general? Some of these terms are used interchangeably but they are not the same.

Receiving Blanket

A receiving blanket was once used to receive a baby after the baby was born. Babies were typically wrapped up right after delivery to dry and keep them nice and warm. Remember the flannel blanket that every single baby is seen wrapped up in at the hospital with the blue and pink stripes? Read more here about why this particular blanket is used in hospitals all across the USA. Receiving blankets are usually extremely soft and can be thin like muslin or thicker like flannel or cotton. That is why sometimes they are referred to as a muslin blanket if they are made of muslin, which is a cotton weaving that allows more breathability. Muslin blankets typically are slightly larger than an average receiving blanket to allow ease in swaddling. Other than that muslin blankets are specifically muslin, there is no difference between that and a receiving blanket. All muslin blankets are considered receiving blankets but not all receiving blankets are considered muslin blankets.

When a baby is first born, a receiving blanket may be sufficient to snuggly wrap up a baby since they don’t have much strength to break out of them. However, as they gain their strength, babies may begin to move and squirm their way out of a blanket, which is a risk. When using any types of receiving or muslin blankets, please be sure to abide by the safe sleep guide put out by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and keep loose bedding or blankets away from the baby’s sleep area.

Even though it might be called a receiving blanket, these blankets can be used for many other things as the baby continues to grow such as a burp cloth, a play may during tummy time, a changing table cover or even a breastfeeding cover. Babies may also become attached to different blankets making them a favorite blanket or a comfort blanket.


Swaddling is an ancient practice of snugly wrapping up a baby with a blanket or a sheet to help them feel secure because it mimics a mother’s womb. Because loose blankets increase the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), modern swaddles now have zippers, flaps and Velcro. A huge benefit to swaddling is giving the baby a sense of security. Babies are easily disturbed by their own startle reflex (when a baby jerks themselves awake as if they are falling). These jerking motions (also called the Moro reflex) may make it difficult for a baby to get longer and deeper sleep. Swaddling a baby can help prevent the startle reflex which then allows for them to sleep for longer periods of time. That’s why it’s important to pick a swaddle that you know will be safe and secure so your baby is not breaking out of them. Modern swaddles are better to use to ensure your baby is safe at all times.

Swaddle blankets are typically loose cloth swaddles and are not the same as the more modern swaddles that are wearable. These swaddles typically have Velcro, zipper, and button snap designs, and is recommended for a healthier, safer method of swaddling. Loose cloth swaddling is strongly discouraged due to the risk of SIDS and hip dysplasia when swaddled incorrectly.

As a baby grows, they may begin to roll and prefer their arms unswaddled. Consider the arms out swaddling method (take a look at these arms out swaddles) or a sleep sack. A sleep sack is more like a wearable blanket where a baby/toddler can stay warm and snuggly but it still reduces the risk of loose fabric around their face.

embé carries a collection of wearable swaddles and advocates against loose cloth swaddling. You can learn how to swaddle safely here


How many swaddles do you need?


There are so many different uses for swaddles and receiving blankets, it’s helpful to have a few on hand to swap out as you rotate through them during laundry day! If your baby spits up a lot, more swaddles would be recommended. Most moms have 4 to 8 “go-to” swaddles. If you plan on taking a swaddle or blanket with you to the hospital, we recommend 2 or 3 just in case baby has some spit up. If you’re not planning on using the hospital blankets, you may want to bring even more than that. embé swaddles are used in hospitals all across the US, so you may see one of our swaddles during your stay!

August 13, 2018 — Embe Babies Inc.

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