Chances are your answer is yes. I definitely do. Now, hands up who has a blanket stashed in your cupboard at home because you stole it when you left the hospital? OK, confession time – I have a few of them.
Hands up who has a photograph of their newborn wrapped in a hospital baby blanket with the distinctive blue and pink stripes?
My babies are all grown now, so the blankets are kept in their baby memory boxes for when they are adults. Maybe they’ll wrap their own babies in them one day?They are the best blankets and we used them to wrap over our babies in their cot and pram. They also hold a sentimental place in my heart.
Tamsin Lawrence, mother of three-year-old Clementine, was encouraged to take her baby blanket home so her dog Moose would accept the new baby when it came home.
“We put the blanket in the dog basket so he’d get used to the smell of her before she came home and it worked – the dog and my daughter love each other,” she says.
“I have kept the blanket. I looked at it just the other day when I was rearranging my daughter’s wardrobe. I didn’t throw it out.”
Everyone wants their own striped blanket
It’s not surprising that the laundry company which supplies the striped blankets to hospitals claims they are the single biggest stolen item from their range.
A Kidspot staffer told me the most beautiful story of her father-in-law passing away just weeks after their child was born. “He was so excited about being a grandad – he was boasting to everyone,” she explains. “We pinched the hospital blanket and tucked it beside Grandad at the funeral.”
Tara Morad, mother of two-year-old Lucas, says she would never normally steal anything, but taking home the first blanket her baby touched was irresistible.
“It’s the perfect memento for my baby so I did it from a keepsake perspective,” she says.
The linen company who supplies the striped baby blankets to hospitals didn’t want to be named in our story for fear of parents ringing up in their droves looking to buy baby blankets.
I then phoned the local wholesaler of the baby blankets and they too wanted to remain anonymous, as people love these blankets so much they didn’t want an influx of one-off orders.
These blankets haven’t changed over the years
The family-run business has been supplying the blankets since the late 1970s. On average, they sell about 30,000 annually to hospitals in three states. The spokesman for the company said there’d be a dozen wholesalers throughout Australia that sell the blankets, which are all made in Asia.
“The blankets are 100 percent cotton, with yarn-dyed stripes,” he says. “The pattern hasn’t changed at all over the years. It’s a natural fibre which is soft to touch for the skin. People like that for their babies.” He also reckons they’d last about “100 washes”.
He laughed when I told him the laundry service said they were the most stolen item. He said their customers would always buy more than they need for exactly that reason. “They’re like pool towels at hotels – they know they’ll get stolen,” he says.
Midwife Alex Weston, from the Australian College of Midwives, says some medical staff use two blankets to wrap a newborn to keep them warm. “Sometimes it’s one around the head, and one around the body,” she says.
“I think mothers like them because they become hesitant about leaving the hospital and like the surety of taking something from the hospital with them,” says the midwife with 25 years experience.
“I’m sure the blankets become redundant quite quickly as babies grow so fast and those cotton blankets just aren’t as useful as a large muslin for wrapping.”
Why so loved?
What is it about them that people want to take them home as a souvenir? For me, it was because it was the first thing wrapped around each of my girls. They started their life swaddled in them. Their newborn smell was all over them. I think newborn smell should be bottled. It is the best smell in the world.
And to be honest, the blankets are so soft and the perfect size for babies. And you also know that each blanket has the memories of other babies wrapped up in them. They were full of soul and love and newborn hopes. Taking a blanket was like taking home a piece of the innocence of pure joy of the first few days of parenthood. It’s like a cocoon from a safe place, protecting your precious bundle from the world. These blankets are so much more than simply blankets; they represent new life.