There is no magic number for all parents because the need for each baby and family will vary. Instead, parents need to ask themselves these simple questions to better gauge how many blankets they need.
- How many newborn(s) am I caring for?
- How often do I do the laundry for baby items?
- How often does the baby throw-up or spit out food?
- How often does the baby soil blankets during diaper change or sleep?
It is okay if you do not have the answer to some of the questions (specifically 3&4) above. Once the baby comes and you will have a better idea on the answers to question 3 & 4, then you can purchase more or stay pat with the swaddling blankets you have. If you know how many times you do laundry (recommended once per day) then you can start getting a rough idea on the minimum amount of swaddle blankets you might need.
For 1 newborn, the minimum amount of swaddle blankets should be 4, if you do laundry once per day. I personally had 12 because I like having extras around and my laundry time was very sporadic. The logic for 4 swaddle blankets goes by the amount of time babies are feed per day. Doctors recommend feeding newborns every 2-3 hours and if you break-down to every 3 hours that leads to 8 feedings per day. Each feeding will not result in a dirty or soil swaddle blanket, but there are plenty of ways for the swaddle blanket to get dirty (ie. Baby spits out food, diaper leakage, soil blankets, etc).
Non-traditional swaddle blankets, that are more like sleeping bags from SwaddleMe or Halo Sleepsack, are great for bigger babies because they have Velcro to secure babies in a swaddle. As newborns get older (1 month +) or bigger, parents could transition into these swaddle blankets. These blankets are more expensive and I would recommend a minimum of 2 and rotate the use of them only when one needs to be wash. In this way you will always have one clean swaddle blanket available for your newborn.
Overall, new parents should have 4 traditional swaddle blankets on hand before the baby arrives and order more blankets or sleeping bags as needed when you are more familiar with your baby’s need. Babies will grow and get too big for their swaddle blanket faster than you know it. But parents could use extra swaddle blankets in other useful ways, like a burping cloth, shade cover, and changing sheet.