You’ve seen it hundreds of times without really seeing it. It’s prominently featured in almost every photo of a newborn, across Instagram, Facebook and photo albums across the country. It’s that iconic white blanket with pink and blue stripes on the edges that has wrapped us and our children into tiny blanket burritos for over sixty years.
Though you’ve seen it all your life, I bet you don’t know where it comes from other than the hospital. But an article on Quartz reveals why every baby born in a hospital is wrapped in the same blanket. The blankets are a part of theKuddle-Up line made by a Mundelein, Illinois-based healthcare supply company called Medline. The company was started in 1910 by A.L. Mills who initially made his living making butcher aprons. That led to making surgical gowns. As Quartz notes, “he was the first to shift them from light-reflecting white to the now ubiquitous light-absorbing jade green style. He did the same for hospital gowns: made them patterned instead of solid drab shades and switched the tie from the back to the side …”
Ever the innovator, Mills wanted to change the dull beige cloth of receiving blankets in the 50s to something a little happier and more stylish. He went through a bunch of different patterns and colors but eventually settled on the blue and pink stripes. A solid choice. The blanket stands the test of time, as sixty years later Medline sells 1.5 million in “Candy Stripe” annually. Your parents were likely born into the blanket, as were you and now your children. That’s because, according to Quartz, “the Kuddle-Up blanket was entwined with the institutionalization of childbirth. Just as we began to standardize the process of birth, we began to standardize the post-partum experience, too, such that the newborn photo in the Kuddle-Up blanket is, at this point, an instant signifier.”
And it’s not just Americans being born into Kuddle-Ups, the blanket is sold all over the world. A global signifier of a hospital birth. It’s admittedly amazing to discover this and be able to go back and find photos of the births of my children wrapped in the world’s most common receiving blanket. It’s beautiful to contemplate that with all that divides us these days, millions and millions of us were born and wrapped in the same blanket.
Did you save your hospital blankets? I still have mine. In fact, my third son, born at home, was still wrapped in a Kuddle-Up because it was the one I brought home from the hospital where his big brother was born. (Technically you aren’t supposed to take the blankets but who follows that rule?) I’m sure Medline reaps an even bigger business as a result.