Why all babies on Facebook are wrapped in the same blanket - Quartz

The morning after my second daughter was born, I took a picture-where it was beautiful and serene-and I posted it on Facebook. The picture showed many things my friends could deduce and which sellers could exploit: for example, their date of birth, their eye color and their name. But what they knew for certain was that Athena was born in a hospital.

The telltale sign? The blanket.

They have seen some, have had a baby or not: it is mostly white, with thick dark blue stripes and thin pink stripes at the edges. If you have a Facebook or Instagram account, you have seen dozens or maybe hundreds of times.

The blanket is part of the Kuddle-Up line created by Medline, a company supply company for health care based in Mundelein, Illinois. The company was founded in 1910 by A. L. Mills, an Arkansas native who moved to Illinois and earned his living by designing butcher's aprons for the Chicago meat packing industry. Over time, that led him to work on the creation of surgical gowns: he was the first to change the style of the white that reflects light to the current massive green jade that absorbs it. He did the same with the hospital gowns: he did them in place of dull shades of solid colors and put the loop from the back to the side, which Jim Abrams, COO of Medline, called "a little more than modesty ".

It is clear that many people agree. Sixty years later, Medline sells 1.5 million Kuddle-Up Candy Stripe blankets each year (the other models, with elephants or ducks, are less widespread). In HealthAlliance Hospital, in Kingston, New York, for example, maintenance staff buys 3100 100% cotton blankets per year and often uses four or five blankets per newborn.

While it is possible that the success of the blanket may have something to do with aesthetics, it is more related to time. In 1950, 88% of all births took place in hospitals (today, the figure is 99%). Just 10 years earlier, only 56% of births were in hospitals; the rest were mostly in the home or in maternity centers.

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In the 19th century, childbirth had been largely domestic work. With the emergence of anti-pain medicines, the increase in comprehensive health insurance in the 1910s (which, of course, did not continue) and the creation of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1930, among other factors, the delivery was moved from the bedroom to the hospital room.

The Kuddle-Up blanket was linked to the institutionalization of childbirth. In the same way that we begin to standardize the birth process, we also begin to standardize the postpartum experience, so that the photo of the newborn on the Kuddle-Up blanket is, at this point, an immediate indicator. Thousands of new parents, and even grandparents, were wrapped in an equal blanket when they were born; the same pattern extends over several generations. "All my children, the children of my friends; they all wrapped their children in that blanket, "says Abrams. However, few of us would know if it were not for the publication of photos of newborns in social networks.

Perhaps the most surprising thing is that blankets are sold all over the world and are manufactured in Karachi, Pakistan. Medline does not want to report exactly when or why they moved their operations there.

As we have exported the US model of childbirth for medicine - according to Childbirth Across Cultures , A book published by my mother, who gave birth to me at an independent maternity center), some Chinese hospitals have a cesarean delivery rate of 90%, which is known as "births of status" - we have also exported the blanket that goes with it. Now, Kuddle-Up is not only a national indicator, but a global one, although blankets are not as massive overseas or in the developing world, nor is access to Facebook.

in mass and its proliferation have not slowed our affinity or attachment to the blanket. Many parents keep their children's Kuddle-Up blanket (technically, they are not supposed to be able to be taken away from the hospital, but hundreds of them go home with their babies each year), even though it is identical to other 1, 5 million blankets sold that year and that may have been used with many other newborn babies. No matter how common the fabric is, the experience that accompanies it is unique.

I must admit that I did not keep my daughter's Kuddle-Up blanket-space issues outweighed sentimentality. But I loved putting your photo on Facebook-leaving aside concerns about privacy-wrapped in what I now know is the world's best-known newborn blanket. I did not care that in other places of the planet and in many pages in Facebook, 1.5 million people were doing the same thing.

  • Adam Floyd