How to Buy Baby Clothes

Tempted to buy every adorable onesie you see? Not so fast. Here’s the real deal on how much you need in those first few months—and why.
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Updated August 19, 2019
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What do you need for the first 30 days? Honestly, not much. You’ll be so busy getting over delivery and used to being a mom that baby’s outfits will prove much less important than they may have seemed a couple months ago. (Don’t worry, you’ll be back in that place eventually.) And remember, babies grow quickly. She’ll come home tiny, but newborn sizes won’t fit for long. Save the good part of your budget for 0-3 month clothing and up. (Besides, once you’re out and about more, you’ll actually be able to show off her cute outfits.) Resist the urge to buy too much clothing in advance, because you’ll have a better idea of the sizes and styles that work best for you once baby comes.

Here’s a very basic list of what you should have on hand when baby arrives. The numbers for each item are estimates — exactly how much you need really depends on how often you plan to do laundry.

2-4 infant gowns
Stick with these until baby’s cord stump falls off. It’s the best way to keep it clean and irritation-free, and the gowns provide easy diaper access while keeping baby covered.

4-8 bodysuits or onesies
Look for ones with wide head openings and loose legs. It can be traumatic for both you and baby to put things over her head, so if even wide head openings prove too difficult, look for clothing that avoids the head entirely — side-snap Ts, kimono-style shirts, etc.

4-8 undershirts or vests
Again, look for wide head openings or snaps at the shoulder. They should also snap under the crotch — otherwise they’ll ride up.

4-8 one-piece pajamas
And hey, if you’re just at home with baby, why not make them daytime clothing too? One-piece items are generally the easiest to get baby dressed in.

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2 blanket sleepers
These are safer than blankets at nighttime, but avoid anything with drawstrings, which are a strangulation hazard.

1-3 sweaters or jackets
Make sure they button in the front, since babies spend most of their time lying down.

1-3 rompers or other dress-up outfits
This is probably the least necessary item on the list, but our hats are off to you if you have the energy and motivation to get baby dressed up for visitors or a day at grandma’s.

4-7 pairs of socks or booties
Shoes are unnecessary until baby walks.

4-6 hats
Get broad-brimmed sun hats for a summer baby, and soft caps that cover the ears for a winter baby. If you want to splurge, do it on hats or booties — these are least likely to get ruined by spit-up and will make any outfit look absolutely adorable.

Even when it’s summertime, these are a must-have for babies with quick-growing nails to prevent them from scratching themselves. If they pull off the mittens, try the onesies that buckle over baby’s hands.

Bunting bag or fleece suit
For a winter baby.

General tips:

Look for soft and breathable fabrics like cotton. Fleece is also a good choice for colder weather. Make sure seams are finished and avoid scratchy tags, which can irritate baby’s skin.

Look for fasteners that close easily. Zippers can be troublesome, since they tend to pinch — especially when a harried new parent is in a hurry. Also skip metal snaps, because metal is a common allergen (especially if you have a family history).

Make sure baby’s p.j.’s are flame-resistant. When you dry them, don’t use fabric softener — it can reduce their resistant qualities.

Buttons and trim
Before you dress baby in anything with cute little buttons or other attached details, pull on them. If they feel loose, cut them off — otherwise  it’s most likely next location will be baby’s mouth or nose. Avoid anything with fringe or strings attached — both are strangulation hazards.

One of the biggest mistakes new moms make is overbundling. Dress baby in the same number of layers you have on for the weather, then add a light blanket. Keeping baby too warm makes him uncomfortable and sleepy, which can dehydrate him or cause him to become hypoglycemic because he isn’t awake enough to eat properly.

While baby’s unlikely to suffer any serious reaction to unwashed new clothes, he could develop a minor rash or skin irritation. Babies are so sensitive that any products on the clothes or dirt picked up during the shopping process can create discomfort. Be on the safe side, and wash everything before you put it on baby.

General care
Baby clothes don’t require specialty detergent, unless they have especially sensitive skin. Look for an unscented detergent that you can use for the whole family, saving yourself the hassle of special “baby only” loads.

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