A Complete Guide to Buying Baby Clothes
Shopping for baby clothes is a source of great excitement: It’s a time when you get to dream of meeting your new baby, imagining the kind of individual he or she might grow up to be. You get to choose the mementos you’ll one day cherish for being attached to those first, precious memories of your child. For first-time parents, however, the process of buying baby clothes can be confusing and a bit overwhelming. How do you buy clothes without even knowing how big your baby will be, or how fast he’ll grow? How many outfits should you buy, and what type? Do you need to care for infant clothing in a special way?
In this guide, we’ll answer all of those questions, allowing you to have a stress-free baby clothing experience. (After all, the last thing you’ll want to do while caring for a newborn is juggle shopping trips to pick up last-minute clothing!)
Understanding Baby Clothing Sizes
As is the case with adult clothes, baby clothing sizes aren’t always consistent across brands. You’ll therefore want to check the sizing chart provided at the specific store you plan to get your baby’s clothing from. Still, there are general guidelines you can use to get an idea of the kind of sizes you’ll need:
-Newborn (abbreviated as NB or 1M) size clothing, which is suitable for most newborns. NB/1M size clothing will fit babies who are about 21 inches long and who weigh between five to eight pounds. If you think your baby will be especially large at birth (nine or more pounds), you may want to forego buying a lot of NB/1M size clothing and move straight into buying one size larger (3M). If you think you’re going to have a small baby, on the other hand, some stores also offer an extra small size, like 0M, that works for babies under 19 inches long.
-3M size clothing is designed for the average three to six month old infant. 3M clothing is suitable for babies who are up to 23 inches long and who weigh between eight to 12 pounds.
-6M clothing is made for babies who are between six and nine months old, as long as they aren’t larger than 25 inches long and about 16 pounds.
-9M clothing is for babies between nine months and one year old. This size works for infants who are about 26 inches long and under 21 pounds.
-12M. At one year old, your baby will graduate to wearing 12M clothes, which should fit until he (or she) is 28 inches long and about 24 pounds.
-18M size clothing should be purchased when your baby hits about 18 months old, and it fits babies up to 30 inches long and 27 pounds in weight.
-24M, sometimes also abbreviated as 2T or 2Y. By age two, your baby will probably need size 24Y, which is designed for babies up to 32 inches long and about 30 pounds in weight.
As your baby grows, you should measure him or her before buying new clothes, just to make sure you purchase the right size. Going by measurement will produce a more accurate fit than going by your baby’s age alone. We also recommend not buying all of your baby’s clothes ahead of time, just because it’s impossible to predict how fast your baby will grow. Buy enough clothes to keep your baby covered until he’s six months old, then measure him and go from there.
When it comes to footwear, socks and booties are generally enough to keep your baby warm and comfortable until he starts walking. Most babies take their first steps at around nine months of age, at which point they usually need a size 4 infant shoe.
What Types of Outfits to Buy (and How Many)
Not only will the size of your baby’s clothes change quickly as he grows, the type of clothes he wears will change, too. During the first six months of your baby’s life, you should look for clothes that have a wide neck hole and loose sleeves, as this will make undressing your baby much easier. You can expect to change your baby’s clothes a lot during this stage of his life; between accidents, while eating, spit-up, and diaper issues, you’ll find yourself swapping his outfits frequently. Know that you can also make late-night diaper changes easier by choosing PJs that slip off in one piece (e.g., a sleep sack). Avoid putting your baby to bed in clothes that have numerous snaps.
Between the ages of six to 12 months, you can get a little more creative in how you dress your baby, but you should still choose shirts and pants with simple fasteners or a slip-off design. Avoid clothes that have a lot of buttons, as unbuttoning a wriggly baby’s outfit can be a real challenge. You’ll also want to start buying more outdoor clothing for your baby at this stage because you’ll probably start taking him out more. If it’s chilly where you live, this will mean investing in hats, coats, booties, and mittens.
Generally, we recommend buying the following outfits in the quantities outlined below:
- Two sweaters, two hats, and two jackets, if you live in a cooler climate.
- Eight body suits and/or onesies. If you live in a warmer climate, make sure some of these onesies have short sleeves. (It’s important to make sure your baby’s perspiration can evaporate, as sweat can irritate infant skin and cause rashes.)
- Two sleep gowns and seven sets of sleepwear.
- Two swaddles and two sleep bags.
- Seven daytime outfits.
- Three to four bibs.
- Five to six pairs of socks.
Note that these are just the basics of what your baby will need—Feel free to buy more baby clothes if you enjoy getting creative with baby wear, or if you want to make sure your baby will have extra clothes. Just don’t buy so many outfits that your baby won’t have a chance to wear them all before he outgrows them.
Consider Buying Gender Neutral Baby Clothes
In the past, it was considered traditional to buy all-pink clothing for a little girl and all-blue clothing for a little boy. However, like a lot of once rigidly-defined gender norms, this practice has fallen out of favor somewhat. Today, most parents find that it’s more practical—and more enjoyable—to invest in baby clothes that are at least somewhat gender neutral.
First and foremost, buying gender neutral clothes for your baby will make those clothes much more reusable. Remember, your baby is only going to wear his or her adorable outfits for a few months at a time, so your baby’s clothes will have plenty of wear left in them after he or she has outgrown them. Rather than letting like-new clothes go to waste, most parents pack up their baby’s outfits and save them for the day when their child gets a new brother or sister. Obviously, it will be a lot easier to recycle clothes that are gender neutral if you have a girl and then a boy, or vice versa. Even if you only plan to have one child, you’ll probably find that donating a neutral item like this navy cardigan to a friend or family member is a lot easier than trying to donate a tiny pink tutu.
Additionally, most parents discover that shopping for gender neutral clothes allows them to cultivate a more unique style for their baby. Choosing memorable items that express your tastes is ultimately a lot more enjoyable than buying pink or blue duplicates of what every other girl or boy baby is wearing. Of course, none of this means that your baby boy or girl can’t have a few fun gender-specific outfits; just aim for neutral hues when you’re picking out staple items.
What to Do with Clothes When Your baby Grows Out of Them
Generally, we recommend keeping a few of your baby’s first items for sentimental reasons. Beyond that, as alluded to above, you should decide what to do with your baby’s old clothes based on your family plans. If you think you’ll have more children, keep all of the “basics” outlined previously in this guide (but feel free to get rid of excess outfits if you’re low on storage space). If you don’t think you want more than one child, start sorting out items to be given to friends or family members who are expecting. Alternately, you can give used baby clothes to a charity shop if no one you know is expecting. When organizing baby clothes for donation, follow these steps:
- Make sure clothes you plan to donate to charity or give away are in good shape. Look for stains or hidden tears, and if you find signs of damage, set the item aside.
- Wash all of the clothes you plan to keep or donate thoroughly. Make sure you wash the clothes in a way that will completely disinfect them, then dry them thoroughly before storing them in a sealed container in a dry place.
- Store any clothes you’re keeping in sealed plastic containers. It’s essential to keep bacteria, mold, and insects out of baby clothes while they’re in storage.
For damaged clothes, look for a recycling program in your area rather than just throwing the clothes away. Damaged baby clothes can be recycled into cleaning cloths, insulation material, and many other useful items.
Caring for Your Baby’s Clothes
Babies aren’t exactly the tidiest beings, so you can expect to do a lot of laundry during the first few years of your child’s life. Knowing how to care for your baby’s clothes properly will help you keep them in peak condition and keep your baby healthy.
Should You Wash Baby Clothes Before Using Them?
First off, make sure you wash every new item of clothing you buy before you ever put it on your baby. Babies have very sensitive skin, so detergent residues, fabric treatments, and other allergens that may be present on new clothes could irritate your baby’s skin. Pre-washing everything will keep your baby comfortable and prevent rashes.
When washing your baby’s clothes, never use bleach. One, it may ruin your baby’s delicate clothing, and two, bleach fumes or residue might harm your baby. Wash your baby’s clothes with a gentle baby-safe detergent that’s free of harsh chemicals (including synthetic dyes or scents) and choose a baby-safe fabric softener as well. One popular fabric softening method is to use ½ a cup of white vinegar in your rinse cycle; white vinegar doubles as a safe organic disinfectant and a natural fabric softener.
When treating stains, avoid store-bought stain removers. Like detergents, these often contain harsh chemicals that aren’t suitable for a baby’s delicate skin. They can also contain bleaching agents that may damage baby clothes. To treat stains, try rubbing a little bit of baby-safe soap into the stain and letting it sit for half an hour. Then, rinse out the stain and wash the outfit as you would normally. (Once again, adding a bit of white vinegar to the wash can be helpful, as vinegar can dissolve stubborn stains.) Avoid using very high heat when washing stained clothing, as high heat can sometimes cause stains to “set.”
Unlike adult clothes, all baby clothes should be washed on a “gentle” or “hand wash” setting because they’re so small and fragile. You should also carefully read the washing instructions on each outfit you own in order to make sure it doesn’t require any special handling. Finally, we recommend placing very small items (like tiny socks) in a mesh bag before you wash them. This will save you a lot of time fishing little wet socks out of the corners of your washing machine.
Now that you know what your baby will need in terms of clothing, feel free to start shopping! The memories tied to your baby’s first outfits will last a lifetime, so choose items that reflect your hopes, dreams, and aspirations for your child. Our broad selection of high-quality European baby clothing is a great place to start browsing.