Updated February 2019
[a.k.a. “Layette” for the pinkies-up crowd]
A quick note on baby clothes in the early days: everyone and their mom is going to buy you baby clothes, whether you ask for them or not, so you really don’t need to register for a ton, except for a few key items, which is what you’ll find here.
Homecoming & The First Two Weeks
Right after birth, your baby will be sporting his umbilical cord stump for the first 10-20 days (mmm, looks like bacon). This stump can be short or long depending on where it was clamped. If it’s on the longer side, you may want to stick to newborn kimonos and such that don’t rub and irritate it. Think of it as a really deep scab that you don’t want coming off too early.
In addition to folding down her diaper (so as not to rub against the stump), stock up on a few “kimono” tops, which wrap around and snap on the side. The side snapping also means you don’t have to pull something down over your baby’s head, which can be a little intimidating in the beginning. (Seriously– it can be nerve wracking.)
If the weather is warm, make it easy on yourself and get some adorable baby leg warmers. These make for the easiest diaper changes EVARRR (not to mention they are freakin’ adorable, gah!). If it’s cold, go for some footie pants. Footie pants are the BEST, but a little hard to find for some reason.
Keep in mind that you are going to be changing A LOT of diapers throughout the day for newborns, so you want clothing that makes this easier for you, not more of a struggle. Remember too that newborns grow FAST, so you really don’t need to go crazy with newborn outfits. Especially if you’re a parent looking to maximize skin-to-skin benefits, you might even find it easier to just diaper and swaddle the baby a lot of the time, in which case you only need one or two clothing pieces for outings.
It’s also nice to keep a hat on your baby’s head for the first couple of weeks (god forBID you leave the house with a hat-less baby, all the old-timers and Chinese women will scold you). Most of the hats you will buy or receive as gifts are simply too BIG for a newborn. The crappy ones from the hospital work the best; steal as many as you can. Also, get some scratch mittens to cover those sharp baby talons (did you see Edward Scissorhands?). They will get lost, so make sure you have a few pairs.
** Some say newborns should have access to their hands to soothe themselves (to suck their hand, thumb, etc.), so a better bet might be to keep their nails trimmed instead!
The Anatomy of Baby’s Wardrobe
Onesies are the staple of baby’s wardrobe (note: most stores call them “bodysuits” because Gerber has a trademark on the word “onesie”). People use onesies instead of regular shirts because they snap at the crotch, thereby preventing them from hiking up and exposing sweet, kissable baby bellies to the cold. Unless you live in a warm climate, long-sleeved onesies are preferred to keep those pudgy little arms warm.
You should have several onesies for each stage of development. You can buy them in 3 and 5-packs, and they’re not terribly expensive. Amazon has a great selection, as does Target. That said, the mommies agree that our favorite onesies are from Baby Gap. They hold up very well in the wash, last forever, and are stretchy around the neck and shoulders, which makes for easy on and off.
There are a TON of onesies out there. Too many to list. If you have a sense of humor, try Cafe Press. Where else can you get a “Does my butt look big in this diaper?” onesie?
No explanation needed here.
If it’s not warm, you’ll need pants to accompany the aforementioned onesie. Jeans are a great staple because they go with just about anything, but cotton pants are much more comfy. My favorite spot for jeans is Old Navy. Baby Gap also has cute pants, although they run pretty slim and tall. Izzie and Owie also makes adorable leggings that are so stretchy they’ll fit your kid until AT LEAST the age of two.
A note about baby pants…they’re not the easiest things to get on and off. It requires a bit of juggling, which leads me to the KING of all clothing necessities…
C. The **FOOTED ONESIE**
The footed onesie: remember it, write it down, take a picture of it (that’s a Friday reference. If you’re too young to know what that is, do yourself a favor and watch it. You’re welcome!)
Make no mistake about it, the footed onesie is the most awesome, easy, useful piece of clothing you can buy. Forget about a onesie, pants, socks, shoes, and mitts. The footed onesie takes care of it all! For practical (and lazy) mommies, this is the way to go.
Listen up: The problem is… the clothing industry simply cannot decide what to CALL this piece of clothing, so what happens is they lump it in with other types of clothing: onesies, jammies, dresses…you name it, and they get lost in the mix. Because of that, they’re kinda hard to find. I clearly remember having difficulty finding them when we finally declared war on Lucie’s wardrobe (after her socks and shoes fell off 17 times in one day).
There isn’t much distinction between footed onesies and jammies per se, except the ones that look jammy-esque are called jammies. Potato, po-TAH-to.
Jammies are easier to find because stores just call them pajamas, unlike the aforementioned situation. Footed jammies are the best to ensure those little feet stay nice and warm.
For newborns, you can also get sleeping gowns.
The big benefit of the sleeping gown is easy middle-of-the-night diaper changes, so they are perfect for the first month when your baby poops every couple of hours and needs EASY, frequent nighttime diaper changes.
After about 4-5 weeks, the pooping-frequency slows waaaay down and nighttime changes are not as critical. The downside of sleeping gowns is that they tend to hike up around baby’s tummy, which is very annoying. So to ensure warm feet and legs, sleeping gowns are best used in conjunction with a swaddler or swaddling blanket. Speaking of which…
In the first 4 months, you’ll want to swaddle your baby. In the post-swaddle era (after about 4 months or so), I highly recommend replacing swaddles with wearable blankets. See also: winter-weight wearable blankets.
Footwear for newborns is strictly for warmth. Let’s face it; they aren’t exactly running around in the street, right?
If your baby is not wearing a footed outfit, you’ll need some socks to keep those feet warm — and if it’s pretty cold outside, some shoes or booties. The problem with baby socks and shoes is that they really, really do not stay on very well, with a few exceptions.
The socks-that-stay-on-the-best award goes to Best Ever First Socks by Hanna Andersson. Trumpette makes the cutest little socks-that-look-like shoes for both girls and boys that stay on fairly well. Another highly rated sock is from Baby Gap.
Lastly, Babyfit FOREVER are comfy, breathable socks that stay on and have underfoot ribbing.
Shake Your Booties
Robeez makes cute little baby shoes that stay on as best as one could expect. Zutano makes ugly-but-necessary baby booties (right). I also LOVE these baby mocs by Nowali – I used these every day in the winter. Two Little Beans also makes the most wonderful little baby slippers in tons of amazing designs.
Read also: Keeping warm in the winter
When it’s cold outside, you’ll want a jacket and/or a heavier coat, especially if you spend a lot of time outside walking, going to the park, etc. If you’re in a milder climate, a simple hoodie may do the trick.
For your stroller, I loves me a good footmuff (insert “that’s what he said”) here. Blankets do not stay on well, but a footmuff will stay in place and allows you to zip it up around your baby. See our top footmuff picks in our Keeping Warm in Winter series.
Washing Baby Clothes
“Unless your baby has allergies or very sensitive skin, this shouldn’t be a problem for her, no matter how young she is,” says Mary Spraker, a pediatric dermatologist at Emory University in Atlanta.
Be sure to choose a liquid detergent, as it tends to rinse more thoroughly, especially if you have hard water. Powders are more likely to leave flakes on clothing that can irritate baby’s skin and to strip flame-retardants from clothes.
If her skin does seem irritated or she seems itchy, try a detergent that’s free of dyes and fragrances (this still doesn’t necessarily need to be baby-specific). If you still notice a reaction, try rinsing the clothing twice or use a baby detergent until she is at least a year old. Dr. Spraker says, “Allergies to fragrances in laundry cleaners are rare, but they do occur occasionally.” Bottom line: unless you have a specific concern, whatever detergent you are using for the rest of your family is just dandy.
The “Best of” Baby Clothing
We asked 500 mommies to name their favorite brands/stores. Here are the results (by $$$):
Update Jan 2019: Gymboree and Crazy 8 are closing, so sad 🙁 Until their doors officially close, now is a great time to score excellent deals!
$ ~ Economy
2. Crazy 8 – Gymboree’s value brand
3. Old Navy
$$ ~ Medium Priced
1. Baby Gap – My favorite all-around brand, but hey, I’m a boring white chick, so no surprise there. Runs tall and skinny.
2. Gymboree – Runs big
3. Carters – True to size
$$$ ~ High Dollar
1. Janie and Jack – Gymboree’s high-end brand. Sooo precious. They have great sales. Runs tall.
2. Tea Collection – Runs small
3. Baby Boden – Runs true to size
If you’re having sticker shock, look up a local baby consignment store in your area. You can usually get nice, second-hand clothes for a fraction of the price. You can even sell them back when they no longer fit. It’s a win-win!
Onward. Time for…