Updated March 2019
My friend Shana put it well when asked what her favorite baby clothes were. She said, “Those that are free or on sale.” I concur.
This, ladies, is the fun stuff. Oh yes it is!
If you’re lucky enough to be the beneficiary of a friend or family member passing along boxes and boxes of baby clothes to you, you’re a lucky dog! If not, you’ll have to fend for yourself…
When pulling together baby’s wardrobe, you should carefully consider what the season will be when baby is born. Lucie was born in February, so the box of newborn summer clothes I received from a friend in Atlanta were of little use in the middle of winter in Northern California (by the time summer came, she had outgrown them, naturally). Consider which seasons baby will encounter in his first 6 months of life and seek hand-me-downs/new clothes accordingly.
—>Skip to our full article on baby clothing.
The Anatomy of Baby’s Wardrobe
Starting with the most basic staple of baby clothing: the onesie (did you know? Gerber has a trademark on the word “onesie,” so every brand that is not Gerber calls them “bodysuits”). The beauty of a onesie is that it snaps at the crotch, thereby preventing it from hiking up and exposing sweet, kissable baby bellies to the cold.
Onesies are perfect for day-to-day wear. They come in tank top, short sleeve and long sleeve versions, so get what’s appropriate for your weather. You should have at least 5-7 onesies for each stage of development (NB, 0-3, 3-6). You can buy them in 3 and 5-packs, and they’re not terribly expensive, so stock up.
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.
- Look for onesies that are soft and stretchy. The more stretchy they are, the easier they are to get on over the head. Cheaply-made onesies tend to be stiff and coarse.
- As a practical matter, several plain, white onesies will serve you very well. They match every other thing, are easy to layer, you can bleach them if they get stained, and nothing looks sweeter on a new-b than a white onesie! Just sayin’.
A variation of the aforementioned: The **Footed Onesie**
The footed onesie: remember it, write it down, take a picture of it. This is your best friend.
Forget about assembling outfits of onesies, 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 peeps: 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 (gah!).
- When looking for footed onesies or jammies, try to find ones that zip up the front vs. snapping. Snaps work okay for newborns, but they are terrible for older babies. You’ll see what I mean…
- There isn’t much of a distinction between footed onesies and jammies, per se, except the ones that look jammy-esque are called jammies. Potato, po-TAH-to.
Which leads us to…
Footed jammies are the best to ensure those sweet little feet stay nice and warm. Jammies are easier to find because stores just call them jammies, unlike the aforementioned situation.
For newborns, you can also get “sleeping gowns.” The benefit of the sleeping gown is easy middle-of-the-night diaper changes. You simply hike up the gown to get quick and easy diaper access.
The downside is that they tend to hike WAAAY up around their tummies, which exposes their legs. They also don’t do much to keep their feet warm. People either love sleeping gowns or hate ’em.
A note about Nighttime Warmth
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.
No explanation needed here. If it’s not warm, you’ll need pants, jeans, or tights to accompany a non-footed onesie. Jeans are a great staple because they go with just about anything. My favorite spot for baby jeans is Old Navy. Baby Gap also has cute pants, although just a warning, they run very slim and tall — not great if you have hunky chunky babies like mine. In my opinion, cotton pants are much more comfy.
A little about baby pants… they’re not the easiest thing to get on and off. It requires a bit of juggling, but you’ll get the hang of it.
Footwear for newborns and infants is strictly for warmth. Let’s face it; they aren’t exactly running around in the street.
If your baby is not wearing a footed outfit, you’ll need some socks to keep those feet warm — and if it’s very cold outside, some shoes or booties may also be in order.
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 My Best Ever First Socks by Hanna Andersson. Yes, they are $8 a pair, but well worth it.
It’s important to have a couple of pairs of “crib shoes,” which are shoes that are appropriate for pre-walkers. The soles are very soft and aren’t meant to be worn as outside walking shoes. The most highly rated crib shoes are:
It may not be a bad idea to pick a couple you like and add them to your registry…
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.
Remember, don’t ever put your baby in his car seat wearing a heavy jacket or coat. Check out our recos for keeping warm in the car seat.
Homecoming & The First Two Weeks
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 longer, you may want to stick to newborn kimonos and such that don’t rub and irritate. Think of it like a really deep scab that you don’t want to come off too early.
In addition to folding down her diaper (so as to not 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.
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 hard to find for some reason.
It feels nice to keep a hat on your baby’s head for the first couple of weeks. Most hats you will buy or receive as gifts are simply too BIG for a newborn. The 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?).
**Some say that newborns need to access their hands to soothe themselves (to suck their hand, thumb, etc.), so a better bet might be to keep his nails trimmed instead!
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.
If her skin does seem irritated or she seems itchy, try a detergent that’s free of dyes and fragrances. 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.”
“The Best of” Baby Clothing
Ahhnnnnd… last but not least, I asked 500 mommies to name their favorite brands/stores. Here are the results (by $$$):
Update Jan 2019: Gymboree, Crazy 8 and Janie & Jack are closing, so sad 🙁 Until their doors officially close, now is a great time to score excellent deals!
$ ~ Economy
2. Crazy 8 – Gymboree’s value brand
3. Old Navy
5. Target’s Cat & Jack Brand (replaced Circo & Cherokee brands)
$$ ~ Medium Priced
1. Baby Gap – My favorite all-around brand, but hey, I’m a boring white chick, so no surprise there.
2. Gymboree – Runs big
3. Carters – True to Size
$$$ ~ High Dollar
1. Janie and Jack – Gymboree’s high-end brand. Sooo precious. 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!
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