Welcome to the Baby Gear Series! When you’re getting ready for a baby, long lists of “must haves” can be overwhelming. Here’s what you ACTUALLY need (and all the stuff you don’t). Click here for an introduction, links to the complete series, and a FREE baby gear checklist and e-book!
Pssst… Just here for the laundry soap recipe? scroll to the end.
Here’s a few tips about clothes in general:
- Sizes are listed by months. They are a very general guideline and won’t always fit, since every baby is a different size at a different age and clothing companies are different (for example, Gerber runs long & lean, Carter’s runs short & stocky. If you have a long stocky boy like Man Cub, just know you’ll be using up sizes a bit faster than the tag says. On the other hand, I know a precious girl who is very dainty and she wasn’t in 0-3 month clothes until she was 3 months old. Be flexible). Here’s a general guideline of what the sizes usually mean (you’ll want to find what brand works best for you. Each brand seems to have their own guidlelines):
- Premie: under 6 lb. (usually for twins or – you guessed it- premies)
- Newborn: 6-8 lb., up to 17”
- 0-3 Months: 8-12 lb., 17-23”
- 3-6 Months: 12-17 lb., 23-27”
- 6-9 Months: 17-20 lb. 27-29”
- 9-12 Months: 20-22 lb., 29-30”
- 12-18 Months: 22-27 lb., 30-32”
- 18-24 Months: 27-30 lb., 32-33” wider & shorter for toddlers still in diapers
- 2T: 27-30 lb., 32-35” narrower & longer for toddlers who are potty trained
- Some tags will only list one month instead of a range. That month is the maximum. For example, Size 3 Months = 0-3 Months.
- Keep the tags on! Don’t prewash all the clothes you get at your shower. Wash a few 0-3 month to have ready, and leave the tags on the rest. You may not get to them all, and with tags on you can return or re-gift.
- Ask for clothes in the next size up when people ask what your little one wants for their Birthday/Christmas/Easter/First Day of Summer. Grandparents and friends love to spoil little people, but too many toys can lead to clutter and overwhelm for baby and mama. For Man Cub’s birthday we asked for clothes and got his ENTIRE 24 Month/2T wardrobe (I should add that Hubby has a very large extended family and both sides of the family- and friends- are very generous). We’re about to get into the 2T wardrobe now, and I’m already collecting 3T.
- For goodness sake, buy for comfort NOT cute. Your baby will be adorable in anything! Look for comfort (soft fabrics, not stiff; no tight spots or high collars) and easy access to the diaper (snaps in the diaper area, zippers). Baby jeans are adorable but not very practical. Opt for jeggings or elastic waist jeans instead. You’ll thank me later!
- You can get any clothing used. Babies go through clothing at a head-spinning rate, so usually they are gently used. Also, if you’re planning for a sequel and have the space, you may want to store your little one’s old wardrobe for their little sibling.
- We wash baby clothes twice a week (we just toss them in with our clothes and homemade detergent), so if you do laundry more/less often, you may need to adjust the numbers.
Newborn & 0-3 Month Clothes
The first thing to point out about baby’s first wardrobe is that you may not need newborn clothes. Newborn clothes fit 6-8 pounds; 0-3 Months start at 8 pounds. If big babies run in your (the mom’s) side of the family, you may not need newborn clothes. Man Cub was born at 8lb 12oz and never even fit newborn clothes. If you think your little one may not be so little, hang on to a few newborn clothes but keep the tags on.
- 3-6 Side Snap Shirts. These are great for while the umbilical cord is still attached. They snap from the side (so you don’t have to pull anything over a newborn’s precarious-looking head and leave plenty of room. Pair them with pants or just swaddle to keep baby comfy. (Warning: Gerber runs very small just for this one item- I don’t know why).
- 3-6 Pants. Be sure to keep them soft and elastic waisted.
- 3-6 Play n Sleep Outfits. These look like “footie pajamas” and can be used as pajamas, but they have a little more wiggle room for all that wiggling (and the umbilical cord)!
- 6-12 Socks. You’ll want some socks to keep little toes warm. I like getting a big pack of white socks so you can spend less time sorting socks and more time cuddling.
- 3-6 Sleep Sacks. It is dangerous to cover up your little one in a blanket (except for swaddling), so sleep sacks are a safe way to keep him or her warm. It’s basically a wearable blanket that gives some wiggle room for those who have grown out of (or don’t like) swaddling that goes on over pajamas or a shirt & pants.
- 6-12 Swaddling or Receiving Blankets. You’ll be using these a LOT, so get plenty. Swaddling blankets, receiving blankets and swaddlers are all different things (oh, goody). Receiving blankets are those colorful little blankets that you will get a ton of at your shower. Don’t just keep a few and return the rest. Unless you’re seriously cramped for space, keep them all- they have a ton of uses. They can be used to swaddle, lay on the floor for tummy time, lay on a floor or couch to change diapers when you’re not at home, cover up when you’re nursing, cover a car seat or stroller to give shade, play peek-a-boo, burp, clean up spit up, line a grocery cart, rolled up on the outside of head positioners in a car seat (to keep it more stable), keep baby warm in a car seat (over the straps) and probably more. Swaddlers are special shaped blankets that hypothetically help you swaddle a baby. I’ll confess I never tried them because they looked like a bit more than I could figure out on mom brain. Swaddling blankets are like receiving blankets, but more stretchy. They do make it easier to swaddle, so if you have the extra cash and have a swaddle-lover, I’d recommend them (especially muslin). We got one as a gift and it saw a lot of use.
- 1-2 Hats. It is helpful to have a hat or two, as a lot of heat can escape from a baby’s head. I wouldn’t actually buy any, though, for a few reasons: 1. You’ll get one in the hospital, 2. You’ll probably get at least one as a gift, and 3. You may have a hat hater. Man Cub woke us up at 3am the night we brought him home just to express his sudden and profound hatred of hats. He had a lot of hair and was generally indoors, so we never forced him to wear them. I had a whole shoe box full of hats that never got worn, except in pictures. He still would rather put a hat on me than wear one himself.
3-12 month Clothes (repeat this list for each size)
- 6-12 Outfits. Everyone has preferences of how to build said outfits, so choose what you like or mix & match. Be sure to keep the season in mind. For example, I have no long sleeves in 6-9 months because when Man Cub fit them, it was June-August. I do have a sweatshirt because we went to the ocean on vacation. His 0-3 Month wardrobe is full of long sleeves, since he was a December baby. Plan through what you’ll actually need.
- 3-6 Shirts. If you are going the cloth diaper route, you’ll want to stock up on shirts instead of onesies. Onesies don’t accommodate a cloth diaper as well. The same applies to a tall or fast growing baby- shirts are a safer bet.
- 3-6 Bodysuits (Onesies). Ah, the classic onesie. You may have noticed this wasn’t on the 0-3 Month list. That’s because they are a bit tight for an umbilical cord, and to be honest I’m just not a huge fan (they are one extra step and with a wiggler, sometimes it’s one too many). Onesies are pretty much ubiquitous, though, and they are pretty handy, especially for smaller/shorter babies, disposable diapers, keeping your baby warm & “put together” looking (since shirts can ride up and expose their belly), and if you have a little stripper. Man Cub likes to run up to people and lift his shirt up (I blame Where is Baby’s Belly Button?). I find it hilarious, but if you don’t like that, a onesie might be better. They are also good for summer (at home): no pants needed, just a diaper and a onesie (to prevent your little stripper from taking off said diaper).
- 3-6 Pants. If you’re going with shirts or onesies, you’ll probably want pants (I hope). Be sure to keep them soft and elastic waisted. I love sweatpants in colder months (plus they can double as pajamas).
- 6 One-piece Outfits that Snap at the Crotch. These are my favorite way to go. I love to keep it simple, they are adorably cute, you don’t have to worry about losing ½ of the outfit, and your baby can’t strip. I especially love the Gerber outfits that have snaps all the way down. The only downside is they are, like onesies, shorter lived with cloth diapers and fast growers (we have a fast grower in a cloth diaper. We go through so many clothes!)
- 3-6 “Footie Pajamas”. All-in one pajamas are easy and quick, with all the benefits of all-in-one outfits. If you have a fast grower, try to get all-in-one pajamas that don’t actually have the feet attached (just be sure to use socks).
- 6-12 Socks. I don’t really have anything new to say about socks, sorry.
- 1-2 Sleep Sacks. At this point, pajamas may be sufficient but if it gets cold, still use a sleep sack. Don’t use blankets until about a year (we started at 9 months when Man Cub’s pediatrician gave the green light because he was big and could easily turn himself over and crawl, so he wasn’t at risk of suffocating himself with blankets anymore).
- 1-2 Sweatshirts. At first, your little buddle will be bundled up in blankets (and usually in someone’s arms). As they get more mobile, though, you’ll want a sweatshirt (or jacket if it’s very cold) to keep them warm and their arms free.
- (If your kiddo likes hats) 1-3 Hats. If they don’t love them and are fine without them (they don’t freeze in the winter or burn their scalp in the summer, don’t sweat it. If your child could benefit from a hat and will tolerate wearing one, though, it’s probably a good idea.
- Bunting/snowsuit. This is on a lot of must have lists, but unless you are actually going to the snow, I don’t see the need. If you’re going out in winter, dress warm and add blankets (plus you can take a blanket off a lot easier than wrangling a fussy baby in bunting). There, I just saved you 20 bucks. You’re welcome.
- Going Home Outfit. There is a lot of emphasis on a going home outfit. Yes, you should bring something to bundle your little bundle in, but I’ll let you know a secret: It doesn’t have to be anything special. The key here is EASY. You’ve just given birth. You’re sore in places you didn’t think you would be. You’re tired and sleep deprived. You’re probably a bit anxious about this tiny human the hospital is sending you home to take care of. So give yourself a break and pack something easy. A side snap shirt & pants or a play & sleep is perfect. You aren’t on the red carpet. You’re just driving home. Besides, you probably won’t have a welcoming committee anyway. If an adorable going home outfit is your dream, go for it. Just pack something easy, too- just in case.
- For 6 months & Up: 1-2 pair Mittens. Under about 6 months, loose mittens pose a suffocation risk as an infant can try to suck their hand and get the mitten stuck in their mouth. So for under 6 months, you can go ahead and get the newborn mittens (basically a pocket- no defined thumb), but sew them on to their clothes. Better yet, get shirts that have a flap sew on that you can flip over to cover their hands when it’s cold. Either way, you don’t want to keep their hands covered all the time as sucking on a hand or finger is exploration for your baby and helps to soothe them. After 6 months, you can go ahead and get mittens but watch them carefully. I wouldn’t attempt gloves, but that may be because Man Cub hates getting dressed as it is- I can’t imagine putting ten little fingers into ten little pockets.
- 1 Nice Outfit in Each Size. Our church is a bit more on the formal side, so we like to have a nice outfit for church as well as for weddings, parties, pictures, and because it’s fun to dress up tiny people. Just be sure to keep it simple, comfy, and easy access.
- Booties & Shoes. Booties & shoes are adorable, but totally unnecessary. Booties may help keep little feet warm, but let’s be honest- tiny shoes are really more for us. I know, I know, baby shoes are my weakness, too. But if your budget is tight, these may need to go. If you (like me) just can’t help yourself, be sure pre-walkers have soft soled shoes and walkers have firm- not hard- soles & ankles. Soles and ankles that are too hard can interfere with learning to walk.
A note about laundry soap: People have strong feelings about some fairly bizarre things. They way some people talk about Dreft makes it sound like a religious experience of some kind. Now, if you love the smell of Dreft and have extra cash to burn, go for it. But if you want to safely clean baby clothes on a budget, all you need is a gentle detergent like All Free & Clear (or any other free of dyes and perfumes). If you really want to go cheap, you can make your own. I’ve been making laundry detergent for 6 years now. It works awesome and is safe for HE machines & easy on sensitive skin. Here’s how:
- Mix 1 box borax, 1 box washing soda, and 3 bars castile or glycerin soap (grated or pulsed in a blender).
- That’s it. I store mine in an old gallon ice cream bucket (with what won’t fit in a gallon ziplock).
- Use 1 Tablespoon per load. (for cloth diapers I do a double wash).
- Depending on how often you do laundry, it should last anywhere from 3 months to a year, for way cheaper than store bought. Yay!
Huge thanks to my friend Amy for my favorite of all the recipes I’ve used. (That one right there. In case that wasn’t obvious).