When I was expecting my first baby, I had no clue what kind of clothes I needed!
I got given a ton of secondhand items, but they all seemed a bit abstract since my baby wasn’t here yet. I felt overwhelmed.
If this is you, don’t worry. I am breaking it all down for you in this post.
If this is not you, then kudos! You have life all figured out.
Back then, I didn’t. I needed this blog post. I needed someone to tell me exactly what clothes I needed, and which ones I could box up again and give back to my well-meaning friends.
So grab your latte with extra foam and let’s check these baby clothes off your list.
First baby clothes: Basics
Believe it or not, I didn’t know the difference between onesies and pajamas when I first started going through the mountain of baby clothes I had received!
Onesies are basically like leotards: they join at the crotch with snaps. They help keep baby warm: they add an extra layer, and they prevent skin from getting exposed by a shirt that rides up.
Onesies are also useful because they help keep diapers in place. Changing diapers is easy thanks to the snaps.
Onesies can be short- or long-sleeved. To make it easier getting them over your baby’s head, opt for onesies that are crossed over the chest or that have an adjustable collar, like these:
How many do you need? I would say at least 7, one for each day of the week. I’m a big believer in keeping on top of my laundry—one of my secrets is to just have tons of clothes! It’s not minimalist, but then I don’t panic when I run out of something.
Pajamas for newborns should cover everything: long sleeves and pants, all in one piece, even covering the feet.
It’s easier to keep your baby warm when it’s all in one piece. Plus, you’re not fiddling with finding matching sets of shirts to pants and socks!
For the first month, your baby will basically wear pajamas exclusively because they are so easy and versatile!
Like onesies, have at least 7 pajamas in the wings.
Did I mention your baby needs to keep herself warm? Have lots of sweaters on hand. Choose wool or knit blends.
Also try to find sweaters with wider sleeves, because chances are your baby will also have a onesie and/or pajamas underneath. It was so annoying when the sleeves rode up under the sweater!
You can get by with fewer sweaters, maybe 3 or 4.
First baby clothes: Accessories
To keep those teeny, tiny feet warm, you’re going to need socks. You don’t need very many; they won’t get worn or dirty until your baby starts walking!
Tip: Put the socks over the pajamas. That’s right, pajamas on first, then socks. The socks stay in place this way. Don’t make the mistakes of putting the pajamas over the socks; they’ll get lost in there!
Pro tip: Invest in these inexpensive Sock Ons! (not affiliated) They are a genius product, especially for the warmer months. You still want to put socks on your baby to keep warm, but they always fall off, right? Sock Ons are the solution! I used them for C for probably the first 6 months or more.
You don’t need many pairs of socks at first. 3 will do.
When your baby is born, she’ll wear hats, even indoors, in the summer. We lose heat through our heads, people!
As with sweaters, a nice wool or knit blend would be perfect. Stay away from hats with strings on the bottom to tie under the chin. I didn’t like those because when my daughter moved her head, I was always afraid she would choke herself…
As with socks, you don’t need many hats. 1 or 2 will suffice. But pay attention to sizing!
The importance of bibs cannot be understated. Your baby WILL regurgitate milk, and it WILL stain the clothes underneath. Save yourself time treating stains by simply using bibs.
Just watch your baby when she is wearing a bib, for the same reason as for hats with tie strings.
As for the number of bibs you need: it’s difficult to say. My child had a reflux problem. We probably went through 4 bibs a day! I think I amassed an arsenal of about 12.
First baby clothes: Seasonal items
You might receive a lot of used baby clothes from generous friends and family. I know I received boxes and boxes AND BOXES of them.
When babies are very young and growing quickly, you need to make sure you have enough items on hand that are just the right size. Go too small, and they’ll be WAY too small. Go too big, and they’ll be WAY too big.
The problem with seasonal items is that you might receive a ton of used baby clothes that are completely the wrong size for your season.
Let’s say you’re due to have a girl in summer. Your friend, whose daughter was born in winter, hands you down all her clothes. Unfortunately, those clothes are not going to fit your daughter.
You’re not going to put winter clothes on your newborn, are you? Besides, by the time winter comes, your daughter will be six months old. That’s a 4-size jump from newborn clothes. Your friend’s newborn winter clothes will then be way too small to be of any use.
One caveat, though: newborns need to be dressed very warmly, as it’s harder for them to keep their body temperature up. C was born in the heat of July, but you best believe she was still all bundled up in a onesie, pajamas, a wool sweater, a hat, socks, the works!
2.Especially if you are keeping the sex a surprise, you may want to keep only “gender neutral” clothes. Personally, I didn’t care about dressing my son in pink or my daughter in blue. (Psst, to be honest, the number of people who thought my daughter was a boy, even though she happened to be dressed head-to-toe in pink, was staggering.)
The truth is, I was given more than enough baby clothes at the start that I was able to reduce and keep mostly white items on hand.
3. Bring at least 2 different sizes with you to the hospital. You never really know in advance your baby’s height and weight, so you can’t guess which size will fit first. C was born quite late, so she skipped the newborn size and fit right into the 1-month size.
Which leads us to…
What’s up with baby clothes sizing?
I’m actually not sure how baby clothes sizing is done in the US, but I can tell you how it’s done in Europe.
By age, height, or weight?
First of all, quality control is not a thing anymore. You can buy the same pair of leggings in the same size in the same brand, and they’ll not be cut exactly alike. Grr!
Second of all, different brands seem to have different sizing. Just to make it all the more difficult!
On any item of baby clothes, you’ll see the size marked in age (newborn, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, 1 year, etc.).
But we’re all built differently. C, for example, fits into size 4 years right now, and she’s only 2 years old. Go figure.
You can have a better idea of what size will fit your baby if you check the tag for any height or weight sizing. In Europe, most brands include sizing either by centimeters or by kilos, in addition to the age.
As you try more and more brands, you’ll get a better sense of which ones fit your baby best. I know that for C, a tall baby with a big bum (from cloth diapers!), the Carter’s brand in the US and the Obaïbi brand in France fit her best. (not affiliated)
Shoes, thankfully, are likely more standardized than clothes!
I bought my daughter her first pair of shoes when I noticed her wanting to pull herself up into a standing position. Socks and slippers were not helping her to stand up. She couldn’t yet walk, of course, so the shoes were just for inside. But they helped her find her feet, as it were!
Ideally, get your baby’s feet measured in a shoe shop so that you know you’re starting off on the right foot (see what I did there?) in shoe sizing.
Then, just know that you will need to size up about every 2-3 months at first. As your baby grows, thankfully the pace at which you replace her shoes will be less rapid!
You might find, as we did, that your baby’s shoes very suddenly no longer fit from one day to the next. You’d do well to have the next size up already on hand.
Once your baby starts trying to “walk” (putting weight on her feet), I really recommend getting the best quality shoes you can afford to allow her feet to grow unfettered. And, ideally, you’d actually be leaving her in bare feet as much as possible while she is learning to walk.
Your first experience with baby clothes
For those who, like me, didn’t have any experience with babies prior to having your own, I hope this article helped you make sense of the often confusing world of baby clothes.
Get yourself the basics and some accessories, while paying attention to the seasons and keeping in mind that layers are best to help your baby keep warm. You can always remove clothes if she gets too warm.
If you can, try to have a variety of sizes at home because you never know what will fit when your baby is first born.
At first, it will seem like you go through clothes like crazy. Babies grow so fast! It gets easier over time to find what fits.
If you need more advice about newborns, check out my other articles here on Mamas Café Society:
Jessica is an American expat living the dream in Normandy. She is wife to a French hubby and mama to a Franco-American daughter, born in 2018, and one whippet. Passionate about all stages of writing, this Francophile created her blog in 2020 to help others navigate motherhood with a focus on conscious parenting and bilingual parenting. Bonne lecture !
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