Ask the Expert: Baby Clothes
Ask the Expert: Baby Clothes
May 26, 2021

Ask the Expert: Baby Clothes

Ask the Expert: Baby Clothes.
Ask the Expert: Baby Clothes

Ever wish you had a baby gear expert by your side to answer all of your questions and help you build your baby registry every step of the way?

Welcome to Ask the Expert, a new series where I answer real questions from real Babylist users and parents just like you. Who am I? I’m Jen LaBracio, Babylist’s Gear Editor, a role that perfectly combines my love of (obsessive) research with my love of all things baby gear.


Rompers. Footies. Hats. Bloomers. Teeny, tiny socks.

Baby clothes are so cute! But baby clothes are so confusing!

Figuring out how to dress a brand-new human is nothing short of intimidating. From which sizes of clothes to choose and how many of each to buy to figuring out the best way to organize all of those tiny things, baby clothing can leave you with a lot of questions. (And a lot of missing socks.)

We took to Instagram to ask you what you wanted to know about baby clothes, and boy did you come through. Let’s get to it.

How many clothes do I really need?

This was by far the most common question we got in various different forms.

How many baby clothes do I need? How many newborn outfits should I add to my registry? I live in a small space and have a limited budget—what are baby clothing must-haves?

So how many baby clothes do you really need? Not as many as you think. (Not even close.)

Before we get down to numbers, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.

  • Laundry. Your access to laundry—and how often you actually want to do it—plays a big part in how much baby clothing you’ll want to have on hand. The list of newborn essentials below assumes that you’ll be doing a few loads throughout the week. If you’re only planning on doing laundry once a week, you’ll want to multiply the below numbers by two. If you plan on doing laundry every day, cut them in half.
  • Gifts. Are you having a baby shower? Do you have lots of friends with older kids who’ll be passing on clothing to your new baby? Keep this in mind as you’re adding baby clothes to your registry or building your baby’s wardrobe. People love to give baby clothes to new parents; expect to receive them whether you ask for them or not. And lots of seasoned parents love nothing more than cleaning out their own kids’ drawers and passing along those hand-me-downs to other families.
  • Sizing. I’ll get into this in more detail below, but you’ll also want to keep sizing in mind when registering for and buying baby clothes. Most newborn clothes top out around eight pounds—which means some babies may not fit in them from day one. (And the majority of the rest will only be in them for a few weeks anyway.) Pick a few newborn items and focus the rest of your energy on larger sizes.

This sample baby clothing registry is a good guide to get you started.

  • 7 bodysuits or rompers
  • 3-5 pants
  • 4 sleepers, footies or gowns
  • 2 hats
  • 5 pairs of socks
  • 2-3 swaddles

Expecting a winter baby? Add two sweaters or sweatshirts, a pair of mittens, one winter coat or bunting and a pair or two of booties. For a summer baby, add a sun hat and two lightweight blankets.

You also may want to consider a few special occasion additions like a coming home outfit or simply anything else you’ve fallen in love with like a bonnet or a few baby bows or headbands.

Check out How Many Baby Clothes Do I Need? for even more information on building your baby’s first wardrobe.

How do you determine baby clothing sizes? For example, is three months 0-3 or 3-6?

Ah, cracking the code on baby clothing sizes.

It’s true; baby clothing sizes are super confusing. Some brands size in monthly ranges (0-3 months, 3-6 months, etc.) while others use single months (3 months, 6 months, etc.) Others use European sizing like 0, 1, and 2. It’s a lot to get your head around. Here’s the gist of it.

  • For clothing sized in ranges (0-3, 3-6, etc.) assume your average baby will fit into that size when they are in that age range. So, for example, a size 0-3 bodysuit will fit a newborn baby until they’re about three months old, give or take.
  • For clothing sized in single sizes (3 months, 6 months) that number assumes the maximum age of the baby. So a romper in size 3 should in theory fit a baby who’s between zero to three months; a romper that’s sized 6 months will fit a three to six month-old baby.
  • International sizing is a whole other ballgame. Most international brands will include either a conversion chart for US sizing or a height and weight chart to help you determine which size is right for your child. Be sure to consult those before buying.

Caveat! Just like adults come in all different shapes and sizes, babies do too. Don’t assume that just because your baby is two months old that they’ll fit in 0-3 month clothes. Always consult the brand’s height and weight chart for sizing and buy accordingly; these stats should help you decide which size to buy, not your child’s age.

You’ll also want to keep in mind that all brands run differently when it comes to sizing. Some brands run roomier (Baby Gap, for example) while others tend to run truer to size or even slimmer (like Carter’s). Unfortunately the only way to solve for this is through a bit of trial and error and a little experience under your belt. Yay for free returns!

Is there an easy way to organize baby clothes? My son is only three months old and I’m already overwhelmed.

Honest parent confession: organizing my son’s clothing when he was a baby and swapping it out every few months as he flew through sizes was one of the least enjoyable things I did as a new parent.

Kids, but especially babies, grow so quickly. One minute your newborn is swimming in their footed PJs and the next you can barely get the zipper up. Which is why, although it’s super annoying to stay on top of, I recommend having a good organization system in place for your baby’s wardrobe and swapping out sizes on the regular so you don’t get overwhelmed.

I’ve found a few products that helped me be more efficient at this less-than-enjoyable task.

  • Drawer dividers are clutch if you’re storing most of your baby’s clothes in a dresser or other drawer situation. They help keep everything in one place (why are baby things so tiny?!?) and they can be set up by clothing type, size or any way you like.
  • Closet dividers are another useful hack. Half the battle of keeping your baby’s clothing organized is knowing what you have, and these hanging signs help you do just that. They separate clothes into sizes (this set goes from newborn all the way to 2T) so you’ll be able to easily see what you have and are less likely to forget about clothing before it’s already too small.
  • Storage. All the storage! This can come in whatever form you like, from fancier baskets to zippered bags to under-the-bed containers. Find a system that works for you and go with it, sorting through your baby’s clothing every few months and putting what no longer fits into storage to make room for new stuff. It’s tedious, but I promise that if you stay on top of it it’s going to make your life a lot easier in the long run.

How many layers does a baby need during the winter? (Indoors and outdoors.) What about dressing them for summer or hotter temps?

Considering I’m often quite confused over how to dress myself, it’s no wonder that lots of you had questions around how to dress your babies depending on the season.

There’s an easy rule of thumb to keep in mind when you’re dressing your baby to keep them warm and comfy: they should be wearing one more layer than you are. So that means if it’s chilly outside and you’re in a light jacket, make sure your baby is wearing something a bit heavier, like a fleece or a bunting. If you’re in short sleeves, you may consider putting your baby in long sleeves. (Unless it’s really hot outside, in which case you can both rock some short sleeves!)

If you’re having a winter baby, here’s some clothing I always recommend:

And for summer babies, consider adding these pieces to your list:

How do you dress your newborn under a swaddle?

You’ll want to follow a similar rule of thumb as I talked about above when you’re dressing your baby under a swaddle as when you’re dressing them for daytime: warm but not too warm, and keep an eye (and a hand) on them to make sure they’re not too cold or overheated.

In most cases, you’ll want to dress your baby in one light layer beneath a swaddle. If you’re in a colder climate or keep your baby’s sleep space on the cooler side, think something like a long sleeve footie. For hotter climates or a warmer sleep space, a bodysuit (either short or long sleeve) will probably do the trick. Also keep in mind what material your swaddle is (cotton, fleece, muslin etc.) and how warm it is when you’re choosing how to dress your baby underneath, and that the ideal temperature for your baby’s nursery or sleep space should be between about 68 and 72 degrees.

How can you tell if your baby is too hot or too cold? Touch their ears or neck. If their ears are red and hot and their neck is sweaty, your baby is too warm; if they’re feeling cold, it may be time to add an extra layer.

What baby socks stay on the best?

And while we’re on the topic of teeny, tiny things that tend to fall off a lot and get lost, meet the ultimate culprit: baby socks!

Baby socks are notorious for easily slipping off little baby feet. So what’s a parent to do? If you’re in a warmer climate, feel free to skip them altogether, as they’re definitely not a necessity.

If you do live somewhere that necessitates keeping tiny toes toasty, I’m a much bigger fan of booties over socks—and Zutano are the absolute best. They come in fleece or cotton and they really do stay on thanks to the two-snap design and ankle elastic.

Do I really need to wash my baby’s clothing using different laundry soap?

Ohhh good question, as I totally remember worrying about this as a first-time parent.I’ve spoken to several dermatologists and here’s the deal when you’re figuring out how to wash your baby’s clothing.

Babies have pretty sensitive skin that can react to the various chemicals that are present in some detergents. When you’re choosing which detergent to use for baby laundry, it’s less about something that’s labeled “baby-friendly” and more about selecting a soap that’s hypoallergenic and free of things like fragrance and dyes. Looking for something plant-based is often recommended, too, but not a necessity.

So what else should you look out for? You’ll want to avoid brighteners (they can lead to skin irritation), industrial-strength bleach solutions (household bleach is fine when used correctly) and laundry pods, which are easy to drop or misplace and are extremely poisonous if ingested.

Check out our guide to the Best Baby Detergents for more info and recommendations.

Best PJs that baby won’t grow out of too fast?

It’s so crazy how quickly babies grow, especially during the first year or so. And while footed pajamas are perfect for keeping your baby warm both during the day and at night, I do find that babies outgrow them faster than other types of clothing because of the built-in feet.

My hack on finding PJs with a longer lifespan: go footless! The Baby Zip Sleepers from Hanna Andersson are my absolute go-to for pajamas that go the distance. They are a bit of an investment, but I swear they magically grow with your child and last twice as long as any other baby PJs. (They also hold up really well in the wash and can be passed down from kid to kid.) I always stock up when they’re on sale and never regret it.

Primary’s Organic Zip Rompers come in a close second. I love the bright, basic gender-neutral color choices and the affordable price point.

Coming home outfit suggestions?

How much time do you have?

I kid. Here are some fun ideas, depending on your style. And if a “coming home outfit” for your baby isn’t your thing? Skip it. You’ll have plenty of time for cute photo opps, not to worry.

Does breastfeeding make your boobs sag?

Does this question have anything to do with baby clothing? No.

Did I laugh when I saw it and am including it anyway? You bet.

Is the answer a resounding YES? Sadly, yes, yes it is.

Sigh.

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