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The baby clothes you really need and the ones you don’t

baby clothes
(© Oksana Kuzmina –

When you’re expecting a baby, it’s easy to get over-excited (because well, why wouldn’t you?) and buy endless amounts of stuff to spoil your little one. But then, newborn babies aren’t aware of whether or not their parents have splashed out hundreds of dollars on top-of-the-line onesies, and even if they were, we’re not sure they’d care. What’s more, babies grow so fast that it’s really not worth buying more than the essentials. Your baby will have outgrown everything in a matter of weeks.

All that said, it’s extremely handy to have a bunch of spare clothing and things on hand for emergencies, such as an unexpected bout of vomiting or a diaper explosion. How do you know how much clothing to buy, and what items to get?

One important thing to consider when buying baby clothes is that newborn sizes run small, and most won’t fit a baby over around 8 lbs. Your baby may be too big even at birth (average birth weight for American babies currently stands at just over 7 lbs), so make sure to leave clothes-buying until just before the baby is born, so your midwife or OB-GYN can advise you what their birth weight is likely to be. Even if your baby is born smaller, it’s best to stick to just a few newborn items and focus on 0-3 months clothing as brand-new babies gain weight speedily. Don’t buy now, buy later – just not too late!

You also need to consider how often you plan to, or will have time to, do laundry. If you’re planning to do laundry once a week, you’ll need more clothes than someone who can do laundry twice or three times a week. It’s simple mathematics!

The final thing that will impact how much clothing and what items you need for your newborn is the time of year they’re born at. Newborns who arrive in the depths of winter need different items, from summer babies and vice versa. The climate where you live will also be a factor, as temperatures and weather can vary wildly around the country.

Tips for Dressing Babies

Whatever clothing you’re putting on the baby, there are some general rules to stick to. The first is to make sure any clothing you buy is made of an appropriately comfortable, breathable fabric, and doesn’t have any edges or tags that might scratch delicate skin. You also want to avoid fasteners for this reason.

Any fasteners that are on your baby’s clothes should be easy to fasten and undo, as changing a baby’s outfit can be tricky at the best of times. You want to make the process as easy as possible for both of you.

Trims are also a potential problem area. Make sure any buttons or trims are completely secure and have no chance of coming off, as if they do, the baby may put them in the mouth. Loose, trailing strings or fringe are an absolute no-no, as these pose a risk of accidental strangulation.

Much as it can be tempting to dress your baby in layers upon layers of clothing to keep them cozy, putting too many clothes on can actually make the baby sleep too much and cause problems. As a general rule, the same number of layers you’d put on an adult is fine. Just add a blanket for extra warmth.

What you decide is best for you and your baby is ultimately up to you, but here’s a rough guide to what you do and don’t need to buy for your newborn.

Bodysuits and Rompers

Bodysuits and rompers are the wardrobe staple of the newborn baby. They’re simple, comfortable, and easy to slip on and off. In summer, a bodysuit is all a baby needs, and they’re a fantastic layering option for winter, too. They come in both long and short-sleeved varieties, are inexpensive, and readily available.

Depending on how often you’re able to wash them, around ten bodysuits should suffice. Just make sure that you choose wide head and leg openings, as this will make it easier to change your baby, or avoid over-the-head garments entirely if it’s too hard.

T-Shirts or Gowns

These are only really important for the first couple of weeks of your baby’s life, or until the stump of their umbilical cord falls off (not as weird as it sounds, and a natural part of the process). Putting the baby in a t-shirt or gown is the most convenient way to keep it clean in the meantime, and stops anything from rubbing against and irritating the area.


Knitted beanie-style hats and stocking caps are great for keeping baby’s head warm, but you don’t need one to match every outfit – just one for wearing, one for washing, and maybe a spare will more than suffice. Remember, babies don’t know or care what they look like. Add a fleece lining in winter, and a broad brim in summer.


Swaddles aren’t exactly clothing, but they are essential for newborn babies! Most babies will spend a lot of time swaddled, either for a cuddle or for sleep, because it’s reminiscent of being in the womb and can help them sleep restfully, which helps you get more sleep, too!


Brand-new babies don’t need shoes, but they do need socks. Even in summer, socks are essential to keep a baby’s feet clean, dry, and warm. One pro tip is to buy all your baby’s socks in the same color, so you don’t have to worry about finding matching pairs or losing teeny socks in the wash. Pick up a few more pairs than you need in case any do go missing, and add warmer options for winter babies.

Long Pants

Not absolutely necessary, but you might want to pick up a few pairs in case of chilly weather.

Sleepsuits or Footies

Footie pajamas and sleepers work for both day and night! Just make sure that the fabric won’t bunch up when the baby sleeps, and that they’re not too thick for the climate.