Here’s what we have learned about baby clothes over the last 4 months. Some of the tips may sound totally obvious, but I’ll include them anyway, for the sake of completeness.

  • Borrow as much of possible for your newborn. And the baby may outgrow the first items within a few weeks. Also, you can’t know what types of clothes you will find practical. Opinions do differ: some of the clothes my sister-in-law liked best, I found impractical and put away after one use. When we started buying clothes for our baby, after about 6 weeks or so, we were a lot better informed and prepared.

  • Skip the “newborn” size and go straight to “0–3 months”. The newborn-sized hat we got was too small for our girl on day 1, so she never got to use it. And the newborn-sized body was too small after 3 weeks. Unless your baby turns out to be really tiny, the 0–3s will fit well after just a week or two. And if you do get a tiny baby, you can always buy some newborn clothes when the baby has arrived, and keep the 0–3s for later.

  • Don’t buy too much. Assuming your baby can wear the 0–3s for 3 months, and you have 7 sets of clothes, each set will only get worn 13 times. Buy 10 sets, and the baby will outgrow them before s/he’s even worn them 10 times. The same will happen if the baby outgrows the clothes in less than 3 months, which is what happened us. Around 6 sets of indoor clothing worked well for us: this means we wash baby clothes every 4–5 days, because occasionally she goes through more than one set per day because of various “accidents”.

    Because babies don’t sweat much (unless they are wearing too much), baby clothes don’t get dirty unless they are exposed to said accidents, directly or indirectly. Socks, for example, can be worn for 2–3 days before changing, so we get by with 3 pairs. Outerwear hardly gets dirty at all, as long as the baby is pram-bound: one set is enough. When you do need to wash these, they usually dry overnight.

  • Make sure the clothes are easy to wash. That also applies to any other fabric items that come in contact with the baby: play mats, bouncy seat covers, blankets etc. Everything will inevitably get pooped and burped on, and I really wouldn’t want to scrub poop off the chair cover with a sponge. If it can’t be washed – for example, if you have the baby sitting in the corner of your sofa – cover it with a muslin.

  • Choose things that are easy to change, and allow easy nappy changes. This is less important for outerwear, and ultra important for night clothes. When you’re changing a nappy in the middle of the night, you do NOT want to spend time on fiddly clothes. Skip anything that has buttons; go for poppers instead.

    For this reason we abandoned sleepsuits (all-in-ones with long sleeves and legs): the long rows of poppers along the legs were too much work in the dark in the middle of the night. Almost inevitably I would miss one in the middle, and run out of buttons before buttonholes, or the other way round. Instead, Ingrid only wears bodies. She gets a new clean body every evening after her bath, sleeps in it at night, and has it throughout the next day as well.

  • Go for soft and stretchy clothes: stretchy fabrics and elasticated waists, and no scratchy decorations. Non-stretchy clothes will either not fit, or be uncomfortable when the baby has just eaten. Most baby clothes are in stretchy cotton jersey, other knitted materials or fleece nowadays. But I have seen jeans with a buttoned waist, sized for 3-month-olds…

  • We found cotton bodies / vests / onesies to be the all-round most practical clothes. Ingrid hardly ever wears anything else at home (except for socks). If you have a reasonably warm house, a long-sleeved body may be enough to keep the baby warm. In a colder house, add trousers. The trousers + t-shirt combination inevitably leaves a gap at the waist (the t-shirt will NOT stay tucked in, as long as the baby is crawling around on the floor) so you’ll almost certainly need a vest underneath, anyway, to keep the little tummy warm. Keep trousers and tops for special occasions. Skirts and dresses are even less practical: they will just get bunched up when the baby moves, and won’t cover anything.

  • Consider wrap bodies instead of pull-on-over-the-head bodies. Some babies object strongly to having their face covered, so pulling clothes over their heads can be a struggle. Even if the baby doesn’t mind, I’ve found wrap bodies easier to put on: they don’t get so tangled up, somehow.

If you’re buying baby clothes as a gift, I’d add one more point to the above:

  • Buy 3–6-month clothes, unless you will hand over the gift as soon as the baby is born, or before. If you buy 0–3 clothes and visit the baby when s/he is a month old, and the baby happens to be a large one, s/he will outgrow your gift before she’s had a chance to use it much.

Here’s a more general baby needs list.