Baby clothes are fun to shop for, but don’t get so caught up in what’s cute that you forget the primary watchwords of baby clothing: comfort and ease. Look for soft, roomy, durable clothing that can hold up through frequent washings.
You’ll also want to consider the time of year when you’ll have your baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers this tip to dress babies properly for the weather: Dress your baby like yourself, with one more layer.
The AAP has other advice for parents on clothing features that can make dressing a newborn easier. Look for clothing that:
- Snaps or zips all the way down the front, instead of the back, and fastens down both legs, which makes changing diapers easier
- Is free from ribbons or strings that could unravel, knot, or get wrapped around your baby’s neck
- Are made from stretchy fabrics and are not tight around your baby’s arms, legs, or neck
- Has sleeves loose enough for your hand to fit inside (which makes it easier to push/pull your baby’s arms through)
You should avoid dressing your child in bulky clothing while harnessed in their car seat, or it may prevent the car seat from working properly in the event of a crash. To keep children warm in the car, the AAP recommends starting with thin layers like tights, leggings, long underwear, or long-sleeved bodysuits, followed by pants and a sweater, with a thin fleece jacket over the top if needed.
Baby clothes sizes are usually organized by age: newborn, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, and 12 months. But some brands do things differently, and can vary in their sizing. Look for clothes that also list weight or height guidelines to help you find the best fit.
Some babies go straight to 3 months and never need newborn sizes, but that’s hard to predict in advance, so it doesn’t hurt to have some newborn clothes. Also make sure you have a couple of outfits in the next size up before your child actually needs it – babies grow quickly! Buying secondhand clothes and accepting hand-me-downs are good ways to make sure you’ll always have many size options to choose from.
Organic baby clothing is made without harsh dyes or potentially harmful chemicals, but it’s usually more expensive. Whatever you choose, use a gentle, baby-friendly laundry detergent to prevent skin irritation.
Assuming you do laundry at least once a week, here’s what you’ll need to keep your baby comfortably dressed:
- Sleepers (7 to 10): Sleepers are basically full-body, one-piece pajamas that are appropriate for both sleeping and playing. Look for ones that zip down the front and all the way down the leg for easy diaper changes. Katie Montell, also known as The Baby Planner, says she recommends one-piece outfits 24/7 for at least the first few months because babies require a lot of changings at this age, and sleepers make the process easier.
- Leggings or stretchy pants (5 to 7): Baby leggings allow you to change one piece of dirty clothing rather than a whole outfit. Look for ones with an elastic waistband, as it’ll easily fit over your baby’s diaper and belly, and expand as she gains weight.
- Bodysuits (5 to 7): Bodysuits, also known as Onesies (and trademarked under that name by Gerber) are short- or long-sleeved garments that pull over your baby’s head and snap under his diaper, keeping your baby covered even while sleeping or squirming around. Bodysuits with a stretchy neckline and a collar that separates at the shoulders are handy after a diaper blow-out because you can pull the soiled bodysuit down instead of over your child’s head.
- Outer layers (3 to 5): Look for zip-up sweaters, fleece jackets, and sweatshirts that are easy to put on and take off. If you live in particularly cold climates, you’ll also want to invest in a winter coat or fleece jumpsuits that easily slip over your baby’s outfit. Just be sure they are not wearing either in the car seat, per the AAP.
- Hats (2): Choosing the best baby hat depends on the season and weather: A broad-brimmed UPF hat for sunny days and a knit hat that covers the ears for cold weather should do the trick.
- Socks or booties (5 to 7): Keep baby socks, shoes, and booties on the inexpensive side, since you’ll probably need to replace lost ones more than once. Montell says she recommends snap-on booties because they don’t fall off as easily as baby socks.
- Pajamas or nightgowns (5 to 7): No matter how cute it looks, avoid baby sleepwear that has a lot of snaps or is otherwise difficult to get on and off. Some parents prefer nightgowns for newborns; others like the flexibility of being able to switch a damp pair of pajama bottoms without changing the top. And others just use sleepers for day and nighttime wear. Keep reading for more information on dressing your baby safely for sleep.
Sleep is perhaps a new parents’ most pressing concern, and it’s an important area of baby safety too: According to the AAP, about 3,500 babies in the United States die suddenly and unexpectedly while sleeping. Most of these deaths are due to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or accidental deaths from suffocation or strangulation. So it’s absolutely crucial that your baby’s sleep environment is safe. The AAP says that babies should be put to sleep:
- On their backs
- On a firm, flat sleep surface such as a crib, bassinet, portable crib or play yard that meets the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), with a tightly fitting mattress made for that crib, bassinet, or play yard
- On a sleep surface covered only with a fitted sheet
- In a crib or bassinet free from soft, loose objects (i.e. sheets, blankets, stuffed animals, crib bumpers). If you’re concerned that your baby is cold, you can dress them in layers of clothing or use a wearable blanket.
- In the same room as but not the same bed as caregivers
All cribs, bassinets, cradles, play yards, and toddler beds sold in the United States must comply with the CPSC’s safety standards, so buy from a reputable, well-known retailer in the United States, and follow manufacturer instructions for use as well as the AAP’s safe sleep recommendations.
For safe, sound sleep you will need:
- Crib and crib mattress: You can put your baby in a crib from day one, though Montell says, “a lot of parents start with a bassinet in their room, then move their baby to crib.” Even so, you’ll likely want to move your baby into a full-sized crib eventually, so it’s helpful to buy one, as well as a reliable crib mattress ahead of time.
- Bedding: You’ll see plenty of fancy bedding sets in baby stores, but all you really need are three to five fitted crib sheets. and perhaps a washable crib mattress pad or two. (You’ll want one extra for middle-of-the-night changes.) Not to mention the bumpers, pillows, quilts, and soft blankets that often come with baby bedding sets shouldn’t go in your baby’s crib because they increase the risk of SIDS and accidental suffocation.
- Wearable blankets (2 or 3): These fleece or cotton sleep sacks zip over your baby’s sleepwear and keep him warm at night. They replace traditional blankets, which aren’t safe for sleeping babies because of the risk of SIDS. Some wearable blankets are also designed for swaddling, with flaps that fold over your baby’s arms and secure with Velcro. Just be sure to avoid weighted sleep sacks, as they go against AAP guidance.
- Baby swaddles (5 or 6): Many newborns love to be swaddled, and having a few secure baby swaddles made just for this purpose can make your life much easier. Some swaddling blankets can perform double duty; covering your baby in the stroller or serving as burp cloths.
- Baby monitor: Baby monitors allow you to keep tabs on your baby while you’re in another room or even away from home. You can choose a basic audio model or a more expensive video or wearable monitor. Most monitors use your phone as a viewing unit, but you can also buy monitors with a separate parent unit. Montell says that most parents want a video monitor, and especially appreciate high-tech models with sleep tracking features.
No doubt about it, diapering will occupy a significant portion of your days: infants use up to 12 diapers a day, while the toddler average is eight daily diapers. For efficient diaper changing, you’ll need:
- Diapers: Whether you use cloth, disposable, or both, your baby probably will go through 10 to 12 diapers a day at first, so plan accordingly with a stockpile of the best diapers for your family. If you use disposables, you might want to start with small packs of a few different kinds in case certain types irritate your baby’s skin or don’t fit well.
- Diaper pail: A reliable diaper pail will help keep your house smelling sweet. Some brands work for cloth or disposable diapers.
- Baby wipes: Baby wipes are made of polyester, cotton, wood, bamboo, or rayon fibers and are intended for one-time use. They’re often sold in packages with dispensers to make using them more convenient. Unscented wipes can be less irritating to your baby’s skin, as can reusable baby wipes, which are made from washable fabric.
- Diaper rash cream: You’ll also want to keep a good diaper rash cream on hand, either to prevent diaper rash or to handle them when they occur.
- Diaper bag: A diaper bag that’s big enough to tote diapers, wipes, an extra change of clothes for your baby, bottles (if you’re using them), and more can make outings less complicated. See our complete list of what to pack in your diaper bag.
- Changing table or pad: You’ll be changing a lot of diapers, and a standalone changing table or changing pad can make this a lot more comfortable. Montell says most clients use a changing pad on top of a dresser or bed, and they’re about 50/50 in preferring wipe-clean silicone pads over more traditional contoured fabric-covered changing pads: “Silicone is so expensive,” she says. “So a lot of them still want the regular contoured pads.”
At minimum, you need a way to take your baby with you on outings, whether that’s in a baby carrier, a stroller, or an infant car seat with a detachable carrier. You may also want a play yard for your baby to safely play in, a baby bouncer or rocker for your baby to lounge in, and a nursery rocker or glider for both of you to relax in together. Here’s what you’ll need to keep your baby safe and close to you while they’re awake:
- Car seat: A safe car seat is mandatory, but you can choose from an infant car seat or a convertible car seat for your newborn. A convertible car seat is next, then a booster seat. Tempting as it may be, resist buying a used car seat. Safety regulations have changed over the years, and you need one that meets all current guidelines. Also, you may not know if a secondhand seat has been in an accident and should no longer be used.
- Baby carrier: Wearing your baby in a baby carrier or wrap carrier means your little one gets to snuggle close to you, and you’ll have two free hands to do everything else.
- Stroller: You’ll need an easy way to take your baby out and about. Do you want a great everyday stroller? A lightweight stroller that folds up compactly? A double stroller for two little ones close in age? Or maybe a jogging stroller for long walks or jogs with your baby? Choosing the right stroller can make your life a lot easier. Just make sure your newborn meets height, weight, and developmental guidelines to use the stroller you choose: Many are not safe for newborns, though Montell notes that some strollers come with lie-flat bassinets that are safe for newborns. “You can take your baby on a walk, and if they fall asleep then you don’t have to move them.”
- Play yard: A folding travel crib or play yard can come in handy in all sorts of situations. Use it for overnights at Grandma’s or as a safe, contained place for your baby to play at home or while traveling. Some play yards come with a built-in diaper changing table, a removable bassinet, storage space, and other improvements.
- Baby bouncer or rocker: A baby bouncer or rocker gives your baby a safe place to lounge and look at the world, and allows you to set them down momentarily while you attend to other things. If, however, your baby falls asleep in their bouncer or rocker (or in any other non-flat place like a car seat, stroller, swing, or infant carrier), the AAP’s safe sleep guidelines advise you to move your baby to a firm, flat surface as soon as possible.
- Rocking chair or glider: A comfy rocker or glider where you soothe your baby comes in handy during all those night wakings and feedings in your baby’s first year. Down the road, it’s a cozy place to snuggle and read bedtime stories. Rocking with your baby is relaxing, but remember to stay awake: the AAP says that the risk of sleep-related infant death is up to 67 times higher when infants sleep with someone on a couch, soft armchair, or cushion.
Breastfeeding and bottle-feeding
However you choose to feed your baby, you’ll be seeing a toothless little mouth wide open and demanding food every single day. To keep your baby fed, you’ll need:
- Support pillow: Also known as nursing pillows, these handy pillows are specially designed to support your baby while you’re nursing or bottle-feeding, and they can help you avoid straining your shoulders or neck. Nursing pillows are more convenient – and better at keeping your baby in position – than regular pillows.
- Burp cloths (6 to 12): Lightweight burp cloths catch spit-up and wipe up other baby fluids.
- Bibs (8 to 10): Even before your baby is eating solids, it’s handy to have a reliable bib to keep his clothes dry, especially if he’s a drooler or spitter.
- Nursing bras (2 to 3): Don’t try to make do with your regular bras. Your breasts have changed, so you’ll need a different fit to be comfortable. And nursing bras allow your baby easy access at feeding time.
- Nipple cream: Nipple creams can help to relieve sore nipples.
- Nursing pads: It’s normal for your breasts to leak while you’re nursing, and disposable or reusable nursing pads will keep you and your shirts nice and dry.
- Breast pump: You may want to pump breast milk to feed your baby or relieve engorgement. Breast pumps can be as simple as a basic manual breast pump or as efficient as an double electric pump that allows you to pump from both breasts simultaneously.
- Breast milk bags: You can pump milk straight into a bottle, but many women use specially made plastic breastmilk storage bags, which don’t take up much space in the freezer and can be defrosted easily. The number of bags you’ll need depends on how often you plan to pump. Start with one box and buy more when you need them.
- Bottles (6 to 12): Newborns usually start with 4-ounce baby bottles, but you’ll need some 8-ounce bottles as your child begins to drink more. You’ll also need at least as many nipples as bottles. (Learn more about how to buy bottles and nipples) The AAP says that newborns will take a bottle about eight to 12 times a day, taking in one or two ounces each feeding. By 6 months, babies will eat eight ounces at each feeding, and take about five or six bottles daily. If you plan to exclusively bottle-feed, it can be very helpful to have a day’s supply of bottles ready, so you won’t have to wash them more than once daily.
- Formula: If you aren’t breastfeeding, you have lots of infant formula options to choose from – check out our guide to the best formula brands and talk to your provider. Stock up with enough formula for a few weeks.
- Bottle brushes (2): These are handy for thoroughly scrubbing small parts and crevices in bottles, bottle parts, and nipples.
- Insulated bottle carrier: You can buy insulated carriers for one bottle or for half a dozen bottles. Use one to keep bottles and/or breast milk warm or cool when you’re on the go.
When your baby has doubled their birth weight (which usually happens at about 4 months) and weighs about 13 pounds or more, it may be time for solid foods, according to the AAP. Though you may want to talk to your pediatrician before moving to this milestone, the AAP notes that your baby should be able to sit with good head control, shows interest in food, and should be able to swallow something fed to them from a spoon. To facilitate this milestone, you’ll need:
- Highchair: You can buy a freestanding highchair, a seat that hooks onto a counter or table, or a portable highchair or booster that attaches to a regular chair. But a full-size highchair with a tray is easy to clean, and wheels make moving the chair around easy. Look for a model with sleek wipe-clean surfaces, or a fabric seat cover that’s easy to remove and wash, because you can count on food getting mushed into every crevice.
- Bowls (2 to 3): Some parents like baby bowls with suction cups on the bottom that stick to the highchair tray, preventing your baby from flinging it to the floor. Suction or no suction, make sure they’re unbreakable.
- Baby spoons (3 to 5): A rubber-tipped, silicone, or plastic baby spoon is easier on your baby’s gums and small enough to fit comfortably into a little mouth.
- Sippy cups (3 to 5): These training cups come with a lid and a spout for easy drinking – and they don’t spill when knocked over. Cups with handles will probably be easiest for your child to manage at first.
- Waterproof bibs (5 to 10): Quick-drying bibs are useful, as are bibs with a pocket at the bottom to catch falling food.
The AAP recommends giving your little one sponge baths until their umbilical cord stump falls off, then about 3 times a week for the first year. Some babies love bathtime while others will scream at the sound of running water, so the following gear can make it a more enjoyable time for both you and your baby:
- Baby bathtub: A good baby bathtub will make bathing your baby much easier. Many are designed to grow with your baby from the newborn period to age 1.
- Soap and shampoo: Look for no-tears baby wash and shampoo formulas that are easier on your baby’s skin and eyes. Choose brands that don’t list “fragrance” as an ingredient if you want to avoid phthalates in your baby’s shampoo or soap.
- Infant bath towels (2 to 3): A soft, hooded baby towel works well for wrapping up your baby and drying them after the bath.
- Washcloths (4 to 6): You can always find uses for baby washcloths. If you also use washcloths for diaper changes, designate one color for those so you can keep them separate.
- Bath toys: Toys that float and engage your child in water play as she gets older can make bath time even more fun.
Baby soothers, toys, and entertainment
Babies get bored, just like adults, and a bored baby can be an about-to-cry baby. Keep your baby happy with soothing items like a pacifier and a baby swing, and playthings like books and toys.
- Pacifiers (3 to 5): Baby pacifiers aren’t a necessity by any means, but some parents and babies find soothers are essential. The AAP recommends offering a pacifier at naptime and bedtime, as they help protect against SIDS.
- Toys (3 to 5): Your baby doesn’t need a lot of fancy playthings, but it’s nice to have a few rattles, musical toys, and soft toys.
- Books (5 to 7): The AAP recommends reading to your child every day, and chunky board books are a fine way to introduce reading to your baby. Washable cloth or vinyl books are a good bet, too.
- Mobile: A spinning baby mobile is great entertainment for a newborn. Some play music and have a nightlight, too. Remove the mobile once your baby is 5 months old or can get on hands and knees, so he doesn’t pull it down and hurt himself.
- Play mat: Soft baby play mats often have baby toys that dangle from overhead, and babies who aren’t mobile yet can have a ball batting at the toys. Fancy play mats feature lights and sounds.
- Baby swing: Another favorite for babies who love to be moving, freestanding baby swings provide rhythmic motion. Some are electric, some battery-powered, some have head-to-toe swinging, and others rock side to side.
- Activity center: Baby activity centers keep older babies propped up safely in one place while they grab and manipulate various attached toys. Some convert to keep your baby’s interest as they grow.
As soon as your child is rolling, crawling, or toddling around, you’ll need to be aware of the biggest household dangers so you can childproof your home. Here is the essential safety equipment that can help protect your baby from many common hazards:
- Safety gates: Safety gates are a must for stairs, but you can also use a gate to block off areas of the house that might be perilous, such as the bathroom or kitchen. Safety gates come in pressure-mounted (meaning you don’t have to put holes in your walls) and hardware-installed varieties; experts like Consumer Reports recommend using only hardware-mounted gates at the top of stairs, while the AAP recommends installing safety gates at the top and the bottom of stairs when your baby is learning to crawl or walk.
- Outlet covers: Exposed outlets are an almost irresistible attraction to curious explorers, so keep them covered. Montell advises clients to buy covers that swing or slide shut when there’s nothing plugged in, rather than those that plug into the outlets themselves: “A lot of kids figure out how to pull them out, or you’ll take them out to plug something in and forget to put them back.”
- Cupboard and drawer latches: There are many types of safety latches, including ones that latch or twist open and closed. Tug at them to make sure they can withstand numerous tries by a determined toddler.
- Toilet seat locks: Babies can drown in as little as two inches of water, so keep your baby and his toys out of the toilet with a lock. The lock fastens on top of a closed seat and requires you to press a button or undo a latch to open it. It’s an important step to take, because children can drown in just a few inches of water, says the AAP, and that includes your toilet
- Anti-tip straps and wall anchors: These will keep your baby from pulling the television and furniture over, once they’re toddling around the house.
You can expect your baby to have eight to 10 colds in their first two years, so you’ll want to be ready with:
- First-aid kit: A baby first-aid kit contains helpful health and safety items that you’ll need if your baby is sick or injured, such as a baby thermometer, antiseptic ointment, and bandages. Many also include baby grooming tools like nail clippers and a hair brush.
- Nasal aspirator: You can combine a nasal aspirator with saline drops to clear your baby’s stuffy nose.
- Humidifier: Running a humidifier in your baby’s room can help ease congestion. Because it adds moisture to the air, it can also help with dry, chapped skin. Be sure to clean the machine often so you don’t introduce mold into the air.
- Baby nail scissors, clippers, nail file, or emery board: These help you trim and smooth your baby’s nails safely.
- Baby-friendly laundry detergent: Some brands are specially formulated to be gentle for babies, although brands for sensitive skin are fine too.
- Soft-bristled baby hair brush: This is especially helpful for handling cradle cap.