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15 Things To Know About Dressing The Newborn (And 5 Oopsies We All Make)

How in the world has it already been almost two years since my second baby was born? I really don’t quite understand it.

But in any case, I’ve had plenty of experience with newborn dressing. And since I’ve done the whole baby thing twice in the last handful of years, I got a second chance (with it all still pretty fresh in my memory) at building that baby wardrobe and putting it into action once my little one arrived.

I remember clearly being a bit befuddled as I tried to shop for the basic essentials when I was pregnant for the first time. I turned to Facebook, imploring friends for advice about which types and styles of clothing were best. The answers I got were often vague and based only on personal preferences.

And so I learned by doing. Yes, it was a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and a lot of trial and error.

I found myself urgently shopping for more of the items that we ended up loving to use in those early months (which were, of course, the pieces that were super comfortable for the baby and incredibly easy for us to get on and off over and over again).

I developed strategies. I began to understand when to splurge and when to save and buy the more basic option.

I’m a mom, I’m a shopper, and I will share with you now 15 things moms should know about dressing the newborn (and 5 oopsies we all probably make).

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20 Most Onesies Can Come Off Over The Hips

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It took a while for us to get the hang of getting little shirts and onesies over a newborn’s head. It can be tricky to stretch the neck hole, lift the baby just so, and pull the top down and into position.

There may soon come a day when you could do it in your sleep, but I remember it being pretty awkward and intimidating at the very start.

Also, sometimes, a onesie will be, um, soiled… after a diaper blowout (aka poo explosion), and it is not any fun to try to pull that up and off of your newborn baby…

So take note: You know how many onesies have those envelope flap things at the shoulders? You can actually avoid pulling them over the head and simply slip them off over the bottom. Much. Easier.

19 Know Thyself

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I think it’s easy, based on the new moms I’ve talked to and having had two newborns of my own in the last handful of years, here, for new parents to worry about keeping the baby at the right temperature.

And so I had to include this concern in an article about dressing newborns.

The advice I remember hearing and reading was something about dressing the baby like you would yourself in any given situation, perhaps with one extra layer. I’d say I found that pretty accurate, or more like that I’ll be in a tank top and my little ones will be comfy in long sleeves or short sleeves.

I’d add that newborns usually need little caps to help keep them warm. Protection from the sun should be a primary concern if they’ll be spending time outside, and having a light blanket along with you sort of keeps you covered for most weather situations, where I live, anyway, either to add an extra layer of warmth or set up as a shield against the sun.

18 Oops: Choosing Cute Over Practical

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I think one of the first items we excitedly bought for the baby growing inside me when I was pregnant for the very first time was a little bitty dress. I wanted something to hold up over my belly for a picture to reveal that… we were having a girl!

So it did serve this purpose. And I will say that I was smart enough (thank you very much) to buy the summery dress in the size that she would be during those warmer months (pro mom tip for ya there… You’re welcome).

But I’d say be very careful not to choose too many things that are super cute but not all that practical.

You just won’t end up using newborn dress clothes, for example, more than 0 – 1 time.

17 The Perfection Of PJs

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There are lists of this and that you’ll need for your newborn online or maybe in your favorite pregnancy book, but let me tell you that if you could only buy one piece of clothing (or, well, one style I guess) for your expected little bundle, I think it would be wise to opt for the footed PJ.

If it’s cotton, has attached feet, and can easily zip or snap up, it might just be what you’re newborn ends up living in.

Long legs and arms cover a little baby’s skin from the draft or sunshine, and cotton keeps them covered but allows airflow.

All night and all day, these were the perfect newborn outfit.

16 Always, Always Have Extras

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Dressing a newborn isn’t like dressing yourself, where you put on an outfit (likely leggings and a comfy top, if you’re a brand-new mom) and you’re done for the day.

If you are going to go anywhere with your newborn baby, you absolutely have to have extra clothes along.

Even when we were just at the house, my hubs and I found it hard to keep up with the laundry so that we’d have enough clean stuff to change the newborn into throughout all the various events of the day: diaper blowouts, pee leaks, spit-ups, breast milk sprays, and more.

If you’re caught out and about without spare clothes in that diaper bag, it isn’t any fun. Throw at least one extra swaddling blanket in there, too, which can be used as a spit rag, changing pad, actual blanket, sun shade, or hey, even a little baby makeshift toga in a pinch.

And don’t forget at least one spare top for you!

15 Gender Neutral Means Reuse Potential

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A little while before my first baby was born, I got an inkling that I might really want to have another. That inkling grew, and as that first precious year began, I started to craft a game plan.

I began to purchase some of the clothing for my first baby in gender-neutral colors, styles, and prints, just in case we had another. Whether it was a little brother or sister in the possible future, I’d be able to reuse at least some of all of that stuff I was buying.

Pretty smart, right?

I’ve noticed many parents going to extremes to dress their babies as very masculine or very feminine, but hey, I think my little trick might be a pretty smart way to save, should there be a sibling someday.

14 Oops: Somehow Never Enough

There were certain times at which we had to just hang up a damp onesie or pair of PJs, let it dry, and then use it again — then realizing that yeah, we were gonna need even more extras.

I believe a main culprit for the super young babies here is spit-up, or drool. Or breast milk spraying out at them.

Sometimes, it’s a diaper leaking. That’s a fun one. (And yeah, THAT’s gonna need a real washing before reuse…)

You can run through clothes SO quickly with a newborn. It’s like they are always somehow getting wet.

I’m willing to bet most parents don’t have enough basic clothing at first, and then rush to get more once the baby is actually born.

13 Oops: Getting Leaked On

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Welcome to parenthood, when spit-up, pee, poop, and perhaps more will get one your hands, clothing, and home, and you won’t even really care about it (because OMG that little one is just so CUTE).

Most times that you change a newborn’s clothes, you will also change a diaper.

Don’t feel bad about it when you’ve got urine on your clothes, your hands, or all up on the changing pad cover. It’s gonna happen.

Based on my mom experience, I think the more diapering you’ve done, the easier it is to avoid — because you learn to work FAST.

But if you don’t get a new diaper under there (and sometimes, folded up, too) quickly enough, or leave a little boy (or girl… that can shoot up a bit, too) uncovered at the wrong moment, get ready for cleanup on aisle YOU.

12 If It Has Little Buttons, It Will Sit In The Drawer

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Snaps, zippers, and perhaps some ties: Those are your friends, says this mom with thousands of baby clothing changes completed.

The items I never ended up using or used very rarely, were those with teeny, tiny buttons to be done each and every time.

For the super cute little dresses and blouses, they like to hide them at the back of the collar, on the shoulder, or running down the back of the clothing (try doing and undoing those bad boys while the clothes are being worn by a floppy newborn…).

If you don’t have this in mind while you’re shopping, you will find yourself, in my opinion, annoyed every time you use the item — or smirking as your husband grabs the item out to dress the baby, unaware of the buttoning nightmare before him…

11 Happy To Have Hats

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Expectant mothers may just think those tiny hats are to make babies look cute, or more like sweet little boys and girls and less like little aliens or old men (he he…), but moments after my first was born, I discovered that they are actually super important pieces of the newborn wardrobe.

That’s when a nurse very quickly covered my own little love’s brand-new head, to help keep that body heat in.

Since newborns can become easily chilled, they often wear hats, even while sleeping, for the early days or weeks.

They’ll have one for use at the hospital, and make sure to have some, either purchased separately or sometimes sold as part of little newborn sets, for use at home. Have a few extras: The cotton fabric can get stretched out and need to be washed and dried again to be snug enough to stay on properly. And they can get spit-up on them.

10 Easy Does It

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I knew after a few weeks as a mother that the only newborn clothes (and maybe the only baby clothes, in general) that mattered were those that were easy to get on and off.

See, there will be, idunno, maybe something like 4 to 8 clothing changes sometimes in any single given day.

With all the diaper changing (about 12), all the spit up and drool… the breast milk sprays… you are going to want simple items of clothing for your newborn that you find easy to remove and put on.

Amid sleep deprivation, sore muscles, and possibly being just out of time to fit in anything beyond the bare basics of life, a little outfit that’s tricky to get on and off is not going to be worth your time.

I loved little wrap shirts that didn’t even have to go on and off over the newborn’s head, and footed PJs that were an outfit in one piece, made of stretchy fabric that was easy to get little limbs in and out of.

9 Secure From The Sun

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So many little baby girl clothes are, like, little tank tops and rompers and dresses. Sure, they are adorable, but for daily use, it just never really made sense to me.

For older babies, that’s a LOT of sunscreen application….

And for newborns, they can’t even wear sunscreen until they are 6 months old.

Plus, they tend to like to have their skin sort of covered by at least one light layer.

And so, it was almost always long sleeves for the win or a short-sleeved onesie with a light knit cotton sweater over the top.

Especially if you’re shopping for your baby in the summer or spring, long sleeves can be hard to find, and this was always annoying to me.

8 Some Things Are Worth The Splurge

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So I used higher-end PJs from posh boutiques in town and hand-me-downs that had rotated through 3 or more families indiscriminately, and both worked just fine.

But my very favorite to use, and my husband’s very favorite to use, had us convinced (with both of our babies) that a certain brand was actually worth the splurge.

It wasn’t just the adorable and trendy prints sported on the bamboo-fabric footies and rompers. It was how soft they were. It was how stretchy they were (and therefore easier to get on and off of a newborn, in particular). It was, also, how they could sort of grow with the baby because they, again, had so much stretch.

The fancy fabric doesn’t hold up through all the machine washing and drying and poop-stain scrubbing as well as the cheaper stuff, but man, are Kickee Pants nice to use.

Maybe for you, it will be some other item, something that you realize just makes your life so much easier that it’s worth shelling out for (with some extras on top of that).

7 Blankies Are The Best

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Yes, there are little wrap shirts, small caps, itty-bitty socks, and petite rompers, but I don’t think any discussion of dressing a newborn would be complete without what they actually end up “wearing” so much of the time: the swaddling blanket.

The simplest system may just be a basic cotton shirt, onesie, or pair of footed PJs with the swaddling blanket or swaddling sack over the top for sleep. And newborns spend a lot of time asleep.

I’d say try a few options. Some moms like the classic muslin blanket; a stretchier variety is nice sometimes; or there are those specialized sleep sacks that fasten without all the fancy tucks and folds of the authentic swaddle.

We liked using a combo of all of the above at various times.

6 Oops: Skipping Straight to Pants

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I have done this many times, and continue to do it sometimes to this day, as we still sometimes use onesies even for my quickly growing 1-year-old.

It’s when you change the diaper or put on a new onesie, then put on the pants, and then realize that those flaps that are supposed to snap up to close the bottom of the onesie are still sticking out. You never fastened them.

Ever seen a kid running around at the park or sitting in the cart at the grocery store with this look? It’s because sometimes, there just isn’t the time or energy to care and start over again.

When you’re also trying to talk to your toddler, husband, or mother-in-law is prime time, I’ve found, to make this mistake.

5 The Delicate Art Of Diapering

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The dressing starts with the diapering, and although it’s really not that complicated, there are surely a few little details I’d say it might help to be mindful of.

First, let’s consider that lovely umbilical cord stump, poking out from the tiny tummy for a few weeks after birth. Some newborn diapers have little swoop-down shapes in the front for this purpose, but I distinctly remember the nurses in the hospital always folding the front of the diapers downward before continuing to dress the baby, to avoid rubbing and snagging. My husband, funnily, kept in the habit of folding down the diaper long past when the stump fell off and the belly button made its appearance.

Then, there’s just being mindful of getting the diaper positioned correctly. The stretchy leg holes should be secure around the tops of the thighs, lest the diaper slips so that it’s more inside those cheeks than around them, and therefore not able to do its important job.

Having the baby centered in the diaper and having it far enough up behind them (but not too far) are my tips.

4 Choose Shoes, You Lose

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OMG, are tiny newborn shoes cute, or what? But no, you really, really do not need them.

First of all, good luck getting those things on. Newborn feet aren’t exactly the slender things with extended toes that older humans’ feet are — more like pudgy little round things.

And while you’ll want to keep them warm, socks, or better yet, footed PJs and blankies will do that job.

If you want to buy a pair to put on the shelf, by all means, but I don’t think you’ll use them, not a once.

Once a tot is more like a year old and beginning to walk, comfortable shoes may be good to protect the feet while outdoors, but that is a waaaaays off.

3 Fancy Pants (And Frocks) Will Get Soiled

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In the moment, you may find yourself quite frustrated, but based on my experience, you will someday soon be able to laugh at the fact that as soon as you get your newborn all dressed up for an outing or occasion, something will then happen that will spark the need for a change of clothes all over again.

Once that petite party dress is finally all buttoned up, there will be a spit-up. Or maybe it’s a diaper blowout that bombs the little dudes best duds.

Trust me: It’s a thing. And there’s not really much you can do about it.

Act fast if you want to get that weekly picture!

In a similar vein, know that you cannot count on keeping any fancy or expensive newborn clothes you buy in pristine condition. Where there are babies, there are messes. And guess what? They won’t fit into anything for long anyway.

2 Oops: The Wrong Snap… Again

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Although looking back, the little oopsy-dos I will mention are kind of cute and funny, I remember clearly that in the moment, they are certainly not.

Let me set this one up for you. It’s 3 a.m. You feel like you (maybe?) just drifted off when it’s time to get up again, first changing the newborn’s diaper before another feeding session. But something isn’t right as you go to close the final snap, either of the onesie’s crotch or the front of a footed pair of PJs. You started buttoning / snapping the wrong one. They weren’t lined up right. And now you have to start all over again.

Sigh.

My husband developed a good strategy, which is to just snap one of those two or three that close a onesie — or to just not care if the front of the PJs are mismatched and not perfectly aligned!

1 Lovely Layers

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Grandma was right all along: Dress in layers!

Just like with yourself when you’re out during the day, it’s just much easier to take off a sweater than, say, go home and change into a whole new, more temp-appropriate, outfit.

Also, layers, I found, are a great way to keep a newborn warm enough at night.

We’d do a onesie or shirt underneath the PJs, and then a swaddling blanket wrapped around it all, of course. On particularly chilly winter nights, noticing the baby’s room was quite cool, we’d sometimes even do a onesie, socks, light PJs, and fleece PJs over the top.

It’s all about judging the weather and environment and giving yourself some options.

Reference: This one mom-of-two’s experience.

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