To understand how to most practically shop for a newborn baby, a mom must have actually cared for a newborn baby around the clock before, most likely.
The problem? When you have your first baby is often your first chance to actually do this.
Even if you ask around to get advice from the moms in your own life, I’ve found that people give you lots of “well, it depends,” and abundant ambiguity in their answers, even if they mean well.
Fear not! I’ve done it twice now, actually, and I remember the details well.
From being uncertain about what type of shirts I needed stacks of and which ones to skip when pregnant for the first time, to ordering more and more of a certain splurgy brand of PJs once I realized how great they were, I’ve seen (and, well, shopped) it all.
I’ve got strategies for saving money, as well as tidbits from times I found it was perfectly fine to spend a bit more on something.
There are tips for making your gear go further, too, including looking down the road to possible future siblings…
Yep, I’d like to think I’ve covered for you here a little bit of everything.
And so, without further ado, from a mom who likes to shop – but is living on a budget – here are 20 lessons I learned about shopping for a newborn.
20 Test Out Before Stocking Up
Some things I tried to approach a certain way actually ended up working out quite well in my quest to build a suitable first wardrobe and supply system for my brand-new babe.
One of these things was simply purchasing only one or two of a certain type of item, to then try out once the baby actually came.
In a way, this might just happen naturally, as it did for me.
You might not believe you could possibly need quite that many pairs of PJs, only to realize how quickly they can become soiled with spit-up, and more… and so only buy a few at first.
Then, after you try the varieties of onesies (or PJs, or socks, or whatever) that you have, you can find what you like best (probably because it’s easiest to use) and get more as needed, or get more in the next size up.
19 Sometimes It’s OK To Splurge
Oh, man. I was literally counting dollars when my instincts (and heart and soul…) had told me that it was time for me to become a mother and I was pregnant with my first baby.
I was going to do it, some way, somehow, just like everyone else seemed to find a way to make it work if they really, really wanted to (or needed to…).
But after registering for the basics, focusing on super important gear for sleep and transpo, and putting out the message that hand-me-downs were quite welcome from one and all, I walked into the cutest local baby boutique one day, which I had been passing on the street for years.
There, amid the expensive wooden toys and most stylish sippy cups, were the softest and most adorable little PJs I had ever seen, with a design themed to something I had loved my whole life.
I decided this was the time to splurge, and it became my baby’s “going home” outfit.
Then, I realized the brand was so much easier to get on and off dozens of times each day that we really did need some more…
Guess everyone has to pick and choose what’s worth spending on for them.
18 Don’t Fret Over Tiny Toys
I found that people love to hand down or gift toys as a go-to.
Not everyone likes shopping for clothes, for one, and baby clothes sizing and styles can be quite a mystery to those who aren’t living it night and day.
So I wouldn’t worry about stocking that toy box just yet.
Although even a newborn can be shown interesting things and talked to and have “play” time in a sense, no fancy equipment is required to do this (an old catalog might do the trick, for example).
In no time, as the months and years quickly pass, you’ll probably find your home overflowing with oversized plastic blocks, dollies, crinkly books, snuggle buddies, and beyond, so when shopping for the newborn times, I’d skip all of it.
17 Focus On The Future
On one hand, you’ll hear me say again and again how you might not be able to believe how many basic items of clothing a newborn baby really does need (because it needs to be changed and laundered so often).
But another important point to keep in mind alongside this is that it’s probably wise to focus on the larger sizes, actually, when shopping for your baby — not the NB (newborn) size.
Some babies never fit into it, and some brands run much smaller than others, too.
Even size 0-3 months may only fit for a few weeks, weeks which pass by very quickly.
I’d say have some variety from the get-go, so you’ll have something comfortable and appropriate for your newborn no matter the poundage when he’s born.
If some stuff is too big, just save it for later.
16 Seasonal Dreams
How smart is this?
Knowing your due date, how about organizing your shopping for newborn stuff around the seasons?
If you know your little love will likely be born in the colder months, you can be sure to have some fleece footed PJs and even a bunting.
If it will be the hottest week of July, you might wanna skip this.
And that’s just one example.
I liked to have fun with it, too, and honestly mainly planned as far as trying to find fall-time colors and themes for the baby clothes I bought, myself, for my little one.
(And I was then lucky that my sweet relative considered the more practical points and gifted some of those fleecy PJs…)
15 When It’s Time To Retire Hand-Me-Downs
My extended family is not huge, and when we were having our own first baby, others in our fam were still holding onto their baby clothes and gear because they would (or might) need it for their own additional babies down the line.
Still, we inherited some basics, stuff passed down from one friend to another, and then to another family, and so it went.
It’s great to think that you’ll just be able to use a bunch of hand-me-downs, since baby clothes aren’t used long anyway and can get stained easily (why splurge on brand-new, then, right?).
The thing is, I found that the cotton basics, PJs, onesies, socks, and so forth I was handed down weren’t always usable anymore.
Elastic degrades over time, so that can be one issue. And once something has been washed so many times, it can start to feel rough and rigid, almost crusty, instead of soft and stretchy.
Just something to keep in mind.
14 Caps: Not Just Because They’re Cute
I really didn’t understand, I don’t think, that there was a practical purpose to those little cotton caps sold as part of newborn basics sets or separately in packs.
But it’s true. Beyond just creating that so-cute matching ensemble flattering a baby’s scrunchy little face for family photos, hats are important for keeping newborns warm.
At first, they wear them most of the time, starting with a few moments after they are born.
I happened to have a handful, thankfully, that had come as parts of matching sets I’d been gifted or gotten to prepare for my baby’s birth.
Knowing how much you’ll actually use them at first, maybe focus on finding ones that are soft, breathable, and look like they’ll actually stay on.
13 A Vital Accessory For Sun Safety
There is another type of hat you’ll almost certainly need.
It has a wide brim and probably a strap to hold it on, which fastens under the baby’s chin.
It’s the sun hat, and because babies don’t wear sunscreen for the first 6 months of their lives (check out MayoClinic.org for info on that and tips on how to be safe in the sun, with this in mind), they need this accessory as one line of defense against those harmful rays.
Everyone needs some time outside, right?
There are styles that will only fit for the first few months, as well as sort of adjustable varieties with a drawstring around the crown to change the fit.
There are posh and trendy toppers as well as more sporty, outdoorsy, or practical options.
12 A Big Beach Blanket For A little Baby
So one item that I still use at least once a week with my toddlers but was also especially crucial for the early months with a baby isn’t specifically a “baby” item at all.
It’s actually a picnic blanket.
I have one that has that sort of weather / moisture protection on the bottom side and a woven surface up top. My favorite part is that it will fold up into a neat little rectangle that can be Velcroed shut with a little handle then sitting tidily at the top (much easier to carry along with a diaper bag, food, babies…).
It’s just so great to have a place for a baby to rest in the shade, have some tummy time, roll around a bit, or even practice that early crawling a bit later on.
Plus, it’ll be a few years before tiny tots can (or will) sit still at a picnic table for dining al fresco.
Maybe add one to your registry — or simply hang onto that old quilt you were thinking about donating in order to make more space in the closet.
11 Get Selfish
Sure, shopping for your newborn may necessarily tend to be focused on clothes to keep them comfortable, things like that…
But I feel like it’s probably helpful for those who haven’t had babies yet to hear this advice: Focus on getting stuff that will make life easier for YOU.
For me, this meant being sure to have a stroller the infant seat could click into so I could get out and get moving as soon as I was ready postpartum.
For some, it might mean finding the most comfortable and functional front pack / baby carrier ever, or a changing table at just the right height so that it won’t give them, personally, back pain.
See what I mean, though? Shopping for your newborn is also inherently about planning how you will successfully and comfortably navigate this new life together.
10 Get Thrifty
Yep, I said right off the bat that even though I was on a budget, I knew that for a few special things, it was time for me to splurge.
But I also knew when it just wasn’t necessary.
I found, for example, that the cotton onesies sold in packs from those chain clothing stores found in every mall across the country were just fine.
So I didn’t bother shelling out what I’d pay for a new top or dress for myself to outfit my little one in these most basic items.
Sure, some items you’ll try the bargain version of only to find they’re just not up to your standards (for me, this certain something was diapers… because they leaked liquid poo more often…).
But sometimes, you’ll realize the bargain brand serves its purpose just the same in your book and move on. And then buy a different size a few weeks later once your young baby’s already outgrown them.
9 Skip Shoes
Newborn babies don’t need shoes. Period.
I’m trying to imagine some scenario in which a brand-new baby would ever actually need them for some practical reason, and things like living somewhere with extremely cold weather come to mind… but even then, a newborn would be all cozied up in wraps and buntings, not in need of snow boots, right?
I understand the temptation. Believe me. Those things are just SO darn cute. They’re so little!
If your goal is to impress your friends with how much you spent on moccasins that will fit for three weeks, most importantly for a few post-able phots, well… good luck getting the things on.
Until you’re closer to the toddler times (and actual walking), it should be fine to skip the kicks, cute though they may be.
8 Get Discerning About Socks
I found that those teeny-tiny newborn-sized baby socks really are pretty necessary.
Humans that they are, babies can lose heat quickly through their heads and feet.
The problem is, it might end up feeling like it takes quite a bit of effort to keep those little toesies cozy, as baby socks LOVE to slide down and fall off many times throughout the day.
Maybe it’s all the clothes changing, or just the limpness, or the wiggling… but it seems like if the toes aren’t sagging way off the end, well then the sock is already gone on the floor somewhere.
After going through the baby period with two of my own so far, I now shop for socks that seem like they have a good elastic fit on the upper part, and which extend a bit higher up or even have enough fabric to then fold down again after they’re on.
7 Footed = Friend
Like I’ve said, baby socks just don’t seem to like to stay on. It is their nature.
This is one reason footed PJs are so wonderful.
If you tried to dress your newborn or young baby in PJ pants and separate socks every night, I’m willing to bet you’d soon wind up with a forgotten-sock graveyard of sorts hidden between the wall and the far side of the crib.
One-piece outfits are great, in general, for those early months, I found. They are just easier to get on and off (at least partially) for all those diaper changes and so on.
A lightweight cotton variety might be best for keeping your baby’s skin covered from the sun or protected against getting chilled.
Onesies can always be layered underneath as needed.
6 The Softest Of Cloths
There are only a very small number of, like, baby toiletries I’d say that you actually need for your newborn, and this is one of them.
It’s the special baby washcloth. More like a good-size pack or two of them, actually.
Happily, they aren’t very expensive.
Before “real” baths, they’ll be needed for cleansing, before the cord stump falls off.
And during actual bath time a few weeks later, they’ll still come in handy for wiping off the face and cleaning those crevices, like under the chin, the armpits, or the folds in those pudgy little legs.
The washcloths we already had around would have been much to bulky and rough for the delicate job.
5 Little Soft Bathing Hood
I’d say that very soft and small baby washcloth, as well as a very gentle baby cleansing wash, are more important than this one, but it’s still something I’ve found to be a really helpful product, both for the newborn times and far beyond.
You know those little-hooded towels, sometimes decorated to look like certain cutesy animals, they sell in baby stores? They’re really handy.
For receiving the newborn out of early baths and immediately starting to get the hair (if any… he he…) dry and the head warm, they are just the thing. I use one underneath and one over the top.The small size makes them easier to manage than an adult-sized towel, especially with one hand.
And you’ll probably still be using them months or even years down the road, like me the other night, watching my two little ones scamper off giggling with their towels trailing adorably behind them… Sigh…
4 Take A Neutral Stance
I’m quite proud of this one, actually, and I’m not ashamed to say that.
Toward the end of my first pregnancy, I got an inkling that I might want, quite strongly, to try to provide a sibling for that little baby at some point in the future, probably within a year or two, in fact.
And that inkling, as I suspect might happen for many moms out there, only grew and grew.
And so during the newborn times, as soon as I started buying the next sizes up for my first baby (who was of course quickly outgrowing what we already had), I started buying the basics in some gender-neutral colors.
Would there be a little brother coming down the road? Or maybe a little sister? I didn’t yet know, of course.
But this way, I figured I’d have a chance to reuse some of it either way.
Smart, right? (Thank you, thank you. [Bows…])
The newborn clothes and items for babies younger than six months can tend to be particularly reusable, I’ve found, both because they don’t get worn for all that long during this period of astounding growth and because babies aren’t yet sitting in their high chairs and eating messy meals — or taking toddler tumbles that put holes in pant knees.
3 Swaddle Sacks Are Awesome
I have plenty of swaddling / receiving blankets. I love the things! With my first, I used them put over the baby’s lap in the car seat or stroller, like, allll the time.
They also make great tools for impromptu diaper changes, perhaps a nursing cover if you’re into that (I wasn’t), or blocking the bright sun by draping them partially over the handle of the infant carrier / car seat.
Now, they can actually be used for swaddling, as well, that necessary practice for newborn babies of getting them all snugly bundled up, calm, and set to sleep.
But what I ended up using religiously, instead, were those specialized swaddle sacks, which could be fastened shut and keep a newborn’s arms held snug and comfy.
Honestly, I just found then super easy — as did my husband, at all hours of the night.
2 Some Suds For Stain Scrubbing
I’ve never yet read about this idea anywhere else, and it’s something that we started doing out of necessity shortly after our first baby was born.
We keep a small bottle of detergent – I found that either laundry soap or dish soap will do – right by the upstairs bathroom sink.
What’s it for?
Scrubbing out poop stains in the middle of the night.
I just couldn’t ever bring myself to throw out an item of baby clothing once the inevitable (and frequent, during the newborn period) diaper blowout occurred, blasting or leaking brightly colored infant feces all up on the garment in question.
So before the stain set in, we got in the habit of scrubbing it out in the sink or tub, then and there. Otherwise, it would surely be forgotten and leave the onesie or PJs unusable.
1 All Sweetly Sacred
So when all is said and done, here’s the thing: Every item you dress your newborn in… Each tiny hat or bow you stretch gingerly around their soft little head… Each pair of PJs you button snugly around them… will be an item you cherish.
It doesn’t matter if you are the 5th parent to use it or you bought it brand-new at the poshest baby boutique in town.
It will all be precious and sentimental to you, from the simplest onesie to the most special dress.
In my experience, anyway, it will be special just because, for some amount of time, it was theirs.
Already putting this much thought into how you will dress and otherwise provide for your expected little bundle is a sweet indication of the caring and careful parent you are to become, in my book.
References: MayoClinic.org, this one mom’s experience