Editor's note, March 7, 2023: The recommendations provided in this article are out of date and will not be updated going forward. While these baby clothes were the best picks available at the time, they may have changed or are no longer available.
There's so much to worry about when raising a baby, from where they're going to sleep to what car seat to buy. You shouldn't have to, though, as we're here to help. One of the most frequent things you'll be doing in the first couple years is refreshing their wardrobe as your little munchkin is going to be growing fast. Every couple of months, they need a new set of clothes. Dressing up your baby can be a lot of fun, but constantly shopping for clothes can be a nightmare. It can be very difficult to tell the quality of a piece of clothing, and you never want to buy more than you need.
Your preference in baby clothes is subjective, as your own personal style will largely dictate what your infant wears (you're welcome for that Astro Boy onesie, son!). But just because you vibe with an outfit doesn't mean it will fit right or the materials will agree with your baby. After some trial and error, you'll start to get an idea which brands of baby clothes are best for your little one.
This guide to baby clothes during the first year can point you in the right direction. We've broken down which items and styles to look for, from onesies to dress clothes, along with top product picks for each category.
The all-purpose bodysuit, or onesie, will make up the majority of your baby's wardrobe for the first six months or longer. Onesies are easy to throw on and allow for quick diaper changes, with a flap at the crotch that unsnaps when you need access. Another less celebrated but incredibly handy feature of the humble onesie are the envelope folds at the neckline, which allow the garment to be slipped off the shoulders and pulled down. When your baby inevitably has an epic diaper blowout, you'll be thankful you can remove their soiled onesie over their legs instead of their head.
Even if your baby doesn't blow out every day, you're going to need a few onesies on hand for frequent changes. Whether from milk spills, food stains or dozens of other reasons, baby clothes get dirty fast in the beginning. Suggestions on how many pieces of clothing you should own vary depending on who you ask, but I'd recommend having seven to 10 onesies in rotation so you're not doing laundry all the time. To make shopping easy, look for onesies that come in sets. This set from Carter's comes with seven cotton onesies in various colors and patterns.
Footie pajamas or sleepers will keep your baby comfy and warm at night, but they're also great for wearing during the day. Chilly morning? Keep them in their pj's. You'll find many styles of pajamas, but if you take one thing away from this article let it be this: Avoid footies with snaps -- or worse, buttons -- as much as you avoid the changing table in a dollar store bathroom. They might be the cutest jammies in the universe, but they won't be at 3 a.m. as you curse yourself for missing a snap and realize you have to start all over again. Get zippers and save yourself a lot of time and hassle.
If your baby has sensitive skin, you may want to consider sleeping them in pj's made from 100% organic cotton, like this set from Hanna Andersson, or other natural materials like linen or bamboo fiber. These garments are typically free of chemicals so there's less chance of irritating your little one's skin. Prices range from $11 to $4 depending on the style you choose.
Gowns are another category of baby sleepwear you might consider, especially in the early months of your child's life. Being open at the bottom, gowns make diaper changing even easier because you don't have to wrestle baby's legs out of any footies. You simply pull the gown up whenever you need to change them. This set from Burt's Bees is affordable and highly rated.
Another item you might want to consider is a sleep sack or bag. Part clothing and part bedding, a sleep sack is worn over pj's and is intended to replace loose blankets, which the American Association of Pediatrics advises against to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. A sleep sack serves the same purpose as a swaddle, but unlike swaddling, you don't have to stop using a sleep sack once your baby can roll over. If your child likes the security a sleep sack provides, they can keep using it through their first birthday and beyond.
Because onesies leave your baby's legs exposed, you should also have a few pairs of pants or leggings in their wardrobe. Baby leggings should be stretchy so they're easy to get on and off. Sweatpants are another practical choice, and they can even be stylish when paired with an appropriate top. If you're considering dressing your little one in stiff, tight-fitting jeans or khakis on the regular, my advice is to save those for special occasions. Actual pants are a real pain to put on a baby, and you don't want to be doing it multiple times a day.
Because you'll be taking pants off and putting them on again so often, you should make it easy on yourself. As long as your baby doesn't have serious skin allergies, cotton with a little bit of spandex is a safe material choice that will make diaper changes go much smoother. This set from H&M, for example, is 95% cotton and 5% spandex.
When your baby starts crawling, you might consider adding some pants with built-in knee pads to their wardrobe. This will give them a little cushioning when crawling on wood floors or other hard surfaces.
Socks and booties
Our extremities, including hands and feet, get colder faster than the rest of our body. This goes double for babies as they lose heat more quickly than adults, so it's important to keep their little piggies dressed in the cooler months.
The problem with most baby socks is they don't stay on. No matter how high you pull them up, one sock will inevitably be missing the next time you turn around. Gerber's Wiggle-Proof socks are designed to deal with this with elastic bands that hold onto your baby's calves without leaving marks.
Booties tend to stay on better than socks because they typically have some method of fastening around the ankle to prevent slippage. They can still be kicked off if your kiddo is determined enough, but at least their feet will be warmer for a bit longer.
No matter where you live, at some point in your baby's first year it will be cold enough for you to want to throw on a jacket. If it gets really cold, you may even be tempted to dress them up in a heavy winter coat. Though that would undeniably be cuteness overload, the American Association of Pediatrics advises against bulky coats. This is mostly due to the fact that you can't safely buckle a child into a car seat while wearing one, as the jacket leaves space between the straps and your child's chest.
In addition to interfering with safety harnesses, thick jackets are largely unnecessary because you can dress a child in many thin layers and achieve the same result. A light fleece jacket like this pick from Carter's is warm and versatile, and can be all a baby needs for a stroll around the block or can serve as the final layer for a snow day.
If you just love the puffy jacket look, consider getting one from Buckle Me Baby. These coats are specially designed to maintain contact between the seat harness and your child. How it works is the front panel of the jacket unzips and opens, allowing you to buckle your little one in and zip the jacket back up over it. If you're going somewhere cold, this is a great choice to wear in the car while it warms up.