The Best Clothing for Newborn Babies is Kimonos & Leg Warmers

We are five days into the parenting thing (seven -- SEVEN! COUNT' EM! --  if you count the two days in postpartum recovery), so naturally as a first time parent I have all sorts of advice for the rest of the world. And what is the Internet for if not handing out ill-informed, unsolicited advice? AMIRITE? I know enough about baby-raising to know we don't know everything. But at this point we do know something, particularly about this first few days where mom and dad are just gasping for air trying to keep baby happy and alive and maybe get a little bit of sleep. I thought we might use this experience to help you.

So here's the scenario: you're gift shopping for that yuppie-hipster (yipster?) friend of yours, who has a baby shower this weekend. Sure, you could get something straight off the wishlist, like diapers or an infant carrier or a Rock n Play. But you want your gift to be special. And thoughtful. To show that you care about your friend's baby. So you get something small off the wishlist -- maybe a pacifier or a stack of prefolds/burp rags -- then head to the baby section of the department store, where you see just the cutest little outfit, maybe with a big ol' monkey face or a turtle on it. Your baby-related emotions overtake everything else in your brain and you rush over to the rack and

woah. Woah. WOAH. Eeeeeeasy there, tiger. Let's stop think about this for a second.

I can appreciate the sentiment. Nothing screams cute like baby clothes. They are engineered by marketers to trigger all the "d'awwwww" receptors in the human brain. But there are a number of reasons why picking the cutest outfit off the rack isn't exactly special and/or thoughtful.

What is the point of buying this swank diaper cover
if it's just going to be covered by a onesie?
  1. Everyone else has the same idea. Well, not everyone. But there will be multiple guests that decide the best gift they can buy is the cutest/hippest article of clothing they can find. Clothing is always appreciated. But there comes a point where the parents might wish they had gotten something else that might see more regular use. This is the biggest reason to be a bit more careful with off-the-registry giftgiving.
  2. It's probably too big. The display clothing is usually meant for babies aged 6 months or older, sometimes as old as 15 or 18 months. Now, there are two schools of thought here. One school says that gifts for older kids will be nice when there are fewer people who are in a gift-giving mood. The other says that by the time baby gets to 6 months, mom and dad have got this whole parenting thing at least partially under control, while on the first day home from the hospital it's just 24x7 CRISIS ALERT! and simple, practical, workaday items will be a godsend. Consider your gift recipients and the other guests when deciding which school to follow. But as you do so, be sure to keep reason #1 in mind. (a third school says not to register for clothes at all, because that's what everyone is going to give you anyway. That, and blankets.)
  3. It might not keep baby warm enough. Newborns lose heat very quickly. For maximum comfort and health, they should be dressed roughly one layer warmer than the adults in the room, and/or swaddled with additional blankets. Short-sleeved clothing won't do unless it's summer somewhere warm, or mom and dad keep their house at sauna temperatures. Most decorative/standard baby clothing seems to be short-sleeved.
  4. Even if it's newborn-sized, it might be a pain to put on/take off. More on specific clothing types in a minute.
  5. It probably hides the diaper. This is only applicable if the parents are considering using cloth diapers. You're probably thinking "cloth diapers? but, poop! in the laundry! EWWW!!!"  ... That's not how it works, but that's another post for another time. For now, just understand that one of the reasons to use cloth diapers is that cloth diapers are stylin'. Most baby clothes are optimized for parents trying to hide their kids' Huggies. Nothing wrong with that, but check with the parents-to-be to see if they're considering going cloth.
Did you get all that? Yes? So we're going to step away from the display rack? Right? Yeaaaaah. There we go. Now, what to get instead. You want to get something the parents will love, but still want a gift that has a personal touch. Imma hook you up right here.

First off, sizes. Focus on newborn and/or size 0-3. Most babies will need newborn (typically 5-8lbs) sized clothing for at least a couple of weeks. Larger babies will fit 0-3 clothing at birth. That size will get used for longer, but probably still give the parents that feeling of "zomg your gift totally pulled my ass out of the fire".

This is the kind of easy to take-on/off outfit that
mom and dad will love in the early days.
Now lets talk outfit types. Your first and best bet is long-sleeved kimono shirts plus leg warmers. The shirts should fasten together with snaps. Not buttons. Not zippers. Not ties. Snaps! Kimonos -- sometimes labeled side snap shirts -- are far and away the easiest clothing to put on and take off a squishy newborn, with minimal baby fussing and parent frustration. Place on the diaper changing pad at the end of the change, fold over baby, snap, snap, snap, and done. Leg warmers are similarly easy to put on; you just wad them up, slide them over the feet, stretch them out, and that's it.

For your kimonos, Baby Soy has a nice set of kimono tops made out of "natural azlon soybean protein fiber" and, I dunno, crystals and aura and the tears of investment bankers or whatever. They look cute and comfy, so I'll take it. On the budget side of things, Gerber makes plain white baby kimono shirts, which have the added bonus of fold-over wrist cuffs to keep baby from scratching up his face. "But plain white is so boring!" you say. Well, give them a chance to jazz it up. Borrow their ultrasound photo and print it onto iron-on transfer paper, or include a pack of such paper in your gift. Leg warmers can also add additional flair to your clothing gift. You can find nice leg warmers in newborn and other sizes at  BabyLegs or juDanzy or maybe you can find some friends to split a 50-pack from alva baby. Amazon.com carries both BabyLegs and juDanzy, but I found it difficult to search the styles on their website.

Up next is full kimono outfits or side-snap sleepers. These are just like the plain vanilla, center-snap sleeper, only with three or four fewer snaps. They're probably the best choice for parents that plan on using disposable diapers. Baby Soy and Little Me both make side-snap outfits.

Your third option is the center-snap long-sleeved sleeper or footed pajama. For many parents, the sleeper is the workhorse outfit in baby's first few months. It's suitable to almost all temperatures except blazing hot, keeps baby feeling pretty snug to minimize distressed crying, and you can usually find them with a cute print even in NB/0-3 sizes. Any baby or department store will have a ton of these, just make sure they're the right side, have feet, and a cute hat.

The fourth best option is the long-sleeved pullover shirt, again combined with leg warmers. The long-sleeved pullover has no snaps, which can be great for robing/disrobing baby. However, some parents are a bit afraid of pulling and stretching fabric around their newborn's fragile little head and hands. NOTE: newborns are way less fragile than most people's instincts tell them. Watch the nurses in recovery as they do diaper changes, burping, or other basic baby maintenance. They're not exactly gentle; they've gots places to be. Nonetheless, pullovers are still more clumsy than the super-simple kimonos or even sleepers.

What you don't want to give is newborn or 0-3 onesies one-piece bodysuits (Gerber has a trademark on "Onesie", c.f. Kleenex, Xerox, etc.). Because, it turns out, onesies are a huge pain in the derriere. Very young babies can't sit up, so donning a onesie requires sliding it down baby's back while he wiggles on the changing table. Not fun. And again, if mom and dad want to show off their adorable cloth diapers, you've just become the funcrusher. Let the other guests pick out onesies while you hand over the newborn clothing survival pack, consisting of:

  • 1x 2-pack of newborn Gerber long-sleeve white kimono shirts: $8
  • 2x 2-pack of 0-3 Gerberg long-sleeve white kimono shirts: $18
  • One nice kimono shirt from Baby Soy: $15
  • A pack of iron-on transfer paper: $10
  • 4-5 sets of newborn leggings (Note: leggings can continue to be used later in life as thigh warmers, wristlets, or other silliness. Don't worry about overbuying leggings): $30
  • 2 newborn sleepers -- either side-snap or center-snap: $30
  • 2 0-3 sleepers: $30
Okay, so it's a nice shower gift. $150 is a lot. If it feels like too much, stick with just the plain white shirts and the leggings, or the sleepers if they're planning on using disposables. 

87 comments:

  1. this is actually very useful - I don't remember squat about having a newborn + I used disposables throughout after getting real sick of the stupid cloth diaper snappi routine through 12+ poopy diapers per day with P. I have a number of friends expecting in the next year and it is helpful to hear realtime advice. I didn't have any of those kimono things or legwarmers but they look cute - as does your adorable baby!

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  2. We got a GC for the diaper service for 3 months. I cannot imagine washing newborn levels of poopy diapers. But I think we might stick with afterwards.

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  3. This is amazing advice for those of us with parent-friends! Thank you!

    I am looking forward to your cloth diaper perspective. :)

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  4. There will be poop in the laundry regardless of what diapers are used! Hint: some of it will be on *your* clothes :)

    We use the extremely unstylish, extremely functional Proraps covers, no Snappis needed, so you might be able to ditch the Snappis.

    Good luck!

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