Child Development and Parenting: Infants
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Dressing Baby

Angela Oswalt, MSW

When selecting clothes for infants and toddlers, remember three important factors: safety, comfort, and convenience. Babies will be happiest when they're comfortable and are able to move around their environment. Parents and caregivers will be happiest when they know their baby is safe and they can easily dress, diaper, and care for the baby. Safe clothes do not have any buttons or other adornments that could rip off and create a choking hazard, or any drawstrings that could be pulled to create a tripping or strangling hazard. Comfortable baby clothes are made from cotton, because synthetic materials may cause baby skin irritation. They also have flat seams inside and out to prevent skin irritation. Often, caregivers like to dress babies up in bow ties and lace for special occasions such as holidays, weddings, and picture days; however, for day-to-day dressing, simpler outfits mean happier and more comfortable babies.

Simple clothing with easy-access features such as snaps in between the legs and around the neck allow for easier dressing and diapering. Onesie undershirts and one-piece rompers are perfect for the early months. Remember temperature when considering the baby's comfort; parents often overdress and overheat their babies. Caregivers should decide how warmly they will dress themselves and then add one light layer for the baby. It's best to dress babies in multiple layers that can be added or removed according to temperature. Warm socks with elastic ankle bands and little caps are also good for keeping babies warm and snug. While shoes may look cute, babies do not really need them until they're beginning to walk and are walking outside.

Parents should have enough clothes so they won't have to do laundry every day and so they have extra clothing in case of extremely messy diapers or excessive spitting up. However, they also do not want to buy too many clothes because babies outgrow clothes faster than they wear them out. A basic baby wardrobe, or layette, could contain three to five receiving blankets, five burp cloths or cloth diapers, two to three hooded towels, six pairs of socks, five bibs, five sleep sacks or sleepers, five one-piece tee-shirts that snap at the crotch (onesies), five one-piece outfits or rompers, five outfits of separate tops and bottoms, one to two larger shirts or sweaters for layering, two soft hats, and any appropriate seasonal wear such as a snow suit or jacket. As babies begin to grow into toddlers, their wardrobe will grow along with them. When they begin walking, parents may want to purchase a pair of sturdy, comfortable, slip-resistant shoes.