How to Dress a Baby

10 Things I’ve Learned About Dressing a Baby

A guide to dressing a babyA few weeks ago, Max decided he hated being dressed. Or undressed. Or having his nappy changed. Or anything, in fact, that involves him having to lie still for a few minutes, because NONONO, this is intolerable, people! Intolerable!

Really, though, he just wants to play, and crawl, and explore – and the more mobile he gets, the harder it is to persuade him that it might be fun to, you know, try on some of those cute little outfits I keep buying him, to see if they fit him yet… and then change out of them again when it turns out that, no, they do NOT.

So, it’s been difficult: partly because every nappy or outfit change now has to be an all-singing, all-dancing kind of affair (No, seriously: I LITERALLY have to sing and dance, just to keep him entertained enough to let me change his nappy. I now know the Moana soundtrack off by heart. “See the line where the sky meets the sea, it caaaaaaaalllllssss meeeeee.…”), but also because dressing him in those little outfits is one of the greatest pleasures of my life right now. I’m honestly dreading the day when he’s old enough to choose his own clothes, because who will I dress then? Other than myself, I mean? (And yes, Terry is still refusing to be my next victim, on the grounds that I’ll make him look, “Like a French sailor.” Which is just… well, TRUE, obviously, but he says that like it’s a BAD thing? I just don’t understand?)

I feel like I had a point here? I wonder what it was?

Oh yeah: dressing a baby can be a tricky business, really. Which is why today I’m here to guide you through the process, with a few of the things I’ve learned over the past few months. Such as…

Things I've learned about how to dress a baby


Sleepsuits are all you need for the first few weeks

I’ve talked about this before, I know, but, as much as I love buying baby clothes, Max spent the first few weeks of his life in sleepsuits, and, if we were ever having another baby, sleepsuits are pretty much all I’d buy for those early days. Of course, my opinion on this is slightly skewed by the fact that Max had reflux, which meant constant changes of clothes: for what seemed like a really long time (But probably wasn’t…), we were having to change his outfit multiple times per day, so we very quickly realised that the easier those changes could be, the better.

So, fiddly buttons, or anything that had more than one component to it was out, and sleepsuits were very much IN. I’d like to  be able to say here that if he HADN’T been spitting up on himself every few minutes (And yes, we had all of the bibs and  burp cloths in the world – LITERALLY ALL OF THE BIBS AND BURP CLOTHS IN THE WORLD – but he STILL managed to soak himself on a regular basis), I’d have been totally up for dressing him in elaborate little outfits, but, honestly, those early days are such a blur: you’re still recovering from the birth, you’re learning a whole new set of skills that are completely alien to you, and you’re basically just firefighting really… so my best advice here is to make things easier on yourself and just stick to the sleepsuits: ideally all in the same colour, so you can throw them all in the wash together, and not have to worry about the changing colour.


You probably won’t have to buy many of them yourself

Another thing I’d do differently would be to buy much fewer clothes for the baby. And, I mean, in all honesty, I didn’t think we had that much, really: in fact, I remember in the last few days before Max was born, I was really worried he wouldn’t have enough clothes… which is laughable to me now, because, by the end of the first week, I’m pretty sure he had more than Terry and I combined – and I have an entire room for my clothes, so that’s really saying something.

This isn’t something you can depend on, obviously, but I was completely blown away by how generous people were, and Max was gifted so many gorgeous clothes that every day was like Christmas at first. (And not just because it was ACTUALLY Christmas, either.) In our case, this was a complete godsend because of the reflux, which meant we needed a constant supply of clean clothes to dress him in, but if your baby is only getting through one outfit per day, you might want to go easy on the outfit shopping, or you could end up with way more stuff than you’ll ever be able to use.


There’s no point keeping things “for best

With Max being our first baby, everything was new to us, and, at first, I found it hard not to think of his clothes in the same way I think of my own: so, he had his regular, everyday stuff, that I didn’t mind washing until it fell apart, and then he had his “special” outfits that I wanted to keep “for best”. Which was stupid for a few reasons, namely:

01. He’s a baby: it’s not like he’s going to get invited to the Ambassador’s reception, is it?

02. He’s a baby: so he’s going to get everything filthy. Like, really, REALLY filthy.

03. HE’S A BABY: so, even if I did succeed in keeping his outfits in pristine condition, in a few week’s time he’ll have grown out of them, anyway, and then I’ll be sadly folding them away, weeping over the fact that he never actually got to wear them, because I was determined to keep them “for best.

I learned my lesson, though: these days he wears all of his clothes, and nothing is kept for best or considered to be too “special” to risk being ruined – it’s not like anything in his closet is ever going to be an investment piece that he wears for years, after all, is it?

dressing a baby: tips and advice04.

Shoes will always be controversial

When we did our gender reveal, we did it using a pair of little blue baby shoes, which I’d bought especially for the occasion. It was just supposed to be a cute photo, but, as soon as I posted it on Instagram, I got a lecture from someone telling me it was “cruel” to “force” my baby to wear shoes (I mean, I guess by that logic, you could say babies are “forced” to wear everything we put on them: they don’t exactly get a choice in the matter, after all…), because it would be dangerous for him to try to walk in them.

As ridiculous as that comment was (They were pram shoes, for tiny babies – it’s not like he’d have been stumbling around in them at 3 months, is it?), it was just a taster of what was to come in terms of Internet judgement. So far, I’ve been criticised for buying pram shoes AND criticised for letting Max go barefoot (On one of the hottest days of the summer), so I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that I can’t win with this one, and that baby shoes are just one of those oddly controversial topics that everyone and their dog has an opinion on.

For what it’s worth, Max is almost always barefoot at home: our house is warm, and it’s easier for him to stand up and crawl around when he’s not wearing socks (Even the grippy ones…) or shoes. When we go out, though, I do put pram shoes on him, for purely decorative purposes (Although, now that the weather is getting colder, I’ve got him some little warm “boots”) – and they normally STAY on him for AT LEAST five minutes, before he pulls them off again, so, yeah. I don’t actually know what my point is here. Maybe just… you do you on this one?


T-shirts aren’t much use

Somewhat random, but I’ve just packed away a bunch of too-small t-shirts that had hardly been worn, so I’ve come to the conclusion that t-shirts aren’t much use for wriggly babies. In Max’s case, I find he moves around so much that they just ride up all the time, leaving him effectively bare-chested. I’d have to put a vest underneath them to keep him warm, so I’ve made a mental note to just stick to short-sleeved bodysuits instead: not as cute, but a lot more practical!

knitted baby outfit06.

However many socks you think you need, you need more. Waymore

When Mas was born, he was given lots of pairs of socks – amongst other things – and I remember thinking he’d never, ever wear them all. Now I just keep thinking I’m going to have to buy extra storage for them, because no matter how many pairs he has, I always find myself wishing he had just one more pair in X colour, because he doesn’t have that colour yet, and it’s the ONLY one that works with his outfit. Socks: the never ending story.


Retailers think baby boys don’t need clothes. Interesting.

Sweeping generalisation here, obviously, and there are some retailers who are fantastic in this respect, but I’ve lost count of the number of stores I’ve gone into, only to find, like, fifteen floors of baby girl clothes, and half a rack of baby boy’s stuff.

Well, I DID say it would be a sweeping generalisation, didn’t I?

Seriously, though: our local Primark is the worst: the last time I was in there, there was an entire section’s worth of girl’s clothing and then one of those “whirly” rails for the boys.  It’s odd, because while I know their target market is presumably female, they must realise that women have boy children they want to dress, too? Or nah?

On a more positive note, though, this is a purely personal preference, but I do tend to like the boy’s clothing more. I’ve found some super-cute stuff for Max, but, when I was shopping for a friend’s baby girl lately, it was hard to find clothes that weren’t pink, sparkly, and with some kind of reference to princesses all over them. Don’t get me wrong, I know that older children make their own choices, and if that’s what they want, that’s what retailers will sell, but I was a little surprised to see the old, “Pink for girls, blue for boys,” thing everywhere I went.


Simple is (almost) always best

Even now that Max is 9 months old, and we’ve long-since left the reflux days behind us, I still find that simple clothes are the best for him. In some ways, in fact, it’s even MORE important to keep things simple now that  he’s so wriggly: he’s just not going to sit still while I fasten rows of fiddly buttons, for instance, so I try to go for clothes that can be easily pulled on and off, shoes with velcro rather than laces (Although, I write this after a morning in which I put  him into the car with shoes on, and took him out of it in just his  socks, so maybe scratch that one…), and fabrics that are soft, comfortable and hard-wearing.  Babies literally sleep in their clothes, after all, and I know I wouldn’t fancy taking a nap in a pair of stiff trousers and a formal shirt, so I’m guessing he won’t either.

(He does have some of those items, obviously, because, CUTE, but, for day-to-day outfits, he’s most often in something like joggers, with a short-sleeve bodysuit and then something long-sleeved on top.)

10 tips for dressing a baby09.

I will probably spend the rest of my life worrying about his temperature

It’s been a funny-old year here, weather-wise. Max was born during one of the longest, coldest winters I can remember, but it was followed-up by the hottest summer we’ve had in my lifetime, so he’s experienced almost every type of weather imaginable in his short life – which has made dressing him a little bit tricky, sometimes.

All of the guidelines I read on this subject told me that, at any given time, the baby should be wearing one more layer than we were. This didn’t seem like a reliable test of temperature, though, given that Max has one parent (ME) who’s been known to complain about being too cold while visiting the tropics, and another who’d happily wear shorts all year round. Instead, then, I settled for simply worrying incessantly about whether Max was too hot or too cold – and never leaving the house without a blanket AND a bottle of sunscreen.

(And I’d sometimes need them both, too: thanks, Scotland, and your crazy, changeable weather!)

I remember one day, when he was about three or four months old, I took him for a walk in the pram. When we left the house, it was so cold I honestly thought it might snow. By the time we got home, it was boiling, and I’d had to remove all of my layers, AND all of Max’s blankets. I’d spent the entire walk stopping every few minutes to feel his back, and make sure he was the correct temperature, and it was all so stressful that it was several weeks before I attempted the experiment again.

I’ve now come to accept that I’m probably just going to worry about this for the rest of my life: or until he’s old enough to be able to just TELL me if he’s hot or cold. Oh, and in the meantime: LAYERS. They’re the only way to survive out there…


Baby-sizing is super-weird

If you thought women’s sizing was inconsistent, I cordially invite you to try shopping for a baby, and then get back to me on that. Seriously, earlier this month, I bought Max some new clothes from Baby GAP. They’re in size 6 – 12 months, which… the hell? I mean, they fit him NOW, yes, but they definitely wouldn’t have fit him 3 months ago, and I’ll be surprised if they fit him in another 3, so, yes, I’m confused.

Most other stores, thankfully, size their clothing in three-month increments, which is a little easier to get your head round. Even so, Max wore the same “newborn” sized cardigan from the week he was born (When, OK, it was little roomy on him, granted…) right up until he was six months old. It was like some kind of magic, growing cardigan, I swear. (Then my mum bought him the next size up, and I’m pretty sure he’ll still be wearing it when he starts school.) (Oh, Mothercare, btw, just in case you were wondering…)

With other items, though, I’ve found the sizing pretty random, really, especially if I’m ordering online. Max has had quite a few two-piece sets, for instance, where he’s outgrown the trousers long before he’s grown into the matching top, so, yeah, that;s always fun. I’ve basically just resigned myself to ordering two sizes and then sending one back, or going into the stores in person, so I can hold things up against him and try to judge it from that. I’m very aware, though, that, by the end of this year, he’ll have moved out of  the 9-12 months bracket and into the 12-18 month one, which is boggling my mind a bit.

It’s a good job shopping is my hobby, huh?

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  • I remember changing my little brother when he was the same age and yes, it was a bit of a battle. And then one day, after he’d started walking, he just automatically put his little arms up so I could change his t-shirt. So cute! I used to gift him lovely white sleepsuits when he was very little, but when he became a toddler he suddenly acquired lots of green tops and a wee anorak. So he was always fairly bright. But his best outfit was a black and white shalwar kameez from his granny (he and his little sister are half-Indian).

    Hmmm, I’m a bit sad I can’t choose his wardrobe anymore, but he is 13.

    Meanwhile, my siblings on my mum’s side are having babies now – all boys! Come January my newest nephew will be here and I’ve seen some lovely grey and white things in Asda for him. Have a look in there next time you’re passing one.

    October 26, 2018
  • Alice


    The gender stereotyping of clothes on the high street is awful. My daughter wears a lot of “boys” clothes because the alternative is ridiculous pink outfits.

    Soon enough he will probably want to get dressed – toddlers have a very strong sense of how things should be done and that includes having clothes on! My daughter tries to dress herself now (with the outfit I have chosen for her, she doesn’t insist on choosing yet!) – it’s very cute.

    October 26, 2018
      • Alice


        I tell my daughter that we are going to the bedroom to choose her outfit…. then she gets to “choose” from the one outfit I put out for her the night before!


        Apart from anything else it would take too long otherwise and I have to get her ready for nursery in the morning.

        October 26, 2018
  • I remember feeling mildly offended the first day the postie DIDN’T turn up at our door with a parcel of baby clothes – I mean, that was my life now, right? Receiving cute little clothes in the post? WHERE WERE THEY?!

    October 26, 2018
  • Miss Kitty


    I find the ‘pink for girls, blue for boys’ thing very odd, too. I loved blue as a little girl myself, and I also have a niece who both loves blue and princesses, and guess what? There’s barely anything made in that combination, which makes her very sad!

    My nephew is 3 and has very strong opinions on clothing – at the moment he will only wear his green t-shirt, and if it is in the wash, he will wear an orange one under protest. He also refuses to wear a jacket for more than five minutes – it will come off, or long sleeves will be pushed up above his elbows, and shoes and socks will be taken off, even on the coldest days. It gets my sister some very strange looks, I’m sure some people are judging her for her parenting! But he truly doesn’t seem to feel the cold, he seems to be very hot-blooded and does seem to overheat with too many layers on.

    October 27, 2018
  • That’s so true about not needing to keep certain outfits “for special occasions”. I was totally doing that until I realised Mini had all these pretty dresses I had been saving and she was getting too big for!

    October 29, 2018