How to Choose Clothes for a Child

New parents usually receive a lot of clothes as gifts. Unfortunately, some of the more popular gift items aren't very useful to or popular with babies. If you receive items you don't need, try to exchange them for those you do need.

Knowing which clothes to buy for your child can be perplexing, not to mention the entire diapering question. In this article, we will answer all of your baby clothes questions over the following sections:

  • DiapersDiapers play a major role in the first few years of a parent's life. New parents have probably never encountered a diaper before their baby and will likely have many questions. In this section, we will describe the various types of diapers and help parent's make an informed decision about which kind they want to use. First, we will explore the most popular choice -- the disposable diaper. Next, we will look a cloth diapers that can be laundered. Finally, we will warn you about some common diapering hazards.
  • Infant Clothing Infant clothing can be an unrewarding investment because your child will grow out of them so quickly. On this page, we will help you balance the need for comfortable, safe clothes, with the reality that they will obsolete in a matter of weeks. We will help you choose socks, underwear, sleepwear, hats, sweaters, snowsuits, and blankets.
  • Toddler ClothingOnce your child begins to crawl or walk, their clothing needs will rapidly change. Also around this time, your child might start toilet training, which brings another set of considerations. On this page, we will help you choose clothing from the first through the third year. We will examine daywear and sleepwear as well as what makes an outfit right for you child. Finally, we will explore shoes and how to buy footwear for you child.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

 

 

 

Diapers

Your child will go through almost 6,000 diapers in the first two years of life.
Your child will go through almost 6,000 diapers in the first two years of life.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.

When you figure you will go through approximately 6,000 diapers in the first 2 1/2 years of your baby's life, it makes sense to spend some time focusing on the type of diaper you will use: disposables or cloth diapers you launder yourself.

Disposable Diapers

Environmentalists have raised a lot of questions about disposables because they are not biodegradable and can't be recycled. They also cause a public health hazard, since viruses present in excrement can be spread to those who collect the trash. And after disposable diapers are dumped at a landfill site, viruses can be carried into water supplies.

On a more positive note, disposables do save a lot of work, and they are more convenient. They eliminate the need for plastic pants, and they're much easier to use when traveling. Because there are no pins, family members with less experience in diapering are often more willing to change them.

If you choose to use disposables, here are some guidelines:

  • Sample different brands. Start with a variety in the newborn size until you find one that fits well and has the softness and quality you like. Name brands are usually more consistent in quality.
  • Don't use brands that clump, shred, or bunch up when wet, since your baby could ingest loose paper pieces.
  • Brands that don't allow any plastic to touch the baby's skin are better for preventing rash.
  • Once you've found a brand you like, shop around for a good discount, and then buy by the case.
  • Inspect each diaper for impurities, discolorations, and foreign materials in the paper padding.
  • Use the weight and size charts on the box or bag to determine proper fit. Diapers with elastic legs help prevent leakage. As you fasten the diaper, make sure the leg holes are not too constricting.
  • Some disposables supposedly have parts that can be easily flushed. These don't work well. Nonetheless, you should try to flush as much waste from the diaper as possible. Then tightly roll up the diaper so the soiled area is not open to the air, and seal the diaper with diaper tape before throwing it out.
  • Line garbage cans with plastic bags, and tie and seal them tightly for disposal. Garbage cans with locking lids are good; they keep curious tots out.
  • Most disposables have refastenable tape or Velcro fasteners, which are convenient. However, it may be wise to keep a small roll of strapping or masking tape and safety-tipped scissors handy for times when you need extra adhesive or when you have a diaper with defective tape.

Home-Laundered Cloth Diapers

Buying cloth diapers and washing them yourself is the cheapest way to resolve the diaper dilemma. (Be sure, however, to factor in the time and labor washing takes, as well as the cost of the soap, water, and electricity or the cost of using a coin-operated laundry.)

Cloth diapers are available in a range of fabrics, cuts, and colors. Unlike the flat diapers of the past, which were constructed of a single, large piece of fabric, you may now choose from a variety of diapers, such as pre-fold, fitted, all-in-one (fitted diaper that has a built-in waterproof cover), and pocket (diaper in which an absorbent material is placed in a pocket between a soft material against baby's skin and a waterproof cover).

If the diapers you choose do not have snap or Velcro fasteners, you'll also need diaper pins. In addition, you'll need diaper liners for extra absorbency at night and waterproof covers. When washing cloth diapers, be aware that fabric softener, bleach, and even some detergents can irritate a baby's skin.

If you choose not to wash your baby's diapers, diaper services are convenient. Diaper services pick up dirty diapers and drop off clean ones.Diapering Hazards

Regardless of which type of diaper you use, you'll inevitably run into diaper rash. It's caused by a combination of moisture, warmth, and contact between the skin and irritants in urine and stool. Plastic or rubber aggravates it; cool, dry air makes it better. So be sure to change your baby's diaper as soon as possible after it becomes wet or soiled. And, whenever feasible, let your baby's bottom air dry.

Another diaper danger is the substances that your baby may eat or inhale during diapering. Usually what happens is that the person diapering hands the baby something to hold for entertainment, or the baby grabs it himself. The baby then ingests or inhales the baby powder, the ointment or cream, or the baby wipes. Symptoms can include coughing, wheezing, choking, shortness of breath, and vomiting. It's important to keep these products away from the baby while diapering.

Diaper pins carry with them the danger of a puncture injury to your baby. When diapering, always be sure to keep your finger between the pin and the baby's skin to avoid an accidental stabbing. Most accidental injuries occur when the pins get dull and the diaperer uses extra pressure to get the pins through the diapers. Occasionally sticking the pins in a bar of soap or petroleum jelly helps, but you should discard and replace dull pins and pins that show signs of rusting.

The best pins are those with safety locks that snap down over metal latch sections. Buy several pairs. Avoid diaper pins that have plastic tops in decorative shapes. These are unsafe because the plastic eventually becomes brittle and chips off, exposing the sharp edge of the pin.

Regardless of what type of diaper you opt for, you will still have to answer the question of clothes. We'll examine baby clothes in the next section.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Infant Clothing

You will have to change your baby often, so keep that in mind when choosing clothes.
You will have to change your baby often, so keep that in mind when choosing clothes.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.

When you purchase baby clothes, it's a good idea to stick to one color scheme. Bright colors are unisex, more easily seen, and less easily soiled than pastels. They're a really good idea for outerwear-it's a lot easier to see a child wearing a bright red jacket in a busy supermarket than one wearing light pink.

Be practical. Babies aren't neat, so you'll want everything to be machine washable no matter how cute it is. Fancy clothes aren't practical at all since they often interfere with movement and aren't usually comfortable. Clothes made of cotton and other natural fabrics are more comfortable, especially in hot weather. Clothes with buckle fasteners are better than those with buttons; you can adjust buckles as the child grows, but you have to move buttons.

Keep in mind that more expensive clothes are not necessarily better. You'll have to examine each item, especially since baby sizes are not standardized. Don't be afraid to remove items from plastic packaging. Check to see if the seams are well finished and the stitching is strong. Knit fabrics should be strong, not flimsy.

Good sources of clothes are thrift shops as well as other parents whose children have outgrown their clothes. Both sources often have infant clothing that's next to new. You'll want to thoroughly wash previously used items once or twice and perhaps use a little bleach. Also, check labels on previously worn sleepwear to be sure the items meet the flame-retardant standards discussed in the following section on infant clothing.

Birth to Six Months

Obviously, the climate where you live and the season in which your child is born determine your initial layette needs. If it is up to you to obtain these basics (that is, if you do not receive them as gifts), and you are not sure what you need, get some ideas by talking to other parents or observing how other babies are dressed. Keep in mind that most babies wear newborn sizes for only a couple of weeks. And remember to wash both new and previously worn items before your infant wears them.

It is important not to overdress your baby, particularly when the temperature is hot. The best rule of thumb is to put as many layers of clothing on the baby as you are wearing. Also remember that if you're warm, your baby probably is, too. So when you dress your baby for cold temperatures, then go somewhere warmer, such as the grocery store or a shopping mall, loosen or remove some of the clothing. Many a parent removes his or her coat while indoors, only to leave baby heavily swaddled.

The following suggestions will help you put together your initial layette:

Underwear: Buy four to six undershirts in the three- to six-month-old size since these are generally made of cotton, which has a tendency to shrink to some degree. Some parents find the undershirts with side snaps easier to put on a new baby. Also popular is the one-piece style that pulls down over the diaper and snaps at the crotch. The one-piece style prevents the undershirt from rolling up, which tends to happen with other styles. All styles of undershirts are usually available in white, solid colors, and prints.

Socks or booties: You'll probably want four to six pairs of socks. Make sure they fit the infant's feet snugly. Cuffed booties and socks made of stretchy material seem to work best. Babies often kick off other styles.

Sleepwear: Plan on six to ten sleep outfits. These items can either be footed, stretchy garments or gowns. Blanket sleepers, which are heavier than stretch garments, are good for colder climates. The advantage of gowns is that they allow for easier diaper changing. They also allow an older infant more freedom of movement. However, in the past, the strings at the bottom of these garments were sometimes found to get wrapped around infants' toes and ankles, cutting off circulation. In newer gowns, enclosed strips of plastic take the place of the strings so no loose ends can cut off circulation.

If you select sleepwear with feet, do not also put socks on your baby. They will cause the baby's feet to become too warm and may cause a condition known as sweaty sock dermatitis.

Garments designated as sleepwear must meet the flame-retardant standards set by the Consumer Products Safety Commission in the 1970s. New garments are tagged or labeled "Sleepwear"; other garments have labels that read: "Not intended as sleepwear." Polyester is the most commonly used fabric in sleepwear because it is inherently flame re-tardant. Cotton must be chemically treated to meet flame-retardant standards.

If you use previously worn clothes, you should know that in 1977, the Consumer Products Safety Commission banned the flame retardant called Tris; it was found to cause cancer in animals. Do not use clothing or sleepwear labeled as having been treated with Tris or Fyrol.

Hats or caps: Two hats or caps should suffice. They come in various styles and fabrics -- from lightweight cotton stretchable caps to heavy cotton or acrylic hats. The type you choose depends upon the climate. Make sure hats and caps are small enough so they stay on and so you can place them well away from the baby's face, so he can't turn his head and suffocate in them.

Sweaters: One sweater is probably enough. Make sure the weave is tight enough so little fingers can't get tangled in it. And make sure any decoration on the sweater-or on any garment, for that matter-cannot come off and be accidentally swallowed by the infant. Avoid glued-on novelties.

Bunting or snowsuit: Whether you need a snowsuit or bunting depends, of course, upon the climate where you live. A bunting is essentially a quilted or knitted zip-up bag with a hood. Buntings are handy because they are easy to put your baby into. However, if you choose a bunting, be sure it has appropriate slits in the bottom to secure safety straps from car seats and strollers. Most current styles have such a feature; older styles may not.

Because newborns enjoy the feeling of being enveloped, you will want to have several blankets on hand.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.

Blankets:

You'll want three to six baby blankets. Most newborns like the feeling of being securely wrapped in a blanket. Receiving blankets are smaller, lightweight blankets that are ideal for this purpose. You can also use them to protect your clothing when you burp your baby. Cotton is a good choice. Flannel, woven, and knit receiving blankets are also available. In addition, you probably need a crib blanket. This is usually a heavier blanket designed to fit the standard-size crib mattress. Use it to cover a sleeping baby and as an extra wrap for outings in cold weather. Make sure all blankets are soft and machine washable.

Children grow at a remarkable rate in their first year. Before you know it, your child will have outgrown his baby clothes. In the next section, we will examine clothes for toddlers.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Toddler Clothing

Overalls with adjustable straps are ideal for you toddlers because they make changing easy.
Overalls with adjustable straps are ideal for you toddlers because they make changing easy.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.

A toddlers begin to move around you will need clothes that are more durable. Here you will find advice on clothes through the third year.

Six to Twelve Months

It is very important for your baby to have functional clothes at this age so his explorations and movements aren't inhibited. Your shopping list should include overalls with snap crotches, tops, undershirts (dependent on the climate), a jacket, a sweater, and footed sleepwear or nightgowns.

Daywear:

For daytime, bright T-shirts with shoulder snaps and straight-cut overalls with adjustable straps are ideal. Pants with elasticized waists are too constricting on a baby's abdomen. Make sure overalls have reinforcement where the straps join the bib and in the crotch snap area. You can sew on knee pads with foam or cotton stuffing to protect your baby's knees on outdoor crawling expeditions. Dresses are fine once the baby can walk but only frustrate a crawling baby, since her knees pin the dress to the floor and prevent forward movement.

Sweaters and jackets:

The easiest sweaters to put on are those that slip over the head and zip in the back. Make sure any sweater you buy is machine washable. Jackets that zip or snap in the front are best. If you need to buy a snowsuit, buy one in two pieces, so you can use just the jacket in warmer weather.

Sleepwear:

During this period, your baby is likely to grow out of one-piece footed sleepwear, although blanket sleepers may still fit. Two-piece pajamas that snap together at the waist work well because they have more than one layer of snaps for adjustability. Gowns are another suitable choice, since they, too, allow for growth. The same flame-retardant standards that apply to infant sleepwear also apply to sleepwear for this age group.

One to Three Years

Once your child begins to walk, you'll add shoes and boots to his wardrobe. You'll also buy a raincoat. As your child gets toward the toilet-training age, you'll need to buy underpants.

Daywear: Separate tops and bottoms are good choices for the toddler who is walking and one who is learning to use the toilet. You may find that as the toddler grows taller, you need to replace tops more frequently.

And as the toddler moves from diapers to underwear, you may find that the pants that were too tight over the diaper now provide ample room. Both dresses and pull-on pants make toilet training easier and encourage the toddler's independence. Avoid back-zipped jumpsuits during toilet training, as these can be frustrating to both you and your toddler.

When your toddler is learning to dress himself, make sure the clothing you choose is easy for him to put on and take off. Clothing sizes vary among manufacturers, so labeled sizes may not be a reliable guide. Cotton has a tendency to shrink, so keep this in mind when you purchase clothing.

In addition to clothing, appropriate hats for rain, snow, and sun are important elements of your toddler's wardrobe.

Coats and winter wear: A machine-washable coat with a drawstring hood is most practical. Those with large buttons or loops and toggle buttons are excellent because eventually your child will be able to manage these herself. Make sure coats are not so bulky that your child can't move in them. Actually, a few thin layers are more comfortable and just as warm without the bulk.

For very small toddlers, buy thumbless (whole-hand) mittens; they're warmer than gloves. Older toddlers prefer mittens with thumbs for increased dexterity. Mittens that have a connecting string that gets threaded through the sleeves of a coat are a good idea. Suspender clips to attach mittens to coats have pinching potential (the mittens usually get lost anyway). In any case, buy two pairs of mittens in the same style since it's likely at least one mitten will get lost.

Never allow a preschooler to wear a long scarf since it poses a strangulation risk should it get caught on something as the child moves by.

Rainwear: Old-fashioned yellow raincoats with hoods and ponchos with hoods are good at this age. The old-style clasp latches are much more manageable for tots than zippers. Don't buy vinyl coats; they tear quickly, especially under the arms and at the snaps. When you fit the coat, get it large enough that your child can wear it over a winter coat if necessary.

Galoshes are a favorite with young children, probably because they are one of the few kinds of shoes they can put on by themselves. Buy the kind that are worn without shoes, preferably with an inner lining and a waterproof fabric neck that ties with a drawstring. These are very practical for the mud and puddle stomping that is a natural act of tots.

Never buy a child-size umbrella; the sharp points can be dangerous, and the opening mechanism can pinch a small child.

Underwear:

Training pants and pull-up diapers are optional. Let your child graduate into regular cotton underpants when training time comes. Cotton underwear is best because it allows breathing that synthetics do not. Unless you live in a cold climate or house, undershirts aren't necessary.

Shoes will be a priority once your child learns how to walk.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.

Socks and shoes:

You don't need to have shoes for your baby before he can walk. In fact, small babies are better off barefoot since they get a lot of sensory input through their feet. Also, feet have natural nonskid surfaces, and toes can grasp as your baby pulls himself up. Before your baby walks, you may want to buy shoes only for protection, and inexpensive sneakers or leather moccasins do the job.

When your baby is just starting to walk, lighter leather shoes are probably better -- he's less likely to trip. Later on it makes little difference whether you choose leather shoes or sneakers. If, however, your child has a problem with foot perspiration, you should keep in mind that leather breathes better. Sneakers and athletic shoes are generally made of synthetic materials, which may keep your child's feet moist.

If you fit your baby's shoes yourself, allow half an inch between the big toe and the end of the shoe. Test this while your child is standing. The shoe should fit firmly against the back of the foot with no gaps. Make sure the sides of the shoe are low enough not to rub against the ankle bone. Avoid artificial arches and raised heels. Look for shoes with nonskid bottoms. Keep in mind that buckles or Velcro closures are much easier for a child than laces.

Once your baby is walking, you'll need to buy new shoes every four to six months, which gets fairly expensive no matter how much you spend. Though expensive shoes are not necessarily better, children's shoe stores stock the hard-to-find sizes, and you will have to go to one (and probably pay more) if you can't fit your child in a self-service store. If your child is easy to fit, you can get away with sturdy sneakers, which provide traction for climbing and running, unless your doctor says otherwise.

An oxford-style shoe provides more toe room than other styles. Mary Janes and other dress styles are good for special occasions but not all the time because they constrict the toes and are often stiff.

You need to pay attention to socks, too, since a sock that is too tight is just as bad as a shoe that is too small. To absorb moisture, choose cotton socks. If you buy all socks in the same color and weave, you'll have less difficulty matching them up when they come out of the wash. Tights are an option for girls. Cotton tights are warmer, thicker, and less likely to run than are nylon tights.

The biggest challenge when buying clothes for your child is finding clothes that will be easy, comfortable, and fit your child's ever-changing size. If you follow our simple guidelines, your child will have a functional wardrobe for all seasons.

©Publications International, Ltd.

About the Consultant:

Alvin Eden, M.D.:

Alvin Eden, M.D. serves as a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the Weil Medical College of Cornell University in New York, New York. He is Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn. Dr. Eden is also the author of a number of child care book, including Positive Parenting and Growing Up Thin.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

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