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A Guide to Baby Clothes: From Sizes to Styles

Katlyn Joy |11, September 2014


Be honest; you cannot wait to start buying adorable little baby outfits! It's a weakness common to pretty much all new moms-to-be. However, unless you have an unlimited supply of cash, you need to make wise choices with your baby budget.

Timing is Everything

Like most things, having the right time frame for buying clothes will be both a time and money saver. First of all, don't start shopping for baby clothing when you are still getting gifts or waiting for your baby shower. It's wisest to wait and see what you get.

If you register for baby clothing, choose larger sizes such as 6 months or 12 months, as these are sizes baby is likely to be in for the longest. Some people will indulge in buying the cutest newborn outfits they see despite what you register for.

Understand Baby Clothing Sizes

Baby clothing begins with preemie sizes, which will usually fit the tiniest babies, those under 6 pounds. Newborn is supposed to fit 0-3 month olds; then 3-6 month size, 6-9 months, 9-12 months, then 12 months, 18 months and 24 months. It sounds fairly simple and straightforward, doesn't it? You know how old your child is, so you should know what size to buy, right? Well, it's not as simple as they make it out to be.

Size Charts

Different manufacturers have different sizing charts, but to get a general idea, here are the basics of the size chart for Carter's.

Age Height / Length Weight
Preemie up to 17 inches 5 lbs.
Newborn up to 20 1/2 inches 5-8 lbs.
3 Month 21 1/2 - 24 inches 8 - 12 1/2 lbs
6 Month 24 - 26 1/2 inches 12 1/2 - 16 1/2 lbs
9 Month 26 1/2 - 28 1/2 inches 16 1/2 - 20 1/2 lbs.
12 Month 28 1/2 - 30 1/2 inches 20 1/2 - 24 1/2 lbs.
18 Month 30 1/2 - 32 1/2 inches 24 1/2 - 27 1/2 lbs.
24 Month 32 1/2 - 34 inches 27 1/2 - 30 lbs.

For average-sized babies, going up one size from their age is a pretty reliable rule of thumb. So if you have a 6 month old, buy size 9 month clothing. Another guide is to buy double a child's age, so buy 12 month clothing for a 6 month old.

Never use age as a barometer, instead look at weight or length. Also, don't forget about shrinkage as in such small sizes, a bit of shrinking can make a good bit of difference.

General Buying Guidelines

Buy very little, if any newborn clothing. There will be enough on hand most likely from friends' and family's gifts. Keep the tags or receipts for everything! Nothing is so disappointing as reaching for the precious little outfit, only to realize baby outgrew it before wearing it even once.

Unless there is reason to suspect baby is exceptionally small, don't buy preemie clothing just in case. If it is needed, someone will have time to buy a few items for you before you and baby leave the hospital. (I know, because it happened to me with my youngest!) If baby does need preemie clothing, don't expect it to last long. Most little ones gain rapidly and will be filling out newborn sizes within a week or perhaps two.

Clothing sized 3 to 6 months will fit a bit longer than newborn sizes, but not by much. Clothing between 6 and 12 months sizes will be what baby wears the longest. Consider what size baby will be in each season, as well. Don't buy a 3 month winter coat set for a baby born in late October, for instance. It'll be too small before the weather turns.


If you have friends or family members with babies, be open to borrowing. You'll save a ton and you can buy "going out" outfits with the money you save, along with the always-needed diapers.

Consider consignment shops, for both buying and selling. Since few babies will have opportunity to wear out clothing, since they outgrow them first, you could very well make a few bucks or trade for store credit. Well planned trips to these shops can result in a wardrobe turned in for practically a whole new one.

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Guest Nov 6, 2016 06:56:54 PM ET

I think it's better to get bigger sizes such as 6 to 9 months,12 months etc.

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Guest Feb 27, 2015 03:34:04 AM ET

I have been buying baby clothes like crazy ever since i found out that my sister is having a baby girl. everything just looks so cute! however, you are so right that it isn't worth it to buy newborn clothes because she will outgrow them very quickly! i will have to remember that and start buying clothes in bigger sizes.

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