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How long will your baby be able to wear newborn clothes?

If you’re expecting and shopping for your little one’s wardrobe, it can be hard to pass up the itty bitty newborn clothes. They’re just so wee, and it’s impossible not to picture your baby wrapped up in a tiny onesie. The truth is (please don’t shoot the messenger), your infant won’t wear newborn clothes for long. Are you wondering, “How long are babies in newborn clothes?” Or, maybe you want to know, “Can a 3-month wear a 6-month’s clothing?”

If your baby weighs 8 pounds or less at birth, you can probably plan on them wearing newborn sizes for three to four weeks. Of course, everything has a caveat, and newborn clothes are no exception. If he or she is a good eater and gains even a pound, newborn clothes can go from “just right” to “too tight” in a flash.

baby mom snuggling
Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock

What are newborn sizes?

The size marked on baby clothing isn’t necessarily correlated to a baby’s age — it’s really more based on size. For example, “preemie” usually fits babies up to 17 inches long and 5 pounds or under. “Newborn” (NB) is considered an “average-sized” baby at birth — up to 21.5 inches long and 5 to 8 pounds. You can reasonably assume your baby will fit into newborn clothing when they leave the hospital, but after that, it’s a toss-up.

Of course, if you have a bigger baby, newborn clothes are but a distant dream. Don’t cut off the tags of all the newborn clothes before your baby is born.

Buy this instead

If you must buy newborn clothes (we don’t blame you), try to keep it to one or two pieces to start. Put your money toward size 3, which covers babies up to three months or 8 to 12.5 pounds. Depending on how fast your baby grows, you may get eight to 10 weeks out of this size. Again, not all clothing is created equal, and that goes for baby sizes, too, so some brands will run larger than others. Some clothes also shrink or stretch the more they are worn and washed.

Also, buy several outfits in the next size after that, 3 to 6 months (up to 17 pounds and measuring 24 to 26.5 inches long), because babies tend to grow overnight, and what fit them one day will be too tight the next. Plus, if they are a little big, babies can still wear the bigger size. You may just need to roll up the sleeves and pants for a while. If you want an accurate size chart that shows a range of brands, check this out.

newborn baby sleeping
Fam Veld/Shutterstock

Tips for buying baby clothes

Because every baby is different, this isn’t a (literal) one-size-fits-all guide, but it will cover most of the basics and help you not overspend on clothes your baby won’t wear.

  • Go big: When in doubt, always go up in size. We want to believe our babies will stay tiny forever, but the truth is they grow faster than you’d think. Plus, when a growth spurt happens, you’ll always be prepared.
  • Practicality wins: It’s so easy to buy tiny baby suits and adorable dresses, but your baby will spend most of their time in onesies. You’ll also be washing clothes constantly because of blow-outs and spit up, so anything that doesn’t go in the washing machine or has “special instructions” to wash, don’t buy it.
  • Consider the season: When you’re buying clothes, think about the temperature during that time of year, and buy accordingly. If you’re buying a sundress in the size your baby is now, hoping it will still fit by summer, odds are your baby will be far too big by then.
  • Simple is best: Find clothing that is easy for your baby to get in and out of because you will spend an inordinate amount of time in their first year taking off and putting on new clothes.

If you’re planning on registering for baby items for a shower or for family and friends living far away, pick clothes you like in a range of sizes so you’ll always have a few outfits on hand that fit.

It’s so fun perusing baby clothing online and in stores and retailers know this. That’s why they make clothing that’s so irresistible and tiny — they are playing to parents’ heartstrings. It’s perfectly fine to indulge and buy some clothing just for that reason alone. Splurge on a “going home from the hospital” outfit or for their first photoshoot, but try to consider a more practical approach for their wardrobe as a whole. Your baby (and wallet) will thank you.

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