Choosing the right clothing can make babies, children and their parents happier and healthier.
Buying clothes for babies and children can be a daunting task, particularly if it’s your first time. There are so many factors to consider—cost, fit, durability, safety and looks among them—that it can be hard to know where to start.
For the first six months, concentrate on the essentials, and buy small quantities as you need them. Babies grow so quickly that they will outgrow most clothing as soon as it’s the right size to wear.
To prolong its use, baby clothing should be bought at least one size larger than the baby needs at the time. It may look too large to start with, but this won't last long. When the baby is older, select clothing for the season when it will be the correct size. You can save money by buying out-of-season clothes for the following year.
Make sure the clothes are appropriate for the season to avoid problems of cold in winter or overheating in summer. Warm onesies, socks, booties and hats are necessary for winter, but just because they look cute doesn't mean they’re suitable for summer.
Onesies can be long- or short-sleeved, depending on the weather and can be layered under other clothing during cold weather.
Cotton and synthetics are generally softer and more comfortable than wool.
When you need to change nappies, it’s important to be able to remove outer clothes easily, so go for designs with elastic fasteners or Velcro rather than zips or buttons. It’s easier to dress in layers or two-pieces rather than one-pieces for easy nappy changing.
Safe and Sound
Safety is of course a priority—avoid anything with drawstrings, beads, sequins or any small pieces which may present a choking hazard.
Easy laundering is another consideration—you can quickly accumulate a huge pile of laundry if your baby goes through a couple of outfits a day. Knitted clothes aren’t ideal, as they must be cold washed and hung to dry. Cotton has to be handled carefully too, as it can shrink if overheated.
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) label means that every aspect of clothing production, from the chemicals used to the conditions in factories, meets stringent health and safety standards—for instance, GOTS certification guarantees that organic and artificial fibres are processed separately, that chemicals such as formaldehyde are not used, that bleaching is done with oxygen rather than chlorine and that certain types of dyes and solvents are not used. The GOTS standard also controls ecological and social criteria through the entire textile supply chain.
If you buy unisex clothing, you have the possibility of reusing it if you have another baby. If you’re fed up of the traditional ‘blue for boys, pink for girls’ colour choices of some manufacturers, there’s now an excellent choice of gender-neutral brands for babies and children.
There’s plenty of choice of colours, spanning monochrome to classic tones or bold, fun styles, and prices to suit any budget, from independent brands to major retailers.
For older children, sizing and fit are of course still crucial—take the child’s height and weight measurements with you when buying and continue to err on the larger side.
The main factor in your choice should be practicality. Well-made, hard-wearing clothes needn’t be expensive, and ironically, expensive clothes aren’t necessarily hard-wearing. Concentrate on soft, breathable fabrics which won’t cause itching or irritation, and for playwear, go for the most durable designs, with high-quality fabrics.
Always check the workmanship—the quality of seams and stitching will give you an idea of how well items will last. This is particularly important for schoolwear, which you will want to last for a while.
Choose designs which won't show stains, such as dark colours, or bright shades rather than pastels. Basics like T-shirts, shorts, sweaters and jackets with plain colours or limited patterning will outlast trendy designs and will be easier to mix and match.
Consider shopping online if you are pushed for time and can find designs you like, but check the store’s return policy should the item not fit or not be well-received.
Most importantly, make sure you consider what your child likes. Choosing clothes they love makes the fight to get them dressed that much easier and makes sure that you will get the best value from your clothing choices.
This feature was originally published in the summer edition of Healthy Child with Dr Ranj Singh, which you can also read here!
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