A mother kneels beside her infant who is laying on a blanket while she snaps the babys onsie closed

Snaps or Zippers for Baby Clothes? 12 Helpful Tips for Dressing Your Newborn

Dressing a newborn baby isn’t as straight forward as many people think. A simple action we’ve been doing for ourselves since we were little children yet there are so many new questions that arise when we have to do it properly for a baby.  Sure, the clothes are adorable but what fabric do you buy? How many layers do you need to use? And should you choose snaps or zippers for baby clothes? 

These 12 tips will simplify the process for every new parent and answer many questions about the best way to dress a newborn. And yes, that includes my controversial opinion about which is best: snaps or zippers for baby clothes. 

If you’re wondering how long your baby will fit into the newborn size and how many newborn clothes they’ll need, I answer all of it in another post.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves! 

There are a few important things to note before you even start to dress the baby.

Always wash newborn clothes before using them

I know. Those clothes are just so darn cute and you can’t wait to put them on your little baby. 

Come on… It’s not like babies are trying on baby clothes in the dressing room so there’s no harm in putting them directly onto your infant when you get them home, right?

Wrong!

You should always wash newborn clothes before using them. 

But why?

Newborn skin is very sensitive and can react when they have contact with certain irritants. 

Dyes, chemicals, dust and germs are just some examples of what may be coming home on those little baby clothes you just picked up. I know that’s not what you want as one of the first things coming in contact with your newborn’s skin.

Sure, it’ll take some time to sort and separate the clothes but a quick wash will get the fabric ready for your little one so that they can be comfortable in all the adorable outfits you choose.

Wash the baby’s clothes by following the manufacturer’s label instructions and use a little mesh bag to keep the really small items together that could get lost in the process. 

Don’t use detergents with harsh chemicals or fragrances to wash infant clothes

Another thing you’ll want to consider in hopes of protecting your baby’s delicate skin is to wash their clothes with a gentle or chemical/fragrance-free detergent. 

Many regular detergents contain perfumes and dyes so that the consumer is pleased with the scent and feel of the freshly washed clothes. Babies smell great naturally, you don’t need anything added in order to enjoy their clothes. And there’s a chance their skin won’t be too happy with these detergent additives anyways. 

Sure. This isn’t an absolutely necessary step for every family as some babies have no issues with regular detergents. You won’t really know until a reaction shows up.

So I think it’s worth it to play it safe and avoid any potential skin irritation by using a baby-friendly detergent in the beginning. 

Choose soft stretchy clothes that are comfortable for your infant

Your sweet newborn just went from their cozy warm womb room to this bright, loud, intense outside world. Their tiny bodies are adapting to so much already and don’t need rigid fabrics or accessories bothering their delicate skin. 

Not only that but you’ll also want to choose clothes that can be easily opened or removed for all the frequent diaper changes!

Choose soft and stretchy fabrics for your baby’s first number of outfits. Leave the less comfortable (albeit adorable) fashion-forward outfits for when they’re a bit bigger. 

Your baby’s job is to eat and sleep and be precious, and yours is to ensure they are safe and fed and comfy.

Basic designs are always in-style for all newborns. 

Avoid drawstrings and accessories on infant clothes as they can actually be dangerous for your little one. Snaps or zippers for baby clothes are just fine but be mindful of loose or large buttons or clasps. 

Ruffles and ruching may look cute but they may be uncomfortable for your sweet baby. And rigid belts, collars, or waistbands just shouldn’t be sold in newborn sizes in the first place (in my opinion). 

Shop essentials such as cozy pajamas, soft onesies, and stretchy pants for your newborn’s wardrobe and they’ll be all set.

parent dresses baby laying down in white pants

Never over-dress your newborn

In the beginning, it can be a bit confusing to know how to properly bundle your baby. 

Are they hot? Are they cold? Sometimes you don’t know because they can’t tell you! 

There’s a common rule of thumb when it comes to dressing an infant and that’s to give them one more layer than what you’re comfortable wearing. 

Sure, that doesn’t always work as some adults run warmer or cooler than others. But it’s a good place to start. 

After that, you’ll need to use a little common sense. 

I know you want them to be warm and comfy but overheating can actually become dangerous for babies. Thick materials for clothes or too many layers are often the culprit. 

Use light layers or items such as a light blanket for your baby so that a layer can be easily removed if you notice your infant getting too warm.

Infants’ bodies are figuring out how to regulate their core temperature. If a newborn overheats, they are at a higher risk of SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

You can get an indication of whether a baby is getting too hot by checking for the following signs:

  • Warm when you touch their neck, ears, or tummy (their hands or feet are not good indicators of core temperature)
  • Sweaty neck or hair
  • Flushed/red skin
  • Rapid heartbeat or breathing
  • Fever without sweating
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness or confusion

Always talk to your medical professional about SIDS prevention or if you have any concern about how warm to dress your baby. 

Breathable fabrics are best for your baby’s clothes

Another way to avoid your baby overheating is to dress them in breathable fabric such as cotton

Clothes that are a relaxed (not baggy) fit help the baby avoid getting too warm. It also allows them to move around and stretch comfortably. 

Another bonus is that cotton is fairly easy to care for and feels soft to the touch, perfect for your little one.

Dress your newborn in a safe spot

Find a safe flat surface to dress your baby. Whether you choose a changing table or a bed, make sure you are with the baby, and ideally have a hand on them, at all times. 

Just because your baby hasn’t learned to roll yet does not mean they cannot fall off of a high surface! 

Babies’ movements are uncontrolled and can be abrupt or jerky so it’s best to choose a safe spot to get their clothes on or off. 

Be sure to have more than one size of baby clothing on hand

The rate at which many newborns grow is absolutely incredible. According to Mayo Clinic

“From birth to age 6 months, a baby might grow 1/2 to 1 inch (about 1.5 to 2.5 cm) a month and gain 5 to 7 ounces (about 140 to 200 grams) a week. Expect your baby to double his or her birth weight by about age 5 months.” 

Doubling their birth weight by around 5 months? No wonder they go through clothes so fast! 

The industry standard for baby clothes uses their age for sizing but that does not necessarily mean that your baby will be fitting into the “correct” clothes at the age indicated. 

In fact, if you check the sizing charts for many popular baby clothes stores, 8lbs (or 3.6kgs) and 21.5in (or 55cm) are actually the maximum weight and height recommendations for many newborn sizes. 

That means that some babies are already born too big to even fit into “newborn” clothes! I speak from experience here.

Even many infants who do fit into newborn sizes at birth will not stay in that size for more than a few weeks. 

If you want to know more about the newborn size, check out How Long Do Babies Wear Newborn Clothes?

Similar to adult clothes, sizes and fit vary greatly between brands. Your baby could be wearing a NB size from one shop and a 0-3 month size from another.

All of this is to say that you should always have more than one size on hand for your baby’s clothes. It’s even a good idea to bring a few different options when taking your baby home from the hospital (just in case you have a 9.5-pounder like I did). 

Put the crown of the baby’s head first through the neck hole of a top, not their face

I’ve seen it so many times. 

New parents think that the baby will fuss less if you get the face through the hole first. 

Don’t do this. 

What you’ll quickly realize is that once the face is through you need to get the remaining head through the hole. This means that you’re pulling the onesie back over the crown of the head against the changing surface with the front of the neck hole caught under the baby’s chin, the baby starts fussing, the parents feel frantic, and the calm process of dressing a baby goes out the window. 

Don’t overcomplicate the task. 

The easiest way to put a onesie or shirt on a baby is to gather the material around the neck hole so that it makes a ring shape. Gently lift the baby’s head so that the crown is through the hole. Using your fingers, pull some space at the front of the neck hole so that you can calmly pull the fabric down past the baby’s face without scraping down their nose or catching their ears. 

Many onesies are now made with envelope necks, where the fabric overlaps at the shoulders, so that you have plenty of room to get the garment over their head and face. (They also work great to pull all the way down the body of the baby in case of a diaper leak or blowout so that the messy material does not go close to their face!)

Don’t roll shirt sleeves to get the baby’s arm through

Another area that also often gets overcomplicated is when parents roll the sleeves in an attempt to get the baby’s arm through. 

What happens when you do this is that the fabric bunches so much that it makes an already small hole smaller. 

Instead of rolling, try gliding your fingers through the sleeve from the outside of the hand hole to grasp the baby’s fingers together so that none get caught and gently guide their hand down the sleeve to the opening. 

Never try to push or shove the baby’s arm or hand through the sleeve as their delicate fingers can get stuck in the material. 

If you didn’t use the technique outlined above, you can always sweep your finger around the inside of the sleeve to ensure none of the baby’s fingers are caught on the fabric. 

Take your time when dressing a newborn, even when they’re upset

Let’s give you the straight goods here. Babies do not usually love the process of getting dressed or undressed. In fact, many seem to hate it. 

Cool air, manipulated limbs and a firm surface all contribute to a less-than-impressed baby. 

So what can you do if your baby hates getting dressed?

First off, take your time. 

Yes, that’s right.

You don’t want to rush the process. Because if you do there’s a chance that you’ll catch their finger in the sleeve, or forget to unbutton the neck hole when you’re already trying to get it on, or you’ll zip the zipper too fast too close to their delicate skin. 

Just keep your cool and take your time to get the job done right. 

Some other things that help are talking or singing to your baby. They don’t have to understand you or even enjoy your singing but the sounds can soothe them and your voice will surely make them feel reassured. 

Try to keep a comfortably warm room or changing surface and you may even want to keep the lights dim if you are in a bright area or if your baby is feeling sleepy. 

Choose properly fitting clothes that will easily go on and off. And try to select the outfit before dressing your newborn so that they don’t have to try on multiple different options before you decide on the one. 

Socks and mittens for newborns are a waste of money

Yes, I said it. Socks and mittens for a newborn are a bit of a waste of money. 

I’m not against keeping their feet warm and their hands covered if needed, but socks and mittens aren’t the way to go. 

They never stay on. Ever. Those tiny pairs go missing immediately! And even if your baby doesn’t wiggle them off, your dryer will probably eat them right up when you do the laundry. 

So what are better options? 

Footed pajamas, jumpsuits or pants are the way to go. If your baby is scratching their face and you haven’t cut their nails, then opt for shirts, onesies, or pajamas with built-in hand covers.  

Shop around for comfy clothes with built in mittens and socks for your newborn.

a dad put baby socks on his infant's foot while sitting down

Snaps or zippers for baby clothes? Snap pajamas are better for your newborn

The great debate! Should you choose snaps or zippers for baby clothes? 

Well here comes my controversial opinion. While each option serves a purpose, for newborns I strongly feel that snap pajamas or jumpsuits are actually better. 

There, I said it, and I’ll say it again, snap pajamas are better for newborns.

Why? 

They allow for specific unsnapped areas for diaper changes. They’re fairly smooth with the fabric and lay flat against delicate newborn skin. And they allow the garment to move flexibly and gently. 

Zippers are fantastic for older babies, for example after the first couple of months. 

But I do not choose zippered PJs for a newborn and here’s why. Many zipper sliders are a bit bulky, no matter how small the zipper is. The chain of teeth rarely sits flat, especially with snuggly newborn positions. 

Pro-zipper parents will argue that zippers are so much faster and easier for nighttime diaper changes, and while there is some truth to this statement, it’s not always the case. 

See, first, you have to make sure that you find a double-ended zipper on the pajamas. One that will go down from the top and up from the bottom by the foot. The point of this is so that you don’t have to pull the zipper all the way down the baby’s body, exposing their chest and tummy to the cool night air, while trying to access their diaper. 

But the problem remaining is that the zipper will only go down one leg of the pajamas, not both. So you need to unzip one leg from the bottom far enough up the tummy to be able to pull the second leg out of the enclosed pant leg, basically eliminating the whole point of zipping up not down. 

For newborns, snaps are so much easier to deal with during night changes. You unsnap just a few leg and crotch snaps and you have quick access to their tiny diaper. 

For bigger babies, zippers are great because, yes, they are quick to do up and you don’t really have to move their limbs quite as carefully as you would a newborn to get that second leg out.  

Snaps or zippers for baby clothes aren’t a make-it-or-break-it wardrobe decision. 

The most important thing is that you keep your baby safely and comfortably dressed in something weather-appropriate. Be sure not to bundle them up too much or they can overheat. Take your time to dress and undress them as newborns are still quite delicate and have very little control over their limbs. 

As your baby gets older, you can start to add some variety to their closet and find the cute pieces you always wanted to dress them in.

Looking for more advice on newborn clothes? Check out How Long Do Babies Wear Newborn Clothes? and How Often Should You Change Newborn Clothes? for lots of helpful information.