Minimalist Baby Wardrobe for 0-12 Months

I’ve heard people say, if you want to do something good for the environment, don’t have kids. It is true; having a kid is putting another human on the planet that will consume resources for the rest of their lives. Yet, for people who want children, having a kid is one of the greatest joys in life, so how can you do it a tiny bit more sustainably? Let’s start with baby clothes and how to go about creating a minimalist baby wardrobe, saving you money by not over purchasing and in turn, reducing your environmental impact (since the fast fashion industry is one of the leading causes of global warming).

If you’re a new parent, you’ll quickly learn a few things about baby clothes:
  1. Even if you don’t ask for them, people will give them to you at your baby shower or after the birth of your child.
  2. You’ll probably end up with more baby clothes than you need. Unless you have a minimalist baby wardrobe, each item will get used a handful of times before the baby grows out of it.
  3. There is no predicting what size clothes your child will need at birth or how long they’ll last in a certain size. Our son barely fit in newborn sized clothes upon leaving the hospital and within two weeks, was in the 0-3M size. We could have probably just dressed him in the 0-3M size to begin with whereas a friend of ours had a baby who was swimming in newborn clothes and had to send her husband out to buy premie clothes.
  4. If you look at the growth chart for babies, you’ll notice they grow really fast months 0-6, then slow down after that. If you want to buy adorable outfits, buy the 6-12 month size that they’ll be in for longer than the 0-3M and 3-6M sizes.
  5. Hand-me-downs are your friend, especially the first few months when they grow so fast! If you don’t have access to hand-me-downs through friends or family, you can look for a baby freebies Facebook group in your area or shop at a used baby gear store.
So, what do you actually need for your baby during year one? The following recommendations are based upon our lifestyle (i.e. having a high-efficiency washer/dryer at home, making it easy to do a quick load of laundry) and our preferences (e.g. with a newborn, we found it way easier to use kimono-style clothes and zip up outfits, so you don’t have to try to get things over a baby’s bobble head).
Months 1-3
The first few months of our son’s life, we had a lot of diaper leaks, pee specifically. In talking to my other mom friends, we were not alone. Baby boys, regardless of diaper type (cloth vs disposable), seem to leak the most; however, some girls had leaks, too.
  • 3-4 swaddle blankets. For the first few weeks, rather than dressing our son in clothes, we just wrapped him in a swaddle while at home. We found this easiest when we were doing a lot of skin-on-skin time and changing diapers non-stop. Plus, putting clothes on newborns can be tricky and swaddling them is way easier the first few weeks. These can be used as well to cover your baby in the stroller, toss on the ground for your baby to play on, etc. I know absolutely no one who was able to use them as an overnight swaddle successfully; babies are extremely talented at escaping swaddles hence the next recommendation on the list.
  • 2-3 swaddle sacks (we often used three in a single night during our worst period of diaper leaks) – these tend to have snaps or velcro and are hard for a baby to escape from.
  • 20-30 cloth diapers – our son was very sensitive to wet diapers and we sometimes changed him 3x in a single hour. We found ourselves using a minimum of 15 diapers in a day and were doing laundry every 24hrs at first; we eventually bought a few more diapers so we had flexibility to go longer without being down to zero diapers by the time the laundry had finished. Buy used newborn sized cloth diapers and then resell them on Poshmark when you’re finished. The one-size-fits-all cloth diapers leak like crazy on newborn babies and only started working well for us once our son was over 12lbs.
  • 60 cloth wipes – this was about a one day supply when our son was first born and pooping in 50% of his diaper changes, so we’d use about 3 wipes per change on average. Now that he’s older, he needs to be changed less often and we need less wipes since he poops less often, so our wipes last us 2-3 days.
  • 2-3 kimono-style sleep dresses – these are 100% better than footsie pajamas. You’ll change diapers every 90 minutes to 2 hours for the first few weeks, so having a sleep dress that you can just pull over their hips at night makes those middle of the night diaper changes so much easier. Kimono-style ones are easier to put on than the over-the-head kind. We used as many as three in a single night, due to leaky diapers. These are my favorite.
  • 2-3 zip-up bodysuits/pajamas – we used these as outfits for leaving the house since you can’t put a swaddled baby in a car seat.
  • 2 pairs of socks – unlike on adults, socks on babies stay clean and can be used many days in a row. We used socks to keep our son’s feet warm at night, or his hands warm when outside.
  • 1 warm hat (for cooler temps) or 1 sun hat (if summer and going outside).
  • 1 baby bunting (if it’s cool outside and you anticipate spending time in the elements)
Months 3-6
Babies have gotten chubbier by this point and thus, have less diaper leaks. However, also, you’re likely getting out and about a bit more often so may need more clothes.
  • 2 swaddle sacks
  • 2 sleep dresses – we change fewer diapers at night and it is slightly easier to dress babies now, so you could use footsie pajamas at this point if you have lots of hand-me-downs, but we loved the sleep dresses so much, so stuck with them. We rarely get a leak at night these days so you could get away with a single dress and use one of your daytime outfits as a backup pajama.
  • 20-30 cloth diapers – at this point, you’ll transition from the newborn sized cloth diapers to the the one-size-fits-all. We got a lot of Grovia Hybrids that were like new on Poshmark for $200 then spent another $100 buying extra inserts from Grovia so we had 28 inserts. 8 shells + 28 inserts is the perfect amount for us to do laundry every other day.
  • 60 cloth wipes – as mentioned before, these will go longer now that you’re changing diapers less often.
  • 4-6 rompers / footsie pajamas – we go through about two outfits per day due to spit up or heavy amounts of drool, unless we use cloth bibs, in which case we can typically make an outfit last all day. The footsie style will keep your babies feet warm inside without using socks, but not outside in cool weather.
  • 2-4 cloth bibs (to protect clothes from spit up and drool)
  • 2 pairs of socks (since we had  slippers to keep our son’s feet warm in winter temps, we only really used the socks to keep his hands warm on days he wasn’t in his bunting outside)
  • 1 fleece bunting (for temps in the 40s-50s)
  • 1 down bunting (for temps in the 30s and below)
  • 1 sweater/jacket (for cool temps that aren’t cold enough to warrant a fleece bunting)
  • 1 pair of warm slippers if winter (budget = fleece booties, luxury = lambswool slippers)
  • 1 warm hat (for cooler temps) or 1 sun hat (if summer and going outside)
  • 1 pair baby sunglasses with a strap to keep them attached to their head – only needed if you’ll be in conditions that require eye protection with your child (e.g. snowshoeing on a sunny day, on the water, walking without shade in really bright sunlight, etc.)
  • 1 baby swim diaper (if you’re starting swim lessons early)
Note: there is no reason to buy shoes for babies, as cute as they might seem.
6-12 months
  • 2 pairs of pajamas – sadly, they don’t make sleep dresses above six months because the cease to be practical once babies start to crawl. This means that you can dress the baby in anything that will keep them the right temperature overnight. If you live in a really warm climate and don’t have air conditioning, you may not need anything but a sleep sack and diaper.
  • 2 sleep sacks – you’ll no longer swaddle your baby, but you will need to keep them warm and we have accidents every other week so having a clean backup sleep sack is helpful.
  • 20-30 cloth diapers (the same ones from 3-6 months)
  • 60 cloth wipes (the same ones you’ve been using since birth)
  • 4-6 rompers or shirt & pant sets – now that your baby is crawling and eating solid foods, they’ll start to get their outfits pretty dirty. Some of this mess can be minimized by stripping them down to their diaper before feeding them or putting them in a smock. Opt for darker colors to avoid staining and plan on 2 outfits per day. If you get a romper – avoid snaps whenever possible because as they learn to crawl, they’ll try to escape and you have very limited time to get them dressed, so zippers become key.
  • 2-4 cloth bibs – the same ones you used months 3-6. We used them until he was about 8 months old, then stopped needing them.
  • 2 pairs of socks – handy sun protection for little feet in summer or to keep feet warm in slightly cool weather.
  • 1 fleece bunting (for temps in the 40s-50s)
  • 1 down bunting (for temps in the 30s and below)
  • 1 sweater/jacket (for cool temps that aren’t cold enough to warrant a fleece bunting)
  • 1 pair of warm slippers if winter (budget = fleece booties, luxury = lambswool slippers)
  • 1 warm hat (for cooler temps) or 1 sun hat (if summer and going outside)
  • 1 pair baby sunglasses if needed – some of my friends kids will wear theirs but my son rips his off the minute we put them on him at 10 months old, even with attaching them using a strap.
  • 1 baby swim diaper (if you’re starting swim lessons)
  • 1 pair of baby moccasins for learning to walk, if your baby is an early walker. I’d personally wait to buy these until you know you need them, since all babies advance at different ages and have different sized feet. We did not need them during this age range, but will be investing soon as our son is about to start toddling around.
Looking back at this past year, we got so many clothes as hand me downs or gifts that we barely got to use because of how fast babies grow. My strategy moving forward is going to be to buy larger sizes so they last longer. Fall is approaching and our son is about to turn 12 months old and since he’s so long (96th percentile for length) and already wearing a few 18 month clothes, we are skipping the 18 month sized clothes and going straight to the 2T for cooler weather clothes, which are a tiny bit long and a hint baggy, but not by much. Fingers crossed they’ll last until at least next summer!

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