Decoding baby clothing sizes and brands
When I was pregnant with Jenson and first starting looking at baby clothing, I had no idea how confusing baby clothing sizing could be. The one thing I knew was that my 7 nieces and nephews (at that point) were all over 8 lbs., and that my sisters said to not bother with newborn clothing. Three month and 0-3 month clothing usually are listed as fitting 8-12.5 lbs, so that makes sense. Loren and I were both over 8 lbs. ourselves, so that makes sense. I bought an adorable reversible outfit from the GAP for Jenson’s hospital outfit with matching socks and hats, and packed it in the hospital bag that I barely had packed in time before I went into labor 9 days early.
Jenson was born at 7lb., 8 oz., so he was a small baby for my family. What I didn’t realize is that most babies lose a fair amount of weight before you even leave the hospital. I think he was right around 7 lbs. when we left (but don’t quote me on that). So when the photographer was coming around and I got out the outfit for him to wear, it was HUGE. Laughably so. Like there was no way he could fit into it without looking like one of those babies posed in men’s suits..or like this:
The photographer said they actually like to take pictures in the hospital shirts or just a diaper because it’s less fussy and the focus is on the baby. I had a baby blanket that my mom crocheted for him, so that was the perfect background to his simple sweet white hospital shirt.
I asked my friend to run by the house and grab a newborn sleeper for him to wear home – one of about 4 newborn things we owned that were given to us secondhand. So his hospital outfit was nothing special or handpicked or anything, but who cares? We left the hospital with a perfect baby boy. And I left with a new understanding that baby clothing, much like women’s clothing, are NOT created equal. Apparently, that’s only reserved for men, who can grab nearly anything of their specific size, and it’s pretty much guaranteed to fit. I made a quick call to friends with recent babies and Lo’s mom, and within 3 days we had enough newborn sleepers for him since 0-3 month were still so big that they’d bunch up near his face. He wore newborn clothing for about 1.5 months, though towards the end of that first month he was able to fit into certain brands of 0-3 months. I can’t believe how big this Carter’s newborn sleeper was on him (at almost 3 weeks old).
First lesson? No matter how big you think your baby is going to be, buy a newborn outfit or two. Even if they are born over 9 lbs., they’ll probably fit into it at least once, and snug clothing looks better on babies than big baggy stuff. Just make sure you buy newborn clothing from one of the bigger brands that I talk about below if you are expecting a chunk.
Second lesson? GAP baby runs big. Jenson didn’t wear that outfit until he was over 3 months old. Yes, he was a little small – never really topping 30% on any chart – but you’d think something sized 0-3 months would fit him at some point during that range. At 2 years old, he was wearing 12-18 month Gap jeans with cloth diapers, which are a little bulky. I’ve noticed that the 2T clothing seems to be a little more true to size, though still long for him, but he’s a shorty. At 2.5 years old, most 18 month clothing still fits him, but are finally getting short, perhaps because he seemingly turned into a giant once we brought Marlowe home from the hospital.
When I was preparing for Marlowe’s birth, I bought a newborn outfit for the hospital, as well as a 3 month choice (though not GAP)…just in case. I bought neutral stuff since we didn’t know the gender, and sleeper/one-pieces because this time I knew that socks for babies were stupid and do NOT stay on their feet – especially newborns. These are both newborn outfits (Little Me on the left, Carter’s on the right).
I had a bunch of newborn and 0-3 month clothing handed down from my SIL, so I knew we’d have enough, no matter what gender or size our baby was. She was 8 lb., 6 oz. at birth. She lost quite a bit of weight because she was jaundiced and slept for nearly her entire hospital stay – I think the lowest was about 7 lb., 12 oz. She fit into most of the newborn clothing for a month, at which time they were too short. She didn’t have a 1 month appointment, so I don’t know what size she grew out of her newborn stuff, but at her 2 month appointment, she was 24 inches (98%) and 11 lbs., 2 oz. (50%), so very tall and mid-range for weight. Here’s the late newborn outfit she wore on February 4, but she was too long for newborn sleepers at that point.
We have a lot of different brands of clothing because we have a ton of clothes for the kids. Between what I bought used for Jenson at super-cheap prices and what has been given to us for both kids, I’ve spent very little on baby and kids’ clothing. I’m totally ok with hand-me-downs (I’m the youngest of 6 girls), so we’ve been very lucky. Jenson actually prefers to wear stuff that was given to him – his favorite things to wear are anything that we tell him are from his friend Jaxon. So if he doesn’t want to wear something, I just say it was Jaxon’s and he’s happy with it. Little white lies of parenting (though to be honest, a lot of his stuff IS from Jaxon). I store the clothing in separate bins based on gender and sizing. I have boys clothing bins up to size 4/5 for Jenson, and girls up to size 3 T for Marlowe (mostly passed on to her from our niece). Marlowe is just now starting to re-wear outfits in the 3 month size range (not counting sleepers – that’s how many she has.
The breakdown of sizing
In case it helps anyone, I’ve listed the various popular baby clothing brands and how they fit. Obviously if you have a tiny or large baby, things will fit differently for you, but these are my opinions for the brands compared to each other. I’m going to count Carter’s as the middle ground true-to-size, as I find that these are pretty true to size and the onesies are long enough to fit tall babies, but slim enough to fit under snug sleepers and tuck into pants. Carters sizes their differently though; they have newborn, 3 month, 6 month, 9 month, 12 month, etc., instead of the popular range of a 3 month span, like 0-3 month. The key with this sizing is that the number is the top age that an average size baby should fit into. So 3 month is essentially equal to 0-3 month for other brands and is similarly listed as 8-12.5 lbs. So you want to make sure you store you Carter’s clothing with the appropriate sizes: 3 month with 0-3 month clothing, and 6 month with 3-6 month clothing, etc.
Carters: True to size; long enough tall babies, slim enough for under clothing, but stretchy enough for bigger babies too. If buying for a newborn, you’ll want to get the actual newborn size, as the 3 month size will be too large for 98% of newborns. Cotton sleepers are true to size and snug (on purpose), but onesies have some extra length. Marlowe is 3 months old (and tall) and almost too long for her 3 month Carter’s sleepers (which is the correct sizing), but still has torso length left in onesies. A lot of babies have longer torsos than legs so this works for them, and chunkier babies will have room because the extra length allows the onesies to stretch bigger around too. The different type of infant sleepers seem to be different lengths; fleece seem to be the shortest, then cotton, and the terry are really big.
Jenson was short and skinny, so his Carter’s clothing ran bigger on him by 1-2 months, but the extra length wasn’t an issue either. I really like Carter’s. The quality is good and they wash well. The onesies sleeves are serged at the arms, which is a must to me. The sizing is consistent across the line for types of garments.
**Note that I have some older handed-down Carter’s clothing with cursive writing on the tags, and these seem to be shorter and wider. I don’t know if these were created for a specific retailer, or if they are just older sizing standards, but if you come across these at a garage sale, be warned.
Just One You (Carters line created for Target): Slightly smaller than Carters. Sleepers seem to be about 1 inch shorter than Carters. Quality seems to be the same as Carters. I usually have to look at the tags to see which brand.
Child of Mine (Carter’s line created for Walmart): True to size compared to Carters, if not slightly bigger. Quality is the same as far as I can tell. I don’t have a lot from this line though – I don’t shop at Walmart, but some was gifted.
Little Me: This brand runs short, but wide. One of Marlowe’s hospital outfit was from here and it was almost too short from the start. These were also the first that she grew out of in the 0-3 month range too. If you are buying for a newborn, you can probably go straight to the 0-3 month size in this brand, unless you know the baby will be small.
Circo and Cherokee: Both of these lines can be found at Target and are similarly sized. They are slightly smaller and not as stretchy. I can only speak about the boys’ lines, as I don’t have any girl stuff yet.
Jumping Bean (Kohls): Pants and tops are both slightly short. The quality is fine; stretchy but I felt like some things faded.
Osh Kosh: I don’t have a lot from this brand, but what I have seems to be a little smaller than Carter’s.
Gerber: To me, gerber = garbage. The clothing runs very small and I don’t think its good quality at all. The onesie sleeves aren’t serged at the edge, so they stretch out badly. Seams kind of roll and don’t lay flat. Colors fade pretty badly and stains don’t come out as well. I’d just stay away from this brand. I have some that was passed on to me and I keep it with the clothing of a smaller size. For example, Marlowe wore the 0-3 Gerber when wearing newborn, and the 3-6 month Gerber when wearing 0-3 stuff. Here’s an example how the sleeves stretch out (and this was barely worn).
Old Navy: Old Navy runs a little small and short. Quality is ok, not great…much like the adult clothing.
Gap: Runs big, as noted above. The pants seems to be especially big. Jenson was wearing 12-18 month when he was 2 years old, so essentially 2 sizes smaller. He’s small, so others may find that it runs 1 size small. Some of the baby clothing is sized in a 6 month range for 6-12 month and 12-18 month, so that’s probably why they are slightly big. Now that he’s wearing toddler sizes, it’s not as big of a discrepancy. He was wearing a 2T Gap shirt today though, and it was large enough on him that I looked to see that it wasn’t 3T. To be fair, at story time today, we also noticed just how much smaller he is than other kids of the same age. I like the quality of Gap clothing – things seem thick and well-made. All of the jeans we’ve had for Jenson have elastic waists. I don’t like the onesies that come in a pack of 3 (to be worn under things) – they stretch out and get too big in the neck and arms. The ones that are decorative and meant to be worn as shirts are thicker and nice.
Gymboree: Runs true to size or slightly large. There were a few things that I bought in bigger sizes for the next season that I was afraid Jenson wasn’t going to get to wear, but they ended up working out. The stuff I had for him wasn’t very stretchy, so being slightly bigger was probably a good thing.
Children’s Place: Seem to run long and perhaps slightly slim. There are some 2T shirts that were given to us that would still be really big on Jenson, and the sleepers were always long. Long is better than short though.
H&M: Runs 1-2 sizes big, and the sizing is different; there are 4 “newborn” sizes between 0-4 months, and then they are more normal ranges from there. I don’t have a lot of H&M because I tend to not go to malls, and I don’t think I have any baby stuff from there. But I was just looking at the website – have you always been able to order online?! I swear it used to just be in store… Anyway, their kids’ clothing is really cute and fairly inexpensive, so I’m sure I’ll be purchasing in the future – if I ever run out of clothing for the kids.
Koala baby (from Babies R Us): Runs small, just slightly bigger than Gerber, and not much better quality.
Sports Brands (Nike, Under Armour, Adidas): I probably shouldn’t group all of these together, but all of these brands seem to run long.
Sports Teams and Character clothing: This again is a generalization because there’s such a range of brands, but clothing with sports teams logos and characters that have random brand labels (not the main sportswear or character brands like Disney) tend to run very short and often wide.
There are obviously tons of other brands, but these are the ones I have the most experience with. I’d love to know what you think about the sizing of other brands though!