While you were busy registering, you forgot one important thing— preemie baby clothes. It wasn’t something you thought you needed, but now, you NEED it. We hope you’ve already put together the convertible baby crib, the baby changing table and the most soothing baby glider (that one’s a gift for both of you— we promise), because it’s time to start shopping for bb clothes— STAT.
Your LO might have arrived really early, or even just a little earlier than that damned due date you’ve been living by for months (surprise!). According to cardiac NICU nurse Megan Furlong, any baby born before the 37 week mark is considered pre-term. More specifically, she says, “There are different age groups in preemie-land based on gestational age rather than weight. Less than 25 weeks is extremely preterm, less than 32 is very preterm, less than 34 is moderately preterm, and less than 37 weeks is late preterm.” Furlong, mom to a 20-month-old boy, is also the co-founder of Bright & Baby, a site for expectant and new parents to learn all things baby— specifically during those first 6 months. She has spent a lot of time with preemies, especially those she spends quality time caring for in the NICU. Choosing baby clothes for preemies requires a lot more thought than picking baby clothes for larger, full-term newborns.
What do preemie babies wear? Tips for choosing clothing for a premature baby:
If they’re spending time in the NICU (or in the hospital for any reason while newborn), it’s super important to know that regular baby clothes won’t cut it. Aside from being too big, they are not NICU-friendly. “There are several things that you want to look for when shopping for clothes for your premature baby,” advises Jean Moorjani, MD, FAAP, and a board-certified pediatrician at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. “Wearing safe and appropriate clothes will help your baby maintain their temperature well. Premature babies can sometimes have difficulty maintaining their body temperature, and one of the best ways that we can help them keep a stable temperature is to choose a hat so they can stay warm. They can also have very delicate and sensitive skin, so you will want to wash your baby’s clothes in a laundry detergent that is fragrance and dye-free. If your premature baby is still in the NICU, you may want to look for preemie clothes that have plastic snaps instead of metal (we would like to try to avoid metal especially if your baby needs x-rays done) and choose clothes that don’t cover their feet because your baby may be on a monitor that will have wires and cords. You can choose a onesie or pants and add separate booties.” Adds Furlong, “I personally would avoid a gown with elastic at the bottom (these make diaper changing in the isolette, or “incubator” as most folks call it, pretty challenging since there ends up being too much fabric in the way!”
Now once the preemies are home, you don’t need to worry about these NICU-friendly features, but you will need great quality clothes that fits specific to preemies. That includes smaller sized caps and swaddles, too. We’ve got your go-to guide for preemie clothes below, including NICU friendly brands that are made with nurse-approved features you mamas will appreciate.
Preemie Clothes Safe for Baby in the NICU:
This is your coziest little onesie with the extra special features your bb needs while in the hospital. Carter’s preemie line is sized for babies up to 5 lbs. This “thoughtful” line, noted by the blue heart seal, lets you know items were designed by local NICU nurses. Since Carter’s listened to their needs, and added features like velcro sleeves (easy open and close for cords, etc) and plastic snaps vs metal (safe for x-ray machines). Nurses, parents and babies everywhere are thanking Carter’s for these small changes that make an immense difference. Grammie Gigi says, “You are one of the few sources for preemie outfits which plans for the needs in the NIC Unit. Thank you for your great thinking!!!”
Perfectly Preemie has thought of everything we never knew we needed! They do a range of styles, all with the best NICU features in mind, but we love this jumpsuit with a cap and pair of booties to cover all of our bases. All of the closures are velcro for IVs, monitors and easy changing, and it’s all perfectly sized for 3-6 lbs. The prints are all so cute — think mermaids, horses and little snowmen, so if this is going to be your NICU staple, there are enough outfits for all the days you need.
We’re crying, too! This adorable onesie has all the features any baby in the NICU/hospital needs to safely get through another day. The sleeves feature plastic snaps for x-rays. Sized just right for baby up to 5 lbs, this cozy onesie reminds everyone that although they are small, they are mighty.
Preemie Clothes for Baby:
A 5-pack of cotton bodysuits is the base of every baby wardrobe. This goes on with and under every outfit your preemie will be wearing for the next few months. Burt’s Bees organic essentials keep bb warm in GOTS Certified 100% cotton with flat-lock seams (no irritation) and nickel-free snaps (a common allergan). The lap shoulder construction (that little flap at the shoulders) means it easily expands to fit over bb’s head. These are available in multiple prints, styles and sizes to get you through all the phases of baby clothes.
Swaddles are great for nap and sleep time, and preemies may need them more than you think. Furlong says, “Many NICU’s utilize preemie-sized swaddlers for the babies” and she recommends that parents purchase one or two for when baby goes home. “Families should pay extra attention to keeping the preemie baby from getting cold, so if the baby isn’t skin-to-skin with a parent or in a baby wrap, then one extra layer is important (i.e. outfit + swaddle).” HALO’s micro-fleece sleepsack is a favorite amongst all new parents.
Any parent to a new baby knows the amazing-ness of a kimono style onesie. It doesn’t go on over the head! Enough said. But this footless one, by Burt’s Bees Baby, is also made with organic cotton, in a quilted weave. It’s the ultimate in softness and has interior and exterior snaps, plus a snap right at the collar to keep bb warm. The fabric is 100% organic, GOTS certified, breathable cotton — great for sensitive skin and to prevent overheating. One mom loved it so much she asked that they start making it in adult sizes! (Really!)
Only a parent who has been through night-time changings will understand the brilliance of *magnets*. This onesie, available in a ton of gorgeous colors and prints, has magnets down the front to make opening and closing so much easier than searching for snaps and buttons in a dark room, in the middle of the night. And these wonders are not just for preemies— they start at size Pre (less than 5 lbs) and go up to size 18-24 months. We can’t say enough about these from personal experience— they are game changers.
The SwaddleMe preemie size swaddle is made for babies up to 7lbs. It’s meant for stage 1 swaddling, generally up to 6 months old, before babies show signs of rolling over. If you aren’t sure swaddling is for you, give it a try. We know many, many babies who have gotten more deep, sound sleep while wrapped warmly in their own cozy cocoon. One mom calling it preemie approved, says, “My daughter was born 6 weeks early and all of the swaddles we had from our older daughter were too big. We tried a few different swaddles that didn’t work for us and then stumbled upon this swaddle and decided to order it. It has worked fantastic for our daughter! I would highly recommend for smaller babies.”
Hudson Baby’s Preemie Layette Set comes with 4 pieces you’ll be needing, no matter the season. All in 100% cotton, there is a short-sleeve bodysuit, side snap long-sleeve shirt, pant and cap. The lap construction at the shoulder means it spreads, so if you’re afraid to pull anything over the head, you don’t have to. Just pull it from the bottom up. It also comes in Royal Safari Grey if you want a second set (or a more gender- neutral gift). They’ll mix and match really well together.
Side snap is a dream come true. Like a kimono-style top or jumper, this doesn’t have to go on over the head. This 5 piece long-sleeve set is an organic cotton that’s lightweight and easy to care for. They have focused on all the details we worry about with the littles— nickel free snaps, flat-lock seams, printed labels (no tags) and hidden interior snaps. These shirts also have reversible mittens which means if your baby is a scratcher, you can unroll the sleeve over the hands for sleeping. Furlong does point out that, “An important part of preemies sensory development, feeding cues, and comfort is having their hands up by their face/near their mouths. Mittens are adorable but daily use should actually be avoided for these little ones.” We literally learn something new every. Single. Day.
Now that your LO is dressed and ready, check out our other essential baby gear.