As anyone with a new baby can attest, people love buying baby clothes. The new grandparents, aunts and uncles, and even just random family friends can barely resist. They come to visit with a little box in hand, from Macy’s, Target, BabyGap, or wherever. Thoughtful, sweet, generous. And when it comes to clothes, who can blame them for the impulse buy? Somehow, a t-shirt is just plain cuter when it’s that small. And when it’s a gift for twins? Oh. My. God. Smaller may be cuter, but nothing beats a matched set. We all have our collections of matching outfits in the dresser, and whether or not you’re into dressing your kids alike on a regular basis, sometimes you just can’t help it. (Hopefully they’ll forgive thank us later.)
But I have learned several important lessons about baby clothes, and in particular baby clothes as gifts, from my experience over the last 8+ months as a mother of two (very differently-sized) babies. (Forgive me if this all sounds ungrateful. I have actually taken it all as lessons for myself as to how to buy for other babies.) So, courtesy of Daniel & Rebecca, here is what I have learned about how to buy gifts for other babies:
First, whenever possible, find out what sizes the babies in question are actually wearing. I don’t expect people to automatically know that, at nearly nine months old, my daughter still wears size 3-6 months. My son, on the other hand, seems to be the rare child who actually wears his actual age range (at exactly 6 months, he switched to the 6-9 month clothing, etc.). Obviously, people who don’t get my kids dressed every day would not know this, but there are easy ways to find out. Grandparents make good spies.
Second, look at the size of the outfit you just chose before you buy it. I know that, if you haven’t spent a lot of time with baby clothes recently, they all just look small and cute. Impossibly small, in fact, so you get the bigger size, because no real baby could possibly wear the 3-month size. I can’t tell you how many people have lovingly presented us with gifts and, while looking at my kids, exclaim that they should have gotten the bigger size. But I assure you, my kids have not outgrown the size 18-month shirts at age 6 months. Really.
Third, now that you’ve learned what size they wear and have actually inspected the labels while in the store, don’t buy too far ahead. If you want to buy for the next season or two, if you want to buy a size up from what they wear now, that makes good sense. Buy summer clothes in early spring, in the next size. Great. But did you really have to buy the size 2T fleece jackets for my 4-month-olds? (I can’t make this stuff up, people.) I mean, yes, the jackets are adorable. I can see how you were drawn to them. Especially the fluorescent pink animal print. But I have no idea when my kids will wear size 2T, and whether or not that will even be at a time of year when fleece is appropriate outerwear. Plus, I have to store it somewhere for the next 1-3 years.
Fourth, think for just one moment about the practicality of the outfit in question. I’m not saying all baby clothes have to be practical. Dresses on baby girls are super cute, even if they make no practical sense at all. But really… baby cashmere? Just because they make it doesn’t mean you should spend your money on it. Take the $60 you were going to spend on that sweater (that my child will wear once, vomit all over, and outgrow), and buy three outfits from Old Navy. You can splurge from time to time, after all, that’s what gifts are for. But be reasonable.
Lastly, and I think this is a good rule for any gifts, please please please include the gift receipt. We love that you were thoughtful and generous and got us an adorable outfit from BabyGap. The trouble is that both Aunt Sally and Aunt Kathy walked past BabyGap during the same week, and they both fell in love with the monkey shirt (it’s just so perfect for little Jimmy!). And while the shirt is, in fact, perfect for little Jimmy, he doesn’t need two. Plus, I’d rather exchange that 12-month sized sleeveless outfit for something my daughter can actually fit into this summer, instead of wistfully staring at it all season long, until she can finally wear it. In November.
I know, I know. People are just being sweet and thoughtful and generous. And I love that someone was thinking of my kids and wanted to get them something nice. I also know that I’m preaching to the choir, here. But after getting two sets of very strangely-sized off-season outfits this weekend (blessedly inclusive of gift receipts), I felt compelled to put my lessons into words.