My oldest child (Margot, the “mar” in “Henmar”), was born at 34 weeks and 1 day. She weighed 5 lbs and 1 oz. Her birth was unexpected. She spent a month in the NICU (at two different hospitals). And I was kept at the hospital for 10 days after delivery.
In the hours leading up to her delivery (when I was being induced), I only vaguely shopped for premature clothes. I wasn’t sure what size of premature she’d be. So I bought nothing.
I discovered, shortly after, that there’s really only one standard or commercial size of premature clothing. Most preemie clothing fits babies who weigh around 4 to 6 and 1/2 pounds. Smaller babies or micro preemies are generally in the NICU for a prolonged period of time, wearing a preemie diaper, mittens, and a cap inside of an isolette. (There are so many tubes and IV lines that clothing can be an obstruction.)
Carter’s was the only preemie brand I knew of. And while Carter’s had some adorable staples, I was craving other options too.
Where to Buy Premature Baby Clothes: 20 Brands with Preemie Baby Sizes
- 1| Goumi Kids has the best zippered sleepers. Reinforced knees and fold-over mitt and footie cuffs. This has been our favorite brand for zippered rompers for sleeping.
- 2 | Hanna Andersson Moon and Back is a line of Hanna Andersson baby clothing sold exclusively at Amazon.
- 3 | Little Sleepies has nearly 100 options for adorable sleepers and zipper rompers for preemies. Little Sleepies is also one of the few labels to carry micro preemie sizing.
- 4 | KicKee Pants sells super-soft, cozy bamboo clothing that babies and kids love to wear in a fun range of imaginative and playful prints. KicKee Pants offers a large selection of adorable coveralls (rompers or pajamas), sleep sacks, and layette for preemies.
- 5 | Magnetic Me has a large selection of preemie baby clothes (<5 pounds) and smaller newborn clothes (5-8 pounds). Super soft fabric for delicate skin, and magnetic closures for easy on and off.
- 6 | Burt’s Bees Baby has a large selection of preemie clothing, including henley and ruffle jumpsuits, bubble rompers, jersey jackets, onesies, sleepers, and take me home outfits.
- 7 | Carter’s has 140+ cute clothing options at affordable pricing. Carter’s has a full lineup of short sleeve and long sleeve onesies, singlet onesies (sleeveless), rompers, sleeper gowns (sleep sacks), cardigans, footed sleepers, pants, tops, bubble rompers, dresses, and coming home outfits. Carter’s sells a number of micro preemie (<5 pounds) garments too. Search by size in baby boy, baby girl, or baby neutral categories.
- 8 | L’ovedbaby has exquisite organic clothing for preemies and babies (and toddlers and big kids too). Their kimono snap onesies, sleep sacks, and footed rompers are the best, and come in a range of popular gender neutral, nature-inspired colors like seafoam, sage, eggplant, honey, and toffee. Their preemie selection is huge.
- 9 | Monica + Andy (Monica and Andy) sells super soft, organic baby clothing and beautiful vibrant colors and artistic patterns. Monica and Andy sells a number of going-home layette sets, outfits, kimono open tops, rompers, onesies, sleepers, and more.
- 10 | Gerber Childrenswear is an extensive line of clothing for babies (preemie to 24M) and toddlers (2T to 5T). Style is a bit similar to Carter’s. Some of their cutest, preemie clothes now come in avocado and taco prints.
- 11 | Hudson Baby sells infant and children’s apparel, including quite a few preemie layette garments. Popular items are their sleep gowns (including baby gowns with zippers), sleep n play rompers, and onesies.
- 12 | Touched by Nature is an organic baby wear brand sold at Target, Walmart, and Amazon. It’s a full range of baby clothing, including gowns, bibs, hats, rompers, pajamas, rompers, onesies, and sleepers.
- 13 | Posh Peanut Posh Peanut sells cute, posh clothing for babies, girls, and boys. They do carry a small assortment of zippered one-piece rompers in preemie size.
- 14 | Spearmint Love sells all things baby (and toddler) – everything you need for your nursery, playroom, or layette. They carry their own eponymous label, Spearmint Love, and hundreds of other premium brands. Most of their preemie size clothing is L’ovedbaby brand (which you might be better off shopping directly on L’ovedbaby for more options and better promotions), but they do carry preemie garments in a couple of other brands.
- 15 | Little Me is a premium line of baby clothing sold at Macy’s and Nordstrom. The label sells soft, durable baby clothing for playtime and slightly dressier occasions.
- 16 | Honest Baby sells all organic baby and toddler clothing that’s sustainable, soft, baby safe. The garments come with fun, modern touches. They sell basic staples in preemie sizes, and also organic crews with kangaroo pockets, quilted tops, camisoles, muscle tees, henleys, and harem pants.
- 17 | Under the Nile sells toys, blankets, home goods, and super-soft baby clothing made from organic Egyptian cotton. The label sells a handful of cute preemie size sleepers and rompers.
- 18 | Yoga Sprout is a line of onesies, dresses, sleep sacks, coveralls, blankets, and other baby gear. Yoga Sprout offers preemie sizing for bodysuits, sleep and play zippered rompers, baby gowns, socks, and yoga style pants and hoodies. Yoga Sprout is sold on Amazon and at Macy’s. (At the date of this article’s publication, Macy’s did not carry any preemie sizing for the brand.)
- 19 | Kyte Baby is known for soft bamboo sleep bags and layette for babies. Kyte Baby has a large selection of preemie clothing too.
- 20 | Preemie Store has plenty of options for even the tiniest of babes, with sizing for micro preemies (1-3 pounds), teeny preemies (2-4 pounds), preemie (3-6 pounds), and newborn (5-8 pounds). Many of their shirts, gowns, onesie style wraps, and other garments are NICU adaptive. They are designed for babies in the NICU who may have intravenous support. (My daughter spent the first month of her life attached to cords and mostly wore hospital onesies with holes cut through the fabric.) They offer 2-day shipping for $7.95 in the US, or overnight shipping for $50.
- 21 | Konges Slojd is a Danish retailer that sells exquisite magical, playful clothing and toys for children with a nostalgic feel. Some of my favorite bibs and rompers for Henry are from this label, and I just discovered they have an extensive selection of premature baby clothing.
Do Premature Babies Wear Clothes?
Each preemie receives specialized care and whether or not they wear clothes depends on their medical situation. My own preemie (now 3 years old and strong as an ox) did not wear clothing for the first couple of days because she was closely monitored under heat lamps receiving 1:1 care. Afterwards, she was dressed in hospital provided preemie onesies and later preemie clothing that I brought from home.
It’s important I note that I’m not a medical professional: I’m just a mom who had a preemie and can draw on her experience in the NICU. (In two different NICU’s actually, since my daughter was transferred to a more specialized hospital.) I read some articles in The Bump, Healthline, and Very Well Family on the topic. Their words and advice echo my experience and what I saw in the NICUs.
Many neonatal medical professionals recommend avoiding clothes for preemies in the NICU because it may interfere with temperature regulation and with access to intravenous lines – but this may only be for the first couple days or weeks. It depends on how premature the baby is. But most preemies can and do start wearing soft, simple clothing towards the end of their stay in the NICU.
One NICU nurse explains they look for these guidelines before preemie babies can begin wearing clothes.
- Stable breathing and respiratory support.
- The baby has been weaned off their isolette.
- The baby weights at least 3 1/3 pounds (1,400 grams)
- The baby is gaining weight.
Other factors that determine preemie clothing readiness:
- The baby’s gestational age at birth (A baby born at 24 weeks will need more medical interventions over a longer period of time, and will not be able to wear clothing until they are closer to their gestational age of 40 weeks.)
- Skin maturity. Premature babies have very thin, nearly translucent skin and almost no body fat. It may take a few weeks, or more, for skin to develop enough to wear even the softest of preemie clothing. Premature babies lacking skin maturity will need isolette support, as its warm, humid environment mirrors the womb. Swaddling or clothing is avoided then because the humidity could cause the fabric to become wet and cold.
- Overall health of the baby. Every preemie is different, but most preemies are placed in a crib and (can) begin wearing clothing around 35 weeks of gestational age.
What Should a Premature Baby Wear?
Assuming that your preemie can safely wear clothes, it’s always best to consult with the nurses and medical staff. Even if you’re told “gowns” are okay, it’s best to ask about specific cuts, styles, and brands. You likely don’t want to buy premature clothing that you’ll need to cut holes through.
That said, here’s what NICU nurses recommend as the best clothes for premature babies.
- Simple cuts without fuss or frill. Premature babies are still meant to be inter-utero and they aren’t used to being touched. Putting on and taking off clothing can be stressful or overstimulating.
- Hats – covering the head helps a baby stay warm.
- Fun Diaper Covers – most of the time, even the smallest and frailest of NICU patients can wear a diaper cover. You can find fun prints and colors in even the tiniest sizes.
- Garments that don’t go over the baby’s head. Things that a baby can be easily placed in without having to go over their face like sleepers or kimono style (front-opening) onesies.
Why Should Preemie Babies Wear Clothing? What are the Benefits?
Outside of the isolette, preemies need to wear clothing for body temperature regulation just like children and adults.
As a mom of a preemie, I will say that seeing your little one in clothing helps you bond and relieves stress.
For the first several weeks after her birth, I felt like my baby was a Cyborg. She seemed part robot, part organic matter. There were tubes and wires everywhere. Every single time I held her, I would accidentally bump a wire or trigger an alarm.
- It’s easier to bond with your preemie when they look like a “real baby”. Until I brought in clothes for my preemie daughter, I felt like she was a pre-baby. Almost as if I was waiting on her to “turn into a real baby” so we could bring her home and dress her in all the beautiful clothing (NB and larger) I had readied for her. The psychological impact, of seeing her in cute clothes I picked out, was immense. Even if the clothes were picked out at the last minute in a sleep-deprived haze.
- It can relieve depression or the NICU blues. I felt more like a real mom seeing my babe wearing clothes – like she had been a term baby I could have brought home at birth. I was in the NICU for a little over a month, and it was heart-wrenching to see woman after woman arrive at the hospital and then get to go home with their baby only 2 days later. It felt unfair; we had been there so much longer. Those other moms were going home to spend their maternity leave at home. Meanwhile, I wasted weeks of my maternity leave in a dark, windowless enclave. With sticky, plastic furniture. Seeing my baby in clothing relieved a lot of depression and dark feelings. You need the little things to make you feel good.
- Visitors were less freaked out. It’s shocking for visitors to see a tiny baby with an IV line running through her scalp and feeding tubes and other wires poking and prodding her. A hat and clothing covered that up. And when visitors weren’t as freaked out (they did try to hide it), I was less stressed.
What Size is Preemie Baby Clothes?
When talking about standard preemie baby clothes it’s size based. Standard preemie baby clothing will fit babies 4 – 6.5 pounds. Teeny preemie clothing is for babies 2-4 pounds, and micro preemie clothing will fit babies 1-3 pounds.
Always check the size charts when available, because sizing can vary by brand. At The Preemie Store, for example, their preemie clothing is for babies weighing 3-6 pounds.
For reference, newborn clothing usually fits babies around 5-8 pounds and up to 21.5 inches long, and 0-3 months can fit 8 – 12 pounds.