Cute colors and adorable prints may be what draws you to a rack of baby clothes. To make your final selection, though, you need to consider safety, comfort, and practicality -- easy to put on and washable. And you probably want to consider the price, too.

It's OK to shop in secondhand stores or high-quality consignment shops for most things for babies. Just be sure to wash everything first.

Safety first: no buttons, bows, or ties. Stay away from clothes with small buttons, decorative rhinestones, or bows, because they can be choking risks. Clothes with long ties or that pull tightly around your baby's arms, legs, or neck are also unsafe. Make sure decorations are sewed on tight.

Pick fire-safe sleepwear. Labels on your baby's sleepwear will tell you whether it needs to be worn snugly to be fire-retardant or if the fabric itself is flame-retardant. But be aware: Scientists haven’t closely studied the long-term health effects of the chemicals that make fabrics fire-resistant. Some research has linked some of these chemicals to health problems, including delayed physical and mental development, thyroid trouble, and problems with mental activities like thinking and memory. If the chemicals aren’t well-bound to the fabric, they can get inside your baby’s body more easily. If you worry about this risk, you can always choose all-natural fabrics that are flame-retardant when they fit snuggly.

If you choose flame-resistant fabrics, follow the laundry instructions to keep the retardant from washing away. This is one place where secondhand items may not be a good choice -- if they've been washed incorrectly they’re no longer effective.

Shop by your baby's weight, not age. Age doesn't mean much when it comes to baby clothes. Different brands size clothing differently. Weight is a better measure, and many baby clothes list it along with age on their labels.

How easily can you get them on and off? Dressing a wiggling newborn can be a bit of a struggle. Follow these tips when you’re shopping for clothes to make it easier.

  • Wide necks or snaps at the neck make dressing easier. (If you pick clothes that pull over the head, do it quickly because babies panic when their breathing is blocked or when they can’t see you.)
  • Snaps and zippers in the front are easier to put on and take off than those on the back.
  • Loose sleeves pull on and off easier than tight ones.
  • Snaps or other easy openings at the crotch make it quicker and easier to change diapers -- you don’t have to take off all of your baby's clothes.

Choose washable. Buy clothes that say "machine washable" on the label to avoid the time and energy of hand-washing or ironing. Clothes made from 100% cotton are ideal, since they're comfortable, durable, and they wash well.

Think ahead -- wisely. Some babies never fit into the "newborn" size. Others may even grow out of 3-month-sized clothes after only 1 month. So buy items in the 6-month or 1-year size to have on hand. It’s fine if some clothes are a little big. Your baby will grow into them. It’s not a great idea, though, to buy seasonal clothes, like swimsuits or winter coats, well in advance. It’s impossible to predict your baby's size.

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