When can I dress my Preemie?

Can NICU babies wear clothes? If so, WHEN can they wear them? One of the biggest milestones for a Preemie Mom is the day when you can finally start dressing your little one in his or her adorable preemie clothes. For those parents wondering when that day will finally come, here are a few milestones your baby will possible need to hit before they can wear clothing:

  1. Depending on how premature your little one is, it may take a few weeks for his or her skin to be developed enough to wear even very tiny preemie clothes.
  2. Until your baby’s cardiac, respiratory, and digestive systems are stable, nurses and doctors will need to keep his or her chest bare so that it’s easy to see and assess.
  3. Umbilical lines have been discontinued: Even stable babies may have umbilical lines, which are IV lines in their umbilical cord stumps. These must be removed before babies can wear preemie clothes.

It has gotten easier to find preemie sizes in stores and on websites, than it was when we got started back in 1993, but not all preemie sized clothes will work for every premature baby. A baby’s size, condition, and medical equipment all play a role in what preemie clothes he or she can wear.

Hats - are a must in the NICU, even for the smallest preemies. Covering the head helps babies stay warm, we have many options available. The Assorted knot hat, or 3 pack of caps can be the best for variety and cost.

NICU-Wear - These are the items we make for easy use in the NICU. They range in size from one to eight pounds. We have multiple styles offering many different options from plastic snap closures (NIC-Sac) to velcro (NIC-Suit and IV Shirt). Most all of them have open shoulders from easy dressing and diaper changing.

The Sweet-Tee Bodysuit - is a step up with both no open shoulder and open shoulder, but a fun diaper cover.

Booties - Although it can be hard to keep booties and socks on tiny feet, they are adorable and can be worn by even very small babies with complex medical conditions.

Jumpsuit- One-piece pajamas with open shoulder long sleeves and easy velcro opening for easy diaper changes, come together for a great basic style for the NICU stays through going home. They are a great grab and go outfit.  


Caring for preemie clothes involves special considerations. Given their sensitive skin and delicate respiratory systems, washing in warm or hot water using perfume and dye-free detergent in a smoke-free environment is crucial. Avoiding fabric softeners and dryer sheets, known for their strong odors, is recommended. It's advisable to pre-wash items before a preemie wears them.

Beyond the sheer adorableness of preemies in tiny clothes, there are tangible benefits to dressing them. For parents, participating in the process of washing, bringing, and dressing their baby's clothes fosters a sense of normalcy, helping them feel more connected to their little one.

Dressing preemies also aids in temperature control, preventing heat loss from drafts or cold surfaces. This, in turn, contributes to a more comfortable environment for parents who, seeing their babies in clothes, can better personalize their experience and connect emotionally.

In essence, the introduction of clothes into the NICU journey is not merely a visual delight but a meaningful step that encompasses both practical benefits and emotional connections for parents and their precious preemies.