It generally is the case that parents actually have to buy precious few of the clothes needed for their newborn offspring, as doting family and friends will be only too eager to donate gifts. The problem is usually when the child has grown out of the initial stage and becomes an accepted part of the family. At this point three things happen. The baby grows at a rate of knots which seems impossible to keep up with in clothing sizes, family and friends lose the need to donate clothing every time they see you, and the realisation dawns that you no longer have any spare disposable income.
So whether it is accepting donations and gifts, or going out to buy clothes yourself, what should you be looking for that will be of greatest benefit and safety?
One of the most important factors to consider with any clothing for a child is safety - this must come first, and any clothing that you are in any doubt about should be left. Safety can be considered from two points of view. The first is the fire retardant nature of the material. This should be clearly displayed on the label, and if it isn't, then forget it. All sleepwear has to be flame retardant by law, and most day clothes are as well. The second aspect of safety has to do with tight elastic bands, cords or buttons. Babies and toddlers love cords, and these can easily become wound round anything they can reach - which is often just about limited to their own neck. Buttons will end up in the mouth being sucked and chewed, and unless they have been attached with steel wool that has been welded for extra safety, there is a high chance that the button will eventually pop off and dive straight down the child's throat. This is clearly a choking hazard, and even if it doesn't end up there, the child will almost certainly find somewhere else interesting for it such as their nose or ear. If the clothing has an elastic band, then this needs to be cut, because if the child is left unattended, such as at night, and they wiggle out of the clothing, it could end up trapped round their neck.
The next thing to think about is of course the baby's comfort. Cotton is the preferred material, and will be very soft and natural against your child's skin. The one issue with cotton though is that it will tend to shrink once it has been washed a few times, and so it is always best to buy cotton outfits too big. Some clothes are made from a cotton and polyester mix, and although these aren't quite as soft, they don't tend to shrink and retain their look better.
Of course, when you're out shopping for clothes you'll probably be thinking about price too, and one way to help with this is to visit charity shops and other locations for second hand clothes. I bought almost all of my child's clothing from online auction sites, and saved a fortune whilst accumulating an enviable wardrobe of outfits. Remember, children grow out of their clothes so quickly when they're only very young that almost all second hand clothes for young babies and toddlers is in brand new condition - they haven't had time to wear out. For this reason, it makes good sense to consider this option, and to pass on the clothes again once you have finished with them.
Apart from security, comfort and cost, the other factor to think about before you get distracted by style is accessibility. Some outfits are adorable - but how easy will they be to get off when you need to change a dirty nappy in a hurry? Look for snap shut crotch areas which use poppers or Velcro - you'll be grateful you did!