Q: I'm a first-time mom and looking to buy crib shoes for my infant. The problem is, every pair I've tried have been way too big, despite the fact that I've bought the correct "size" for his age! Is there any way to make sense of baby shoe sizes? -M.J., Cedar Rapids, IA
A: Baby sizes are tricky to figure out, aren't they? It's bad enough when you're trying to buy clothes because every manufacturer seems to have a different idea around what constitutes "newborn" or "12 months" sizing. Luckily, most retailers put tags on their clothes that, at the very least, give you height and weight guidelines.
But when it comes to buying shoes, it's a whole different ball game. Once your baby starts walking and you're ready to buy a sturdy pair of baby shoes, you can take your little one right to the shoe store to be fitted by a professional. But what about when you're buying a pair of crib shoes?
I remember the first pair I bought for our youngest. They were Robeez, a brand loved by many parents ... a brand that is supposed to stay put no matter what. When Ella was about six weeks old, I purchased a pair of newborn Robeez so she had something to wear on her feet with all those cute little outfits I had. The problem? They were way too big! At three months old, she still couldn't wear them.
In reality, baby shoes sizes are no different than clothes. Each manufacturer has its own standards, patterns, and measurements as to what they deem "average" for a particular size, so there is no right answer, per se. It is important to remember though: you should be measuring your baby's feet once per month, every month, until he is 12 months of age.
However, there are several things you can attempt, that might make the purchasing a little easier. These are pretty rogue, but they get the job done. After all, Plato once said, "necessity, who is the mother of all invention."
The Finger Length Method
From the time both of my girls were born, I used to put my index finger up to the sole of their foot to measure how big it was from heel to the tip of the big toe. For me, it was always a milestone when their teeny toes met with the tip of my finger. While it may seem a silly measuring method, it can actually prove pretty useful when you're buying crib shoes; if you know how long your baby's foot is (when compared to your index finger) it makes it easier to hold up a crib shoe and compare the two.
The Paper and Pencil Method
If you're past the finger length method, it might be time to pull out a piece of paper and a pencil. I like this method because it's discreet (and looks less strange than the finger length method in the store aisles). Grab dad or another adult and have them hold the baby still; ideally, if their neck is strong enough, they could "stand" on the paper you've taken out. Use a pencil to draw a line at the heel of their foot to the tip of their big toe. Tuck the sheet of paper in your wallet, and the next time you're out with the baby, you'll have no problem measuring up what size crib shoe to buy.
The Stuff the Sock Method
You didn't think I could get any crazier with the suggestions, did you? Obviously, I can. All this requires is a pair of baby socks that currently fit and a bit of tissue; simply "stuff the sock" until it's approximately the same size as your baby's foot. This works well for babies that have thick or wide feet, because you can get a real sense of how well a shoe will or will not fit around his foot. Pop the "stuffed sock" in your purse and you're good to go (just don't let it get buried and mashed down).
The Numerical Measurement Method
Easy to perform and accurate to a T, I recommend a flexible tape measure (like those used by sewers and knitters) to measure your baby's foot. Use a colored marker to note directly on the tape measure how long your baby's foot is and just toss it in your purse. It's easy to transport, won't get mashed in your purse, and will prove incredibly accurate when you go to the store to measure crib shoes.