STUFF I ABSOLUTELY CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT:
1. Boppy pillow. This has been absolutely critical to me every time I nurse. I have zero arm strength and no motivation to get any, so I NEED this to prop her up to my boob. It saves my back, too... and you spend a zillion hours a day nursing if you end up exclusively breastfeeding. You can also put the baby on it for playtime and tummy time. I used it to bottle feed in the beginning when I was pumping a lot, so formula feeders can get use out of it too.
2. Dr. Brown's bottles. Everyone has a different opinion on bottles, but I love these. They have extra parts which are kind of a pain to clean, but it's worth it for the reduction in gas and spit-up. I have a reflux baby. I would know.
3. Lansinoh double electric pump. Half the price of the Medela pumps, but I actually got better output with this pump than with my Medela hospital rental. Probably because I wasn't howling in pain the entire time I was hooked up to the thing.
4. Boppy bouncy seat. Half the time I just use it when I need to put her down. Even more important, we've had the same batteries in it since she was born (and we turn it on many times a day) and they are still going strong! Plus, it has catchy music.
5. As far as diapers go, we liked Pampers for disposables. We are currently in the process of switching to cloth, and for those we use BumGenius organic one-size (with the snaps). I'll be discussing my unlikely transformation into crunchy-hippie mama in a future post. Stay tuned.
6. Baby Bjorn or some other front carrier. 90% of the time I use this rather than a stroller. Also great for around the house when they are fussy in the evenings!
7. Fisher Price Ocean Wonders Aquarium. We've attached this to her cradle and she cannot fall asleep without it. She will even put herself to sleep without crying while she stares at it... enough said, right?
8. AngelCare movement monitor. We received this as a gift, but even if we hadn't, it would still absolutely have been worth the $100 or whatever it costs. We were so anxious about her breathing when we left the NICU that this literally saved our sanity. Even if your baby isn't in the NICU, you will probably waste a lot of YOUR sleep time constantly checking on their breathing. This gives you the peace of mind that everything is okay... and if it isn't, you'll know about it right away. And we've never had a single false alarm (although it does go off if we lift her out of the cradle and forget to turn it off, so I feel confident it would go off if she stopped breathing).
9. Halo sleepsacks and Kiddopotamus SwaddleMes. Swaddling is key to sleeping long stretches... otherwise, baby whacks him/herself in the face and wakes up. Receiving blankets don't work for very long-- baby busts out of them pretty easily, and the SwaddleMes have velcro tabs to hold the swaddle tight all night long. The sleepsacks are key if you worry about the SIDS risk of having loose blankets in baby's bed.
STUFF THAT'S GOOD TO HAVE, I GUESS:
1. Nursing glider. I rarely sit in it, but it's a nice luxury. Sometimes it will calm her when I rock in it, but not always. If you have a recliner or rocking chair already, I'd say skip the expense.
2. Swing. It seems to me that everyone else's baby loves to sleep in it, but Caroline will only sit in it for a couple minutes with a pouty look on her face before she starts screaming. Not all babies like them, so I'd recommend waiting until you actually have your baby and then go test one out at Babies R Us to see if you have a swing baby.
3. Snuggle Nest. Even if you don't want to cosleep, chances are you will at one time or another in the beginning, just so you can get a little sleep! The snuggle nest lets the baby be close to you (some even have a little night light and an incline for reflux/congestion) but keeps him or her away from covers and pillows, which is much safer and gives you peace of mind. Not totally necessary, but nice to have. Also useful for transitioning to the crib from a bassinet or cradle (baby still feels secure in a smaller space within the bigger crib).
STUFF YOU SHOULD SKIP UNLESS YOU LIKE WASTING MONEY:
1. Huggies diapers: blowout central. (Although I have heard this depends on the baby.) Unless you have stock in stain remover, in which case hey, go for it.
2. Dreft laundry detergent. You don't need it, and the fragrance ingredients can actually irritate some babies' skin. Just use a "free and clear" detergent-- Caroline has super sensitive skin, and this has worked fine for us so far.
3. Travel system. ALERT! DO NOT get this. I ignored lots of advice and got one because I didn't want to buy the Snap 'n Go frame for the carseat and then have to buy another stroller later on... but they are HEAVY and awful and I just don't use mine because it's too much of a struggle. Get the infant carseat, Snap 'n Go, and later on get a lightweight stroller like a Maclaren.
So, there you go! I hope it's somewhat helpful to someone out there. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments, I will try to remember to answer them!