We started out on the complete opposite side of the spectrum in terms of baby gear. We assumed we would need very little. We didn't want to "rely" on "stuff" to make our baby happy or content...that's what we're for!
However, we did end up buying some "stuff" that has indeed been very useful (or sometimes just a little bit of fun!). I thought I'd share my list and hopefully it will help some mom-to-be in the future!
Close and Secure Sleeper - we planned on bed sharing after Baby was born but were both a little nervous with such a small baby in the bed "unprotected." This was a great investment and worked really well for us for the first 3 months. For the first 6 weeks, Baby slept in it the whole night and after that she started out in it and then cuddled up next to me for the rest of the night. We had it between us in our king sized bed - I've read reviews that it can take up a lot of space in smaller beds. We didn't use a sleep positioner with it and wrapped the "mattress" in a cozy flannel receiving blanket.
Bouncy chair - We weren't going to go for a bouncy chair even though I had read that a bouncy chair or swing was essential. We bought it after Baby was born and she really didn't like it all that much so she sat in it very rarely and only for a few minutes or so. It started to come in handy, however, when S went back to work. Baby would happily sit in it in the bathroom while I had a shower. She would play with the toys on the hanging bar and giggle madly when I would peek out at her from the shower. Very handy, indeed. There are some pretty elaborate ones out there and some really expensive high end "designer" ones. The one we chose was VERY basic and given the small amount of time she spends in it, in the bathroom, it is perfect. Craig's list would be a good place to shop for one...we were lazy and overwhelmed at the time we bought ours.
Bumbo - This was a gift to us before Baby was born. They are super cute and a great, simple design. I also think they are really expensive (as is most baby gear). Baby did really like sitting up in it though from about 3 months. I would put her in it in the kitchen while I was cooking and she loved watching me. She didn't sit in that often but we all really enjoyed it (and she still sits in it sometimes even with her chubby little thighs!). I don't think I would have bought one but was grateful for the gift. Again, Craig's list would be good if you are dying to have one of these.
Play gym - When Baby was 3 months old, I joined a great mom/baby group called Mother's Unfolding. The facilitator had a play mat with a few toys hanging from it in the center of our group. Baby REALLY seemed interested in it and was content to bat away at the toys hanging above her. The program ended 5 weeks later and the group decided to keep meeting at each other's homes. The first time we met outside of the group at one mom's home there was a similar play mat. Again, Baby REALLY liked it, playing and smiling away. This was the first time I started feeling guilty about not providing "fun" stuff for Baby. I actually said to S that night "all the other babies have them! maybe we should get one!" I found one in pristine condition on Craig's list for $15.00. Baby loved it and still plays on the mat to this day (she started grabbing and knocking over the arms and getting tangled up in them the last couple of weeks so we took them down). This is definitely not a necessity and was absolutely a peer pressure guilt purchase. But, according to Baby, it was $15.00 well spent!
Tub seat - I actually bought this before Baby was born. I had read how slippery babies are and was planning on bringing Baby into the bath with me so I wanted something to lay her in if necessary. I didn't want a large basin because we have such limited storage space as it is. This folds up and sat in the corner of the tub. Baby only bathed about once a week for the first few months and in the past month or so we don't use it anymore and usually she has "mini baths" in the kitchen sink now that she can sit up. This helped ease more of my first time mom worries.
Jolly jumper - This is loads of fun! It doesn't fulfill any need or fill any void. It's just pure fun. We got one with the stand from Craig's list for $30.00 to use upstairs where we don't have any molded doorways. Ironically, we use it downstairs where all the doorways are molded. Oh well. It folds up and can be put away easy enough. Baby loves it and jumps 2 or 3 times a week for 10-20 minutes at a time.
Baby Carrier - I love wearing Baby! We used our Ergo pretty much exclusively for the first 3 months. Unfortunately I've been plagued with severe lower back issues (again *sigh*) the past month or so and I haven't been able to wear her as much as I like. She likes being on our backs now too which is great and not as hard on the back. I haven't mastered getting her on my back on my own yet. I would consider a carrier a necessity.
Stroller - We were going to wait until Baby was 6 months or so before getting a stroller as neither of us was keen to give up wearing her and we liked the security and cuddles that having her close allowed. We had some generous gift cards for a local department store and after some research we chose the stroller we wanted. We ended up buying it when Baby was about 2 or 3 months. She ended up getting RSV at 10 weeks and her breathing was affected so she didn't seem to like the Ergo very much as it holds her close chest to chest. We started using the stroller once in awhile and for the most part she liked it. For short trips anyway. We ended up carrying her just in our arms a lot between 10 weeks and 4 months. After that she liked both the Ergo and the stroller and we started using the stroller more regularly when Baby was about 5 months. The Ergo is great for short trips like to the grocery store or stopping for quick errands. The stroller is better for long walks on the seawall.
Crib - I posted about our decision to get a crib recently. I'm still on the fence as to whether it was a worthy investment.
High chair - We just got a high chair about 2 weeks ago. It's fun having Baby sit up to the table with us and letting her experiment with tasting new food. High chairs get really messy and I'd suggest sticking with something really basic. We actually tried to get the Ikea Antilop but they have sold out for ages and we were told it would be about 6 weeks more. We both liked the simple design of the one we chose and it appears to be quite cozy to sit in too. We looked on Craigslist for a high chair but couldn't find anything really basic. We also wanted to make sure we got something that would last as I believe this is something we'll use a lot and for a few years.
I think that's about it. Baby is just over 7 months now and I feel pretty good about our acquisitions. We committed to trying not to be wasteful and to buy 2nd hand when we were able. I'd say 75% of baby clothes we have now are hand me downs or were purchased 2nd hand. We did have lots of new things when she was first born - friends and family were very generous and we had fun filling the house with tiny baby onesies. We've since passed on a whole box of clothes on freecycle. 95% of the toys we have are also hand me downs. Some were gifts, and we have bought a few really cool wooden toys lately. Cloth diapers is the other place where we spent money on stuff - watch for my post on my experience with cloth diapers in the next little while.