Baby Stuff in General
We had way more baby stuff than we ever needed. So might I suggest, as hard as it may be, resist the urge to open everything from your showers, wash it, fold it and put it nicely away. You may not need it and if you leave it in the package with the gift receipt taped to it, you'll be much more likely to return it for something you do need. And, BORROW. I so wish I would have relied more on trading and borrowing the larger items (swings, bouncers, etc.), because now we have ALL of them and they take up a ton of storage space!
Clothes-for each size (0-3, 3-6, 6-9), you NEED only as many PJs and outfits as days it takes you to do laundry. At the beginning for us, I did laundry every other day because Griffin spit up on everything. So we needed very little, but I would still recommend having about a weeks worth of clothes and of course other fun outfits that don't get thrown in the day-to-day mix. Oh, and for PJS early on, I recommend zippers-so much easier than snaps! And if it doesn't creep you out, garage sale/thrift-store it. You can get really good deals on nice baby/kid clothes if you have the time to do some digging! (I found this out a little late for baby stuff, but it comes in handy now!)
One of my biggest pet peeves is the product labeled, "receiving blankets." They are usually a flannel type blanket that is not quiet big enough to wrap a baby in, but too big to be a burp towel. Don't be fooled into buying/registering for these. Instead, opt for burp towels and Swaddle Blankets, I love Aden and Anais.
Sleeptime-Early on, Griffin always slept in a SwaddleMe. When he couldn't be swaddled anymore we just put him in a Sleepsack, and now he's just in jammies. I would recommend getting a SwaddleMe or Sleepsack that matches with the season. For example, if you will have a newborn in the summer, a lighter material SwaddleMe would do the trick, but then get a little warmer Sleepsack for the winter. Obviously you keep your place at a pretty constant temp, so it doesn't matter too much either way.
bath bucket. This only lasted a short time, because he grew out of it so quickly. The we moved to a more traditional baby bathtub. This one worked great and definitely could be used right from the beginning. It uses slightly more water than the bucket, but still far less than an entire tub. I would suggest getting a hook to hang the tub so it can stay dry between uses (most come with it). And we love our Dwell Studio Owl towel.
Burt's Bees Baby stuff. Bath soap, lotion and diaper cream. I have tried a few other diaper creams, but since Griffin doesn't get diaper rash too often, I'm definitely not an expert. I do hear baking soda baths and lots of fresh air work wonders.
Born Free. I had heard good things, therefore we got them and loved them. They are kind of a pain to clean because there are so many parts, but we were really happy with them. How many? We have too many. It depends, how often do you want to run the dishwasher, how often are you bottle/breast feeding etc. On average a newborn eats about 8 times a day and after the first few weeks/months, more like 6 times a day. You do the math.
go here or here. But I will mention that with cloth diapers you should definitely invest in a few Planet Wise wet bags. These bags are awesome for holding dirty diapers until laundry time. I have a big one in Griff's room and a small one I keep in the diaper bag. Both get washed along with the diapers. Also, definitely get a Diaper Sprayer. When we do get a box of disposables, I get them at Sam's Club. It's the Sam's Club brand and they have a zebra and elephant on them-really cute.
iPlay stuff-hats and swimsuits. The swimsuits have a built in swim diaper (only holds solids), but then you don't have to get on a swim diaper before the swimsuit. The hats are great because they synch to the child's head, so they are snug and they have a neck brim. I also recommend the rash guard shirts for extra SPF protection. For the winter, if you're like me and have to tote the infant car seat around all winter, you really aren't supposed to put jackets on the baby in the car seat. Opt for a Snuggle Me or other type of car seat liner that has some extra insulation. But when you do take the baby outside and need a snowsuit, Baby Gap has the most adorable animal snow suits.
One necessary baby gear item for us at all times was the nuk and nuk clip. Griffin has now since given up the nuk (or it was taken from him) for all waking moments. He still has one in his crib for nap and bedtime. I'm not sure when we'll take that away, but we will most likely wait until he can understand that he is giving it up. Not a battle I'm willing to fight at the moment. As far as nuks go, we liked having all different kinds because at different stages, Griff preferred different nuks.
As a baby, we mostly used our sling and Baby Bjorn to tote Griff around when we didn't want to lug the carseat somewhere. Both are comfortable, the Bjorn was comfortable for longer periods of time and the baby can look inward our outward and it some have the lower back strap that definitely takes away some stress from you upper back. As Griffin got older, we also have used the Kokopax backpack carrier.
We love our stroller. We do a lot of walking so it was important to us to have one that would withstand the test of long walks. We got the Uppa Baby stroller with the infant bassinet. It was great to be able to take a walk with Griff as a newborn and not put him in his carseat. Newborns spend a lot of time in a carseat as it is, so it was nice to go for a walk and allow him to stretch out a little. The stroller chair has lots of adjustable levels, food/drink tray and the option to add a second seat (rumble seat-which we got for Christmas-YAY!) as well as a ledge for an older child to ride (piggy back). It collapses easily, and for the most part I keep it either in the trunk of my car or in our garage. One of the other great options it comes with is the bassinet stand. The stand allows you to attach the bassinet and when your baby grows out of it, there are while linen bags that can hang from the stand (we use it as a laundry hamper). I did finally invest in an umbrella stroller, a whopping $3 stroller from a garage sale that I always keep in my car for stroller emergencies.
Other baby gear
There are tons of other "baby gear" items you need, but you don't necessarily need to do a ton of homework on. You'll need a Pack N' Play, my advice, the simpler the better (easier to tote around), an activity map, a jiggle chair (or some kind of bouncy/swingy thing), Bumbo, Boppy, and an Exersaucer/Jumper. These are the items I say borrow if you can. These are the space taker-uppers. If you are going to buy them, find ones that collapse, easily come apart and at least fit through doorways.
Obviously you'll need a diaper bag. My biggest recommendation is to get one that is functional. I loved my diaper bag (Bella Tunno) but it has become less functional as Griffin has gotten older. It's too big and it doesn't have a cross-body strap (to free up hands). These days I just put a spare dipe and wipes into the small Planet Wise bag and shove it in my purse. My purses tend to have cracker crumbs, sippy cups, toys and other baby knick knacks floating around because I don't use a diaper bag right now, but such is the trade off.
Depending on how much you plan to pump/nurse, I suggest getting a good one. If you do end up having to pump, the more efficient it is, the better. The Medela Freestyle is awesome, though it does make a "hummm, hummm" noise that's pretty hard to hide if you need to make a phone call. I had a love/hate relationship with my pump, but it wasn't the pump's fault.
Other stuff that caught me off guard at one time or another....
When you come home from the hospital, you better have Colace and nipple cream waiting for you. Too much information? Yep. But, it's the truth. Mother Love makes a great natural cream that's first ingredient is olive oil (it came highly recommended to me from a reliable source:) , and therefore you know safe in case the baby gets the remnants. It's sold at Amma Maternity, which come to think of it, has other great stuff too if you're looking for more recommendations on baby gear or looking for a great story time or music class.
Also, have a good thermometer, and know how to use it before you need to, especially if it's a rectal thermometer (and hopefully learn from our worst.night.ever.). Which reminds me, also have on hand baby Tylenol so when they do get their first fever you have the option to try to reduce it without heading to the pharmacy or ER. Thankfully we haven't had to use it since.
What did I forget?
I'm sure I've forgotten something...but just remember, even though you do need a lot of stuff, less is more. You can always head to Target and pick something up if you defide later that you need it. And if you are currently anticipating your first little one, happy registering, happy baby showers and happy nesting!