One thing I wished I had found before the baby arrived was a comprehensive and unequivocal shopping list of baby equipment. Abundance of material goods may be the greatest achievement of capitalism, but it sure doesn't feel like it when you have to scroll past pages and pages of conflicting reviews of everything from pacifiers to "travel systems". Ridiculous -- I don't need The Perfect Baby Bottle, I just need the one that holds the milk without too many spills, is a no-brainer to operate and clean, and doesn't poison anyone with its toxic plastics.
Here's such a list. For what it's worth, I compiled it based on my two months of experience. The stuff here may not be The Perfect Baby Stuff, but much of it was bought after a rather extensive pre-purchase research. So far, it does the job, and it didn't cost a small fortune. I hope the list takes away some of the pre-arrival stress and adds a bit of so-much-needed structure.
It is marked, tentatively, "for Dads" because moms that I know seem to be ok with this whole exercise of baby shopping. Shopping for cute clothes -- yes, I can see why. Deliberating over pacifiers? Honey, come on.
1. Stroller (~$130). We ordered a lot of stuff on this list from the net -- mostly from Amazon, because it has free shipping on a lot of baby goods -- but this one you gotta test drive in the store to make sure it's as light and convenient as you want it. We needed something that could be lugged up the stairs. We also didn't want any of the very expensive ones knowing that the first strollers don't last long before they are outgrown. We went with a Graco frame (~$50, some assembly required) and a Graco infant car seat (~$80) that fits on top of it. It's not the most fashionable stroller on the market, but it is solidly build, is compact and very light, and so far, no complaints from the rider.
Separately, we got a Graco raincover (and a mosquito mesh in the same package, ~$10).
2. Bassinet (~$200). We didn't like anything they had in Babies 'R' Us, and ultimately went with The First Years 5 in 1 Carry Me Near Sleep System (~$200, assembly required), a bassinet that you can carry around the house and that also doubles as a changing table.
In hindsight, we could've probably done without it and gone straight for a crib (which we just got delivered anyway). But yes, it is very convenient to carry the baby around the house if you want to keep an eye on him at all times, and the changing table proved very useful. It also has this thing embedded in the handle that makes a bunch of soothing sounds (it runs on a couple of batteries), although it probably works better to calm the tired parents than a screaming baby.
I'd say it's a toss-up: if you want a bassinet, you can't go wrong with this one, but you may just as well get skip it and get the crib. Also, if you are expecting a bigger baby, he or she will outgrow it pretty fast -- it only lasted about two months for us. Overall, no complaints.
Separately, you'll need bassinet sheets (~$20?).
3. Car seat (~80). We live in the city and don't drive, and so we were a bit bummed out about having to get a car seat, but you can't even take the baby out of the hospital without one -- you'll need it for the cab ride back home. We got a Graco that doubles as the upper part of our stroller (see the note above). It comes with a base that you don't actually need as the seat has a couple of hooks for the seat belts built into it.
4. Bathtub (~$20). We got The First Year's Infant To Toddler Tub with Sling. It's an ok bathtub whose functional design could be much better. I don't see how one person can hold the baby's head, shield his ears from water, and do the washing all at the same time. This one looks like a better alternative, but also see if there are any tubs that offer some sort of head support. Also, get some soft washclothes and a towel.
5. Bottles and stuff (~$50). I think the only principled position we took about baby equipment was on bottles -- they had to be made of glass. We tried Avent plastic bottles that came with the sterilizer, but for a couple of weeks they were giving off a strong plastic smell after being sterilized, so we switched to Evenflo Classic 4 oz. Glass Nurser - 6-Pack (~$10). We also got a Born Free glass bottle as a gift -- these are great bottles but more expensive than Evenflo. Here's a pack of five for $45.
The Philips Avent Express II Microwave Steam Sterilizer (~$30) is great, though. Fill it up with a glass of water, pack it with bottles and pacifiers, and stick it into the microwave for three minutes and you are done.
You'll also need a cleaning brush for the bottles if you don't have one, but I don't know how much these cost.
6. Pacifier (~$3). A mind-boggling variety out there for something so simple, but pacifier is one thing you'll have to experiment with since the preference varies from baby to baby. Our hospital got us hooked on Newborn Soothie Pacifiers 2-pk, which is a simple one-piece silicone deal that gets the job done. I like how it comes in one soft piece so that baby can't hurt itself on the plastic ring when it falls out of baby's mouth while he's asleep.
7. Clothes (depends, but probably around ~$100 for the first three months). Not much advice that I can give here, except maybe for these two things.
After you've loaded up on cuteness, get some function. It's not easy to pull a onesie over an uncooperative's baby head, so get something you can easily manage when you are called to duty half-asleep in the middle of the night. Our hospital got us hooked on very manageable side-snap shirts, but those took time to find in retail since the hospital gets them from a wholesale supplier. These come close: 2-Pack Long Sleeve Side Snap Shirts (~$8).
Also very useful: baby sleeping bags (or sleep sacks, or whatever). These we discovered later in the process after the baby refused to stay swaddled or covered with a blanket. I'm not sure what exactly we have, but it's something like this.
Oh, and go easy on newborn-sized clothes -- babies grow frighteningly fast. Get size one and up.
A quick checklist: hats, socks, mittens (crucial to keep baby's nails off his face; you can use socks instead), pants, shirts, onesies (or side-snap shirts), swaddling blankets, bibs, a few washclothes and spit-clothes, sleeping bags.
8. Diapers (~$50). We realy like Pampers Swaddlers Sensitive Diapers (~$50 for a box of 136) that are equipped with a very helpful moisture indicator strip that changes color when nature has called. Amazon offers free shipping on these, but plan ahead since it takes about week for the diapers to arrive. At 10-12 changes a day, the box lasts just over a week. Sign up on Diapers site and they'll send you sporadic coupons.
Baby wipes (~35) We tried a Pampers variety but quickly switched to Huggies-Natural Care Baby Wipes (~$35 for 720). Huggies wipe sheets don't stick together as badly as Pampers so that you don't pull out five when you only need one.
9. Baby carrier (~$40). These things can cost anywhere from $30 to over $100, but the best advice I can give is get it from a store near you so that you can easily return it. We've are on our third one and it still doesn't fit right neither for us nor for the baby. Your mileage may vary, but if you get it off Amazon and it doesn't work, returning it will be a hassle.
10. Nuts and bolts (~$40): From a local drugstore: a baby thermometer, a nail-clipper, shampoo, baby powder (get a small pack first; baby might not like it), petroleum jelly (for the bum), rubbing alcohol, disinfecting wipes (for you and your guests), Q-tips, baby-friendly washing detergent. Toys don't really matter much in the first three months.
11. Book (~$12). If uncertainty terrifies you, What to Expect the First Year is pretty good. The Baby Owner's Manual is cute but nowhere as comprehensive. Makes a great daddy gift, though.