My sister-in-law Sarah is having her first little one and has asked for baby booty advice... And, okay, she asked for this advice like a month ago. Possibly two months ago... So, I'm a bit late in sharing it. But I blame Blogger the Terrible Post Draft Eating Monster and the holidays. And my own lameness, but let's not dwell on that...
My number one useful baby item would have to be some kind of sling, wrap and/or carrier. I highly recommend having a sling or wrap for newborns and small infants. I personally had a Moby Wrap and I loved it! Not only was it amazingly comfortable, but I discovered that the wrap was perfect for soothing and nursing infants in public without flashing nip - especially helpful in Mass. Additionally, carrying the baby around in the wrap left my hands free to do dishes, laundry, email, etc. It was fantastic! With the wrap, I didn't have to worry about lugging around a stroller for at least the first 6 months of Joseph's life. I did have to take the time to tie the wrap into place, but I really didn't mind it at all. This product was extremely versatile and I depended heavily on it.
Of course, as little man got bigger and more mobile, the stretchy wrap became less practical. At this point, I made myself a non-stretchy wrap and tried out back carrying. This worked, but overall I found that this took a little more effort and that positioning the baby was a little more nerve-wracking than with front carrying. However, I've heard very good things about the Ergo carrying pack from multiple friends and family and would suggest trying that out (especially for stay at home parents). It's perfectly manly and could potentially suit grouchy fathers... er... I mean Rob.
The next most useful product I had was probably my portable changing pad (which I have since lost and will probably replace before the next baby). This thing fits 4-5 diapers, a small travel case of wipes, butt cream, and a spare onesie. It's a perfect grab and go baby item for short trips away from the house (i.e. grocery store, church, library, park, etc.)
Next, I would recommend some kind of of portable bouncy seat or cradle. Nothing large and clunky, and if it can be folded up or quickly dismantled for easy transport, all the better. I used this with Joseph before he became mobile and it traveled all over the house with me. If I was making dinner, then this would be sitting up on the kitchen counter. If I was folding laundry, then it would be sitting on the coffee table in the living room. Also, in the first few months when Joseph was waking up every few hours for feedings and his room wasn't yet ready, he slept in this on the floor on my side of the bed. It was easy to grab him, feed him, and put him back when I was half conscious. And whenever we traveled away from home for the weekend, I brought this along for Joseph to sleep in since it took up less space than the pack and play. And if the kid falls asleep, you can easily pick up the whole seat and put him in the crib ;).
Since our nursery was upstairs and I spend a large portion of my day downstairs, I had the pack and play set up in our living room for the first six months or so. It provided me with a quick and easy changing station and was a convenient place to lay Joseph down whenever he took a nap or I just needed to free up my hands for a moment. When Joseph became more mobile and started walking around, I used the pack and play whenever we traveled away from home for naps and bedtime. It (usually) breaks down and sets up quite easily and I think I got plenty of good use out of it.
A swing is not essential, but it sure was nice to have around. Joseph fell asleep in that thing quite often. I loved it so much that I lugged it all the way to Myrtle Beach with us. I didn't like that it ran on batteries and couldn't be plugged in and, if given the chance to choose again, I would find the smallest, most compact, travel friendly swing on the market (similar to what Young House Love used for their daughter Clara) since swings take up a lot of space. UPDATE: I have recently been informed that you can purchase a swing with a detachable chair that doubles as a portable bouncy seat. If I were trying to save space in my house and I were you, I'd jump on that!
A car seat is essential, of course. I have a Graco in a gender neutral pattern and haven't had any issues with it. I personally found having two bases wonderful. Sanity saving even. I didn't have to worry about constantly seat belting in the car seat or who took what car or anything like that. It was fantastic. However, Stephen drives our primary travel car and I did most of the daily infant transportation, so we found two bases to be extremely convenient. Two bases may not be necessary for you guys since Rob will be doing most of the infant transporting and also drives your primary traveling car. It will have to be your judgment call.
Strollers are great, but I hardly ever used mine for the first 6 months because I found my wrap so much more expedient. Of course, if you are going to be somewhere where you'll be walking around ALL DAY, then you'd want your stroller, not your wrap. However, you don't need a big clunky one. An umbrella stroller would probably work just fine. I've found that the stroller is more useful with older babies and toddlers because you can go on walks and go to and from the park or library easily. I had the clunky stroller that came as a part of my car seat travel system, and that was really nice, but seemed like overkill every time I had to load it into the back of the car. Though, when choosing, I would make sure that the wheels can handle grass.
As a working mother, you are absolutely going to need a breast pump. From what I've been told and from what I've researched, Medela is one of the best breast pump brands and is used by most hospitals. I had a small, lightweight single Medela breast pump for home and it was great, but you are going to need something much more heavy duty. I had a long conversation with an old family friend who was working full time, commuting to DC, and pumping constantly who swore by Medela's double breast pump back pack for working moms. I would look into renting one to test it out and make sure breastfeeding works for you guys before you drop a ton of money on the thing. Rob is going to need bottles and a bottle warmer (not essential, but convenient), but I've been told some babies can be picky about the bottle nipple, so you may want to wait and see?
A baby bath is nice to have to support a squirmy infant in the tub, but not totally necessary. Really, all you need is a sink. My tub was a hand me down which I used until Joseph learned to sit up and got to big for it, then I just simply placed him in the bath tub. Don't register for or buy a baby tub though, as I'm pretty sure I have two up in the attic and you can have one if you want it.
I love my high chair. It worked beautifully from the time Joseph was 6 months old until he started sitting at the table and was super easy to clean. It was on easy to maneuver wheels and could be taken anywhere on the first floor. If you want the specific brand name, you'll have to wait until I dig it out of the attic for baby number 2 because I'm completely at a loss.
However, it did take up room in the kitchen and you might prefer to use a chair that either clips onto your dining room table or can be latched onto one of your kitchen chairs. This is a really terrific option and great way to save space.
Baby play grounds, exersaucers, etc. are not really necessary, but they have their uses. I didn't actually register for any for the baby shower, but I was given plenty of hand-me-down play mats and exersaucers and such. They do make for a nice place to set the baby down when you need to free up your hands for something and they do help to entertain the baby for decent periods of time.
baby laptop is optional
I'd say I got the most use out of the exersaucer. Making lunch? Set Joseph in the exersaucer in the middle of the kitchen. Gardening outside? Working on the house? Set Joseph in the exersaucer in the shade so I can watch him and we can hang outside together without him eating grass or crawling into danger.
I didn't have a changing table, just a dresser with a contoured changing pad. This worked very well for me and I got plenty of use out of it.
Many parents swear by certain pacifiers, but I would start off with a test pacifier. You never know if the baby will take to pacifiers. Joseph only used his sparingly for the first few months and then gave them up entirely. This may have been partly due to my influence, but he just never became attached to them. You will also have to research and decide whether you want to use pacifiers while breastfeeding. Some articles suggest that it can lessen you milk production. I didn't have any issues with Joseph's food intake and nutrition with the pacifier, but then, I didn't really rely on it.
I've heard a lot of good things about velcro swaddling blankets (which sound AWESOME!), but I just had regular baby blankets and didn't really feel like I was missing out on anything. Maybe if I find a snazzy velcro swaddling blanket at the thrifts, I'll try it out with the little miss this time around.
We kept an air purifier in nursery and it was great because it provided white noise for nap times and bed times. We didn't have to worry that our incessant hammering, drilling, and cutting would wake up the little man.
You are going to want to baby proof before the small child becomes mobile. Cabinet locks really do the trick to keep your child from swallowing poisonous cleaning supplies, but you may want to consider the rest of your lower cabinets as well...
The moment Joseph started to become mobile, we put up our stair gates. I'd do research to see which gate is considered the safest right now. I chose our gates after checking Consumer Reports for the best rated gate and they've worked terrifically with our staircase. We have Kidco Safeway gates, but I'm pretty sure the gate at the top of the stairs leading into the kitchen is going to be tricky for you guys, so you should really look into finding gates that suit your staircase needs.
I think you have two have enough medical knowledge to take care of acquiring thermometers, bulb syringes, and other basic first aid stuffs. I personally had a temporal thermometer and I really liked it!
I have a Sony Baby Call monitor in the nursery. The receiver mostly stays in my bedroom these days, but followed me around the house when Joseph was little. It has the potential for multiple channels and a "voice activated" feature so I don't have to constantly listen to static. This is actually my second monitor and seems quite sturdy. My first was a Graco and didn't hold up under my constant dropping. It's range also sucked. I haven't really had to test out the range of my current monitor yet, but I'm sure I'll get the chance when the little miss comes.
Lastly, I had a Boppy which was given to me as a hand me down. I used it some for nursing in the early days when Joseph was itty bitty and could just lie across my lap while nursing. He needed to be propped up and the Boppy did help save my arms from getting crazy tired. However, I'd say that the Boppy was mostly used for propping Joseph up when he was lying on a blanket or first learning to precariously sit up. I don't think it was an essential item, but it was useful. It also makes for a lovely crown:
UPDATE: Most mom's need a diaper bag. The portable changing pad works wonders for short trips, but if you going to be away from home for the day, you're going to need more supplies. I have gone through several different incarnations of a diaper bag. My favorite out of all of them is a very basic open bag layout with side pockets, but NO zippers or latches or hooks. I don't want to have to bother with trying to get something open while juggling a small baby. It does not have to be huge!
When leaving the house for the day, you need to pack diapers, wipes, butt cream, and (depending on how well you kid regurgitates food) one to two changes of clothes. When I was breastfeeding, I didn't pack bottles or snacks, just my wrap for discrete feeding. When Joseph got older, I stopped packing the wrap and started packing snacks, a sippy cup, and one board book. I almost always try to have a few basic first aid things in my bag - baby tylenol and a bulb syringe. When he got older, I started carrying an age-appropriate cough syrup and bandaids/neosporin as well. My bag isn't huge and the open layout works for me. Strangely, having the open layout prevents it from becoming a bottomless pit and it stays organized. I'm always able to find what I'm looking for in a snap.
Anyways, that covers most everything. If I think of anything else, I'll email you!