I was told by a friend to get a good umbrella stroller, something small but sturdy. A newborn baby can't ride in it right away, but I got a Chicco umbrella that is about 60-$80. Not cheap compared to most umbrella strollers (I got mine used so it was less) but baby can ride in it pretty early because it reclines some and it has a shade and some storage below. I have used other umbrellas and I think my Chicco handles really well. I also had a BIG jogging stroller that I really liked, because compared to other joggers it was light. No jogger is actually light, and I don't know if everyone needs a jogger. Some moms like getting the travel system were the car seat matches and fits into the stroller. Either way, check out the weight ahead of time. Amazon.com has reviews and info on almost every stroller and they list size and weight. My big stroller wasn't made to fit with a particular car seat, but I read in one of the Amazon reviews that someone used it with the car seat I had and it fit well without an adapter of anykind. THis isn't as safe as one that actually locks in place because it was made to fit, so this one depends on your comfort level and how crazy fast and dangerous you plan to be with your stroller. So you might want to know what car seat you will use and then find a stroller that is either made for that or that will accommodate that. I took my car seat to the baby store and tried it out in different strollers to see if it would fit securely. Practice opening and closing and getting car seat in and out of the stroller. Some are a pain!
I lucked out and was given a Graco Snug Ride. Not sure if Graco has updated or changed the name, but I had to shop for a big girl car seat and found that I REALLY liked the way the Graco clasps connect the top of teh 5 point harness. Lots of cheaper seats had a top harness buckle that was like a button you push down to release the hold. By 18 months Lydia would have known to push the button! The Graco clasp you push down from the top and the bottom to release. She is now able to slide it together to fasten it herself, but she can't undo it herself. All that and it is actually easy for parents to clasp.
I got a DVD called the "happiest baby on the block." It shows a technique for soothing a baby with a weird little jiggly movement on their side. I was a HUGE help around 4 weeks when baby got really fussy, which was also when I was SO sleep deprived I was going CRAZY! Being a DVD it was easy to devote 20 minutes to watching it (when I would rather be sleeping) and I felt like I saw results right away. Even hubby got into the baby jiggling. The author suggests a larger size baby blanket to swaddle with. I bought a few in that size and really preferred them to the smaller standard size. You could probably google "swaddle blanket" to get the size to watch for if you aren't familiar with "HBOTB".
My favorite "surprise" piece of baby gear was this little timer thing called an "itzbeen". Probably cell phones and computers can be set up to do this too, (my phone does NOT have an ap for that!) but I bought this little thing and it had 4 buttons, one for feeding, one for diapers, one for sleep, and a bonus what ever you want it to be button. You could set each button to have a certain time that it counted down and every time you hit the button it would start that countdown. It would blink or beep if too much time had passed. So when I was really sleep deprived and crazy and stressed and the doctors tell you to monitor when they eat and sleep and poop it was my sanity. I felt like i knew if Lydia was crying because it was time to eat or if she was tired a little better. We quickly got her on a rhythm that made life easier and after a month or so I didn't use it anymore, but it was really helpful.
I liked using Playtex drop ins for bottles while Lydia was away from the house because I could stack the drop in liners together and have 6-8 liners and one liner holder take up the same space as one bottle. I put formula in pre-measured snack sized baggies, so that they were quick and easy and when it was used it was gone, instead of some plastic solid formula containers that take up the same amount of space full or empty. I would put 6-8 nipples in a ziploc and as they were used and dirty, they would go in one of the used ziplock from the formula packets. So she could have a full day of bottles and food in her diaper bag at daycare and it took up very little space.
If breastfeeding, I really liked having a cover up, but it had to fit in the diaper bag. i was given one that was a nice thin material, so not too hot in summer. It was basically the size of a baby blanket but has a weight sewn in one corner. That went over my shoulder to keep it in place and the rest was just a square of fabric, no weird attachments, so for me it doubled as a baby blanket if Lydia was cold (summer baby in the south with AC set too cold in too many places)
I did end up needing a swing. I was against them at first, thought I should be able to sooth my own child.....then reality set in! I really don't like how big and bulky they are, so I found a foldable swing that was made to work with my car seat (the graco snugride) It folded up and slid behind our furniture when not in use, but when i came home and Lydia was asleep in the car seat, I just carried the seat into the house, set the car seat into the unfolded swing and turned it on. SO nice!Standard stuff, like doorway bouncers, exercaucers are nice and not too different by brand.
I LOVE my baby gates. You don't need them until around a year, and most houses aren't weird like mine, but we have big open rooms, so no standard gate would work. I bought a super yard baby gate. It is really 6 panels connected together with one of the panels having a gate that opens and closes. So initially we stretched it across the opening to the living room and that room became her play area. You can make it any shape, so at Christmas it went out around the tree so she couldn't get into anything breakable. Later, when we were OK with her being on the first floor, we just sectioned off the bottom of the stairs. i bought it in wood (had to get it online for $120) but it matched our house and did many different jobs for about a year and a half. It is sturdy and not really showing wear so when I am done I feel like i can sell it and get my $ back. PS you can set it into a play pen configuration , take it outside, or use it for dogs, too!
I really liked having a video baby monitor. I found one where the video monitor part is shaped like a walkie talkie and you can carry it around. When Lydia was needing to cry herself to sleep, I could check in on her, with out her seeing me and getting more upset. I could also peak in without worry of waking her once she was asleep.
We had one of those plastic baby bathtub deals but no good place to put it and it took time to fill and was hard to empty when you had a wet cold baby in your arms, so i bought a little mesh and wire tub support that Lydia laid on in the big bathtub and we just filled the tub with a little water and the support stayed in the tub so no extra space needed. I really don't understand using anything but a shampoo and body wash combined. Who needs 2 bottles to deal with when you are an insane person from lack of sleep?Finally, I tried making my own fancy looking diaper bag, but it was so bulky and heavy. When I was breastfeeding I could get away with a smaller, messenger style diaper bag. I used the more manly looking one with the idea that PJ might actually be seen carrying it, didn't happen, so get what YOU like!!!! I upgraded to a bigger bag when Lydia was full blown in the middle of milk allergy madness and I had to pack an entire days food in her bag each day. I found a Loom Marsupial bag at a consignment sale. I liked it instantly because of its cool orange giraffe like pattern and its washable surface. It was expensive for consignment, so I was debating it, but a girl near me recognized the look on my face and shared that she had the same bag, paid four times as much for it, and LOVED it. I carried that bag everyday for almost 2 years and will carry it again with the next kiddo. It somehow so light, even when FULL, that I think it contains pixie dust.