1. Functioning arms/hands.
2. Diapers and wipes.
3. Milk-producing breasts.
Ok, but seriously, start with a small stash. I think that some of my best advice, courtesy of my dear friend Ms. Mary, was to hold off buying stuff until you find out your baby's preferences a bit. Something I might add is that many, many people will probably offer you their old baby stuff. We were fortunate to be gifted tons of pre-used items that saved a lot of money and also made us feel very supported by our friends. Fill in the gaps where your sanity is compromised after you're able to make that assessment and use Amazon Prime like crazy and develop a really good relationship with your UPS worker. Example: we bought a swing at around four weeks so that cooking/eating dinner together was a possibility, only AFTER learning that a swinging motion calmed Finn and often put him to sleep. Also note that I tend to take the slightly uninformed hippie-inspired route in which I attempt to use as many natural products as possible, as recommended to me not by science, but by reviews I've read online. Ok, here we go.
1. Car Sear. This will be one of your more expensive purchases and also one of your most important. No brainer here, people, you can't even take your baby home from the hospital without one. This was gifted to us so no specific recommendation here.
2. Crib & Mattress. Baby's gotta sleep somewhere. Of course there are lots of ideas floating around out there about how/when/where your baby should sleep. Finn spends a good part of most nights in his own bed and occasionally sleeps beside me when he takes more than 5 seconds to fall asleep after night feedings because I'm tired. We went the Ikea route here & here. No complaints here, other than I could definitely see myself happy with something smaller. The converts-to-toddler-bed seemed like a great idea at the time, but if you're going to have multiple kids, you'll have to have (at least) one other bed anyway so that convenience is kind of erased.
3. Crib Sheets & Mattress Protector. I made three fitted crib sheets and that has been a good number for us. I didn't realize how often I'd be changing those out, but we're also doing laundry more than ever so you might be able to get away with two. Don't forget some kind of waterproof mattress cover. Crib sheets are one of the easiest sewing projects ever and protector here.
4. Swaddling Blankets. Don't go crazy buying blankets because this is something people seem to gift a whole lot and you can also grab a stash from the hospital. The only three we purchased were these lightweight muslin wraps because I didn't want our August baby getting too warm in the standard flannel.
5. Bottles & Bottle Brush. Don't buy too many of any one bottle upfront. You won't know what bottle will work for your baby until you try a couple out. And while really, you can wash bottles by hand, bottle brushes are really inexpensive and make life a bit easier. Here & here.
6. Breast Pump. Another huge purchase. It is important to me to breastfeed my baby whenever humanly possible, so a breast pump was a must a) for when I went back to work and b) for taking a much needed break from incessant newborn feeding. Something else I didn't know I'd need it for was getting some relief while my milk regulated. I know that rental is a great option but mine was gifted to me by my very generous cousin. I have the Medela Pump In Style and while I don't have experience with any other pumps, I have zero complaints about this one. Easy to use, quick, inexpensive to replace parts, etc. etc. etc. If you're going to freeze breast milk, you'll need a way to store it as well. Here.
7. Tub, Soap & Towels. Parenting 101 kind of tells you that you have to keep your children clean(ish). I got this (sort of expensive) tub because it is easy to store in my itty bitty apartment. I bought the cheapest washcloths money can buy didn't buy a single towel because I received hand-me-downs. Baby sized towels are kind of silly though, because obviously a luxurious over-sized towel is way preferred to something tiny. We use one of our towels most often. Soap suggestions here, here & here. Again, you could save money here but I find myself choosing things of the hippie-persuasion.
8. Burp Clothes. I went cheapcheapcheap with inexpensive prefolds. I sometimes go through a few of these a day, plus stash one in the car, diaper bag, etc. Here.
9. Baby Thermometer & Tylenol. Buy it now, so that when your baby is screaming for hours and you can't figure out what's going on, you don't have to make a mad dash to Target late at night. Not that that happened.
10. Nose Asperator. This was given to me by the hospital so you might not end up needing to purchase one, but I wasn't sure and this seemed pretty important to have so I bought this goofy one that I'm excited (???) to use.
11. Nail Clippers. I'm trying to decide if it would be fair to say that clipping a baby's nails is the single most difficult job in this whole gig. Go easy on yourself and buy tiny clippers and then set a goal for yourself to clip one nail a day. No, seriously. Here.
12. Coconut Oil. I pretty much put this on... everything? Bumpy skin on Finn's face? Slather it on. Newborn skin flakiness? It went all over his body multiple times a day. Diaper rash? Yeah, it fixed that too. I have a big tub where we change diapers and keep a little tube of it in the diaper bag as well. Here.
13. Diaper Bag. You just need one. Lots of pockets are good because you'll be throwing all kinds of stuff in there and having to pull everything out to find what you're looking for would be a pain. A pocket dedicated to an always available pacifier has been life saving. The one we chose allowed for both Justin and I to walk around feeling like dignified adults. Here.
14. Diapers & Wipes. We been cloth diapering since the day that Finn's little umbilical cord stump fell off. Never looked back. I'll walk you through how that works in a separate post. Of course you don't have to do this, but you need these two things in one capacity or another.
15. Baby-Carrying Contraption. We were given a hand-me-down stroller that we have used a grand total of two times. Of course, I expect this to change when I'm no longer toting around a little 15 pound lump, but at least at this point, I find myself of the baby-wearing or carrying persuasion. My barely there understanding of child development tells me that this is probably a good idea. Snagged this thing used, but here.
Please notice the things I didn't mention socks, clothes, bibs, shoes, little play things, stuffed animals, etc. etc. etc. Don't buy this stuff! You will be given these things in bulk. Pretty amazing, right?
Things you can live without: fancy swaddling wraps with velcro, the most expensive baby carrier of all time, the white noise machine when you can just use a fan, changing table, breastfeeding pillow, I don't know whatever the hell people spend a gazillion dollars on. Of course all of these things may make your life easier and I can certainly understand why you'd want to use these things. I am simply saying that they aren't necessary and in fact life has been pretty OK without them.