We'll start with baby-registry philosophy:
1) Borrow as much as you can.
Seriously, that baby stuff gets used for such a short period. Some items to consider borrowing: Snap n Go stroller frame, bouncer seat, swing, exersaucer, infant gym/activity mat, infant tub.
2) Put any splurge item on your registry. You never know, someone might (and probably will) buy it for you.
3) Anything that sounds unnecessary while you're pregnant probably is unnecessary once you have a baby. Think: wipe warmers, bottle warmers, bottle sterilizers, baby food makers (use a blender), nursing covers (use a blanket). We tried to limit how many baby-specific items we brought into the house. You hear it so many times, but it is true that babies just really don't need THAT much.
4) Resist the urge to buy a bunch of 3-month baby clothes because that's what everyone's going to get you.
5) Consider registering with Amazon. Although we solely created our registry through Buy Buy Baby (still totally hate that store's name) and we had a good experience, now that the majority of people I know order their gifts from an online registry I think Amazon is the way to go.
6) Do not open/use anything before you need to and save all gift receipts. We definitely could have returned some items if I hadn't been so determined to have everything cleaned and ready to go before Nat was born.
Now on to categories of items:
1) bottles - 3 4oz and 3 8oz. We like Dr. Brown's bottles.
4) I'd hold off on buying a breast pump, if you're considering breast feeding, and rent the awesome ones from the hospital if needed. I'd hate to have a $300 pump lying around that I never used. You can always buy later. (Edit: After publishing this, Matt reminded me that breast pump rentals are now included under Obamacare, so rent away!)
5) hands free pumping bra - bring this to the hospital just in case
7) burp cloths!
8) Boppy pillows -- I liked using these while nursing and while bottle feeding. We own one and borrowed one. Get an extra slipcover.
9) toddler feeding: 6 baby spoons and 6 baby forks; Oxo Tot bowls with lids and divided plates with ledges (all microwaveable!), Munchkin snack traps, Baby Bjorn plastic bibs (pack of 2), several types of sippy cups to try out, Kiddopotamus Tinydiner placemat
3) crib mattress pad (2)
4) crib sheets (2 or 3)
5) Pack n Play is great to have for travel and/or bassinet sleeping (we got the kind with the bassinet insert that Nat slept in inside our room for first six weeks)
6) Pack n Play sheets (2), we like the quilted kind
1) rocker and ottoman
2) dresser that can serve as a changing table (put a changing pad on top [these can be screwed into the furniture], and don't forget 2 changing pad covers).
4) organizational items (baskets, etc. for closet/toys) -- We have my childhood toy box, and it's one of the best baby items we own.
5) clothes hamper
1) people love to give blankets, so try not to put too many on your registry. We got one set of 4 Aden + Anais swaddle blankets and that was more than we needed. You could put one set on your registry but don't add more (because you might get a bunch you want to return)
2) Kiddopotamus SwaddleMe -- these are like little baby pods that take the guesswork out of swaddling. Start with 2.
3) Halo sleep sack-- start with one or two in different sizes. Fleece for wintertime is nice, and the newborn ones with wings for swaddling are nice.
4) Aden + Anais muslin sleeping bags for spring/summer -- again, start with one or two in different sizes.
5) A few infant gowns for making night diaper changes super easy in the beginning.
6) White noise machine -- we have the Cloud b Sleep Sheep, but a simple idea is to take an old iPod and inexpensive speakers and load up some white noise apps.
1) infant bath tub (if possible, borrow)
2) several baby wash cloths
3) a hooded towel -- This was the most common gift we got after Natalie's birth. We received 5 in addition to the 2 we already had on hand. Don't buy too many of these.
4) a body wash/shampoo combo. We like Burt's Bees.
Gear (for much more specific gear advice, check out Baby Bargains)1) Stroller -- Start with one stroller. Consider your lifestyle seriously. Are you really going to jog with your baby? If so, good for you, and definitely get a jogging stroller. But if you are like me and had zero intention of jogging with your baby, do not waste the money or space on a jogging stroller. We started with a Maclaren Triumph umbrella stroller and are still using that as our one and only stroller. Many friends have used convertible strollers that have a space for the infant car seat (or an add-on attachment that holds the infant car seat) and then the child can sit in the main stroller part when it's older and can sit up better (most likely around 6 months old).
2) Infant car seat -- at first I thought our car seat was huge in our old, small car. Then we bought a new, big car, and our car seat still seems big. We have also used other car seats in SUVs, etc. Moral of the story: No matter what kind of car seat you get, they are big. We got the Graco Snug Ride 35 and Nat is still in it at nearly 15 months. At least we haven't needed to buy our next car seat yet and we're getting our money's worth out of the Graco seat. For what it's worth, babies are now recommended to be rear-facing for the first two years. So, when you buy your second car seat (likely a convertible when your child is between 1 and 2 years old) it will still ideally be backward-facing. Pain.
3) extra car seat base
4) Ergo carrier -- Not a necessity, bit of a splurge, but I love this thing (makes shopping way easier!), and Nat can still fit in it and it doesn't cause me discomfort. Buy or borrow the infant insert.
5) Pack n Play (see Bedding above)
6) High chair -- still loving our Stokke Tripp Trapp, though Nat would probably tell you that anything that is meant to contain her is something she does not like. We bought the Stokke Table Top (an expensive plastic place mat that we fortunately found on a major sale) and Stokke Tripp Trapp Baby Set. I am so glad we don't have a traditional high chair that takes up a ton of space. A good alternative to the Stokke sets is a booster seat (with an attached tray) that can snap on to a chair at your dining table.
7) a place to put your baby when you're showering -- this is one of those items I recommend borrowing. An inexpensive bouncer seat will do the trick.
6) if cloth diapering, I recommend the Bum Genius Diaper Sprayer.
7) wipes -- I like getting the Huggies Natural ones that are sold in bulk at Costco.
8) enough disposable diapers to get you started -- you'll probably need some newborn-size diapers, but you'll likely need way more size 1 diapers. The hospital will give you some, and guests visiting you right after you have the baby can always bring some along, too.
8) set of 2 Soothie pacifiers, just in case!
9) AngelCare Movement and Sound Monitor -- this made me sleep well knowing my baby wasn't dying of SIDS.
11) if you have stairs in your home, get baby gates. We went with KidCo Angle Mount Safeway Gate. It's easier to have them and install them before the baby arrives, if at all possible.
12) outlet covers
13) cabinet locks
Clothes -- seriously, do not buy baby clothes. Everyone else wants to buy you baby clothes. Your job is just to fill in the gaps and get your clothes-shopping fix when your kid is 9 months old and everyone has forgotten about you and your kid. That said, here are some items for the beginning:
1) Kimono-style long-sleeve T-shirts -- for baby to wear before the umbilical cord stump falls off. The Gerber brand has fold-over sleeves.
2) A pack of 5 onesies, size 0-3 months, to wear under clothes
3) Trumpette socks -- These are still the only socks that consistently stay on Nat. I would add 2 sets of these to a registry (a set contains 6 pairs). They are fun to buy and expensive, so they made a great gift.
4) borrow some zip-up newborn onesies. After you have the baby you might buy some more. Having about 5-7 of these on hand will keep you from doing laundry every day.
5) no-slip baby clothes hangers -- I think we have about 50.
My philosophy here was to put some of each on our registry so that people would get a sense of our "style." I don't know that this actually happened, but it has been helpful for me when buying for friends. For example, my friend who put 20 wooden toys on her registry clearly wants wooden toys. All the books we put on our registry helped reduce how many duplicate books we received.
1) Baby 411
3) a free BabyLog app
4) If you have a digital SLR camera, I'd recommend getting the 50 mm f/1.4 lens for your camera for indoor and action shots. This is the single best item we have for our family.
5) A subscription to Amazon Prime.
6) A Netflix subscription or another stock-piled collection of several seasons of several shows you plan to watch while your baby sleeps 18 hours per day during its first few months of life.
Clearly, our experience is not universal, and what worked for us may not work for you, but I hope this list helps get you started!