I know that posts saying "you cannot live without this thing" are silly, but these are my favorite baby items. Have a friend's baby shower coming up? Expecting? Please consider adding these to your list. No joke. And no compensation is being received for my endorsements; this is a spontaneous "OMG I love this stuff" post.
The names for these items are mine, but I will try to direct you to where you can find 'em.
The $2 Garanimals ball from Wal-Mart: here's some discussion.
Babies can hold on to this and enjoy trying to cram it in their mouths. No joke, this is a huge favorite of Fletch's and has been since he was less than a month old. I keep a spare, because he has been able since he was 2 months old to chuck the darn thing out of his carrier and into the stratosphere, evidently. There's a $5 version that includes rattles and garishly clashing colors, which is wonderful once baby is big enough (by 3 months.) I hear you may be able to find these listed as "O-balls." That fact alone should make you run out and buy one. Or two, for when the baby throws one out of the carrier and you have to say "oh, balls." (And these are great cat toys as well.)
The Fisher-Price Miracle Seahorse: link here
This thing is the snooze button that works on babies. If baby is restless and you need 5 minutes more sleep, or to run heat up some milk, or to pee before you change the diaper -- touch its tummy and the glow and music will keep baby soothed for those 5 minutes. I am amazed. It's like magic. Supposedly, it will keep being fun for him until he's 3 or so. Gosh, I hope so.
The Donut: link here
This is like a bean bag custom tailored to your baby's shape, only it's firm. They can't use it long -- Fletch outgrew his at about 13 lbs. because he learned to slouch dangerously. But it's terrific for their comfort while hanging out watching the parental units chillin' by the TV.
That Thing Uncle Dave Got Him For Christmas: link here
It's a teether. It's a rattle. It's very grabbable. It's a little heavy until your youngster is 3 1/2 or 4 months old, but then... oh, then, THEN it starts to hold their attention. And it's interesting for the parental units to noodle around with, too. Seriously, look at it! How cool is this thing?!
Baby Einstein Gift Set: link here
Grandpa and Grandma LouAnn got him this extravagant set for Christmas. Well, not EXACTLY this set, but a similar set (Baby Einstein seems to swap out hot toys for other hot toys). Every toy in the set is quality and made with a baby in mind. However, the specific toys you really want from the set (so far) are the goofy, cartoonish-looking red bird that plays beautifully recorded birdsongs when you squeeze its tummy, and the hard plastic light-up radio thing with the caterpillar on the handle, which plays numerous kid-able songs that you WON'T hear on every other noisy-toy you own. Wonderful, and Fletch finds everything in the set worthwhile.
Sophie the Giraffe: link here
Everybody has this toy. It should be issued with babies. That's because it's inoffensive: it doesn't stink, it makes a squeak but it's a PLEASING squeak, and it can be chewed, loved, and washed a million times. Fletch has been able to clutch this since Grandma gave it to him for Christmas. It's adorable, too, however soulless the eyes may look on first glance.
Big Fuzzy Blanket: link here
Got this as a hand-me-down from sister Alicia. It's soooooooo soft and big and fuzzy and lovely. Don't let the word "chamois" fool you -- it's butter-soft polyester velvety stuff and feels like a dream. Do babies care how soft their blankets are? Possibly, possibly not, but this is the ultimate snuggle lure for grandparents. I wish I had one in grown-up size. I'd never leave the couch. But this one is big enough to throw over my shoulder and breasts AND cover Fletch with nicely when we nurse.
Tommee Tippee Bottles: link here
If you bottle-feed the baby, let it be with one of these. Honestly, these are outstanding. The one down side is that the shape makes it difficult to get the cream residue out of the bottle when washing it, so it requires extra elbow-grease to get it clean. But you won't care. It's so nice for baby.
Simplisse Breast Pumps: link to the electric double pump here
Full disclosure: I have a Medela Pump-In-Style. It's a workhorse. And I hate it. It tugs at me and I feel bruised after a pumping session. That said, I produce enough milk with it to have to donate the surplus... so how bad can it be?! However, after a power outage that left me engorged and sleepless, I decided to get a manual pump. I bought a Simplisse one because its ad copy is irresistible. AND I LOVE IT. The pump feels like a baby's mouth and face: soft, very gentle suction if any, and stimulating enough to encourage natural let-down. Using this thing once every few days has trained my breasts to let down milk so well that my production, even with the Medela, has boomed. I wish I had the double electric. Some users don't have much luck with it and they say it's loud as hell, but it's still very tempting to an exclusively-pumping mom like me.
Microfleece Sleep Sacks: link to one such is here
Babies aren't allowed to have blankets when they sleep, which means you aren't allowed to have your house much below 70 degrees at night. Ugh. Yuck. Even so, baby will get cold unless well zipped into a wearable blanket. Here it is, the safety snuggie for little bears. Great stuff! There's also the elasticized-bottom t-shirt fabric version, which is adorable on babies but neither warm enough nor un-kickable-offable enough for Fletch. Fleece fleece fleece.
That's all I can think of. Anyway, here you go! Baby goods!