For what it's worth, I wanted to share a list of baby things that I found useful over John's first year:
I didn't even know what one of these was until our friends gave us one before John was born. I am so glad we got one because I wouldn't have known to look for it. John did not sleep without being swaddled until he was three or four months old. Without it he would flail his arms and wake himself up. It's like a cute little baby straight jacket!
We used this all the time in the first several months. After he learned to turn over we used it less and less because he wanted to be on the floor rolling hither and thither. I have never heard anyone say that the swing did not soothe their baby. John was a serious swinger:
For the first 4 months John slept in this beside our bed. But it has proven itself even more useful since then. I keep it in my car and take it almost everywhere. It is really compact. John will sleep in it anywhere whether for a nap or overnight. I don't know how typical this is of most children. It has been a huge help for me to be able to, for example, put John to sleep in it at my Tuesday night Bible study which I had to do several times when Peter was on call. (We didn't spend the night at the Bible study. I would wake him up and take him home and put him back to sleep in his crib. He's always been really good at going back down at night after waking up for whatever reason...)
There are so many variations of play yards with dangling objects. We referred to ours as John's farm. This is one of the first toys he was able to interact with starting at about 2 months. He was so cute laying on the floor batting at the dangling sheep and pig.
My suggestion is to keep several burp cloths in every room at arm's reach at all times. If your baby doesn't spit up a lot at first you might think, like I did, that he is a super-talented genius baby who is completely above regurgitation unlike all of those other regular babies. Then one day I read that infants often won't start spitting up until around 8 weeks. Sure enough, when he was two months old my smugness was doused in curdled milk. There was a month or two (maybe 3 or 4...) in which I smelled like sour milk all day everyday. Don't bother changing clothes unless you want to wash your entire wardrobe daily. Just get used to it. It will pass.
This was helpful to have mostly for my peace of mind. I didn't ever end up needing most of the milk I pumped. I pumped a lot because I wanted to ensure a good supply. But it was helpful to have milk on hand to send with him when I left him in the nursery at the YMCA or on the rare occasions that I wasn't around during feeding time. The main comment I wanted to make regarding breast pumps is to make sure to see if your insurance covers them. I got a Medela Pump in Style model which is over $200 in stores. The insurance I had in SLC covered it and I only had to pay a $30 copay.
We bought a BOB stroller. They are expensive but we found ours on craigslist with the car seat adapter and cup holder included for well over half-off the full price. I love this stroller. It helped me get back into shape. And, with its swiveling front wheel, it is much nicer to maneuver than a typical, four-wheeled stroller. It comes in handy when you find yourself involved in a high-speed chase on foot. You just never know what will happen when you go out for a walk.
There are a lot of variations on the bouncer as well. I can't find a picture of him in it, but John loved the Rain Forest Bouncer that we bought it at a consignment shop.
We got this for free from Peter's sister. John LOVED it. I still use it occasionally when I'm taking a shower. I've heard a lot of people say that their babies didn't like it. So I'd suggest borrowing one to try it out if possible.
We used this a lot during these months. I started feeding him rice cereal at 6 months. We didn't have a high chair until my mom bought us one at nine months. So we used the bumbo at pretty much every solid feeding for three months. He also liked to do some reading in the Bumbo:
These days John still uses some things from the earlier categories like the travel crib and jogging stroller. However, most of those things are stored in his closet. Since he is mobile now, he doesn't want to be confined in anything (like a swing or bouncer). I think a baby this age would be happy with any number of toys or non toys (e.g. tupperware, old cell phones...). But here are some things he has shown a particular interest in:
Things That Move
Obviously this is a very broad category. One example is a free wind-up car we received when Peter ran the Houston Half Marathon. John really likes it and now he will go retrieve it and bring it back to me to wind up again.
Touch and Feel or Flap Books
John seems most interested in books where he can feel different textures like Clifford's Furry Friends or books that have flaps to open like Dear Zoo. Three words: Half Priced Books
Almost all of these things we got for free or used. I totally recommend avoiding buying baby things new or full price. Babies go through stages, and products that accompany those stages, lightening fast. You can find a lot of baby items at consignment stores, craigslist or garage sales that are like new because they were probably only used for a few months. Then you can put all the money that you save on baby stuff into a college fund!
I'd love to hear any of your suggestions for toddler "must haves." Or even any baby items not on my list since we'll hopefully have another baby or two. (Though not within the next nine months as far as I know...)