When you're expecting your first child, you'll receive lists of "must-have" items to add to your registry. Apart from obvious needs like a crib and car seat, I'd like to share a few items that I've found invaluable so far. Consider adding these to your arsenal, and keep in mind when you get your next baby shower invitation.
Muslin swaddle blankets - These blankets are larger than typical receiving blankets, and made from soft, breathable muslin. They have a dozen uses - swaddling, car seat cover, nursing cover, blanket, to name just a few. Aden + Anais is a popular brand, but crafty types can even make their own. Grab a pack and keep one in the nursery, car, and diaper bag.
Kimono-style baby shirts or onesies - For new moms, it is intimidating to dress your child the first few times. You think they're fragile porcelain dolls and are afraid to move and bend them too much. Pulling a onesie over baby's head can be traumatic for the both of you until you get the hang of it. Have a few kimono-style (side-snap) shirts on hand until you get more comfortable with your little one. Also, avoid anything with buttons. Snaps are ok, but zippers are king.
A nursing pillow - Yes, even if you're not nursing, a nursing pillow like the Boppy is great to have on hand. Babies grow quickly, and before you know it, your little munchkin will be exceeding 11, 12, 13 pounds. You can't hold her all day, even though she'd like you to, so use a good nursing pillow to prop up your arms when needed. As baby grows, it can also be used for tummy time and helping her sit up.
A baby carrier and/or sling - There are dozens on the market and every mom has her favorite, so look around for one you like and be sure to get one that can be used with young infants (some require good head control or a weight minimum). As mentioned, your baby will want to be held often, but your arms and back will need a break. A fabric wrap like the Moby is portable and adaptable, and the Ergo carrier is easy and comfortable. You may find that when all else fails to soothe a crying baby, the warmth, closeness, and rocking motion of walking in a carrier puts her right to sleep. As an added bonus, you'll be able to get some chores done with two hands.
Smart phone with camera - For the first few months, mommy will feel like she is tied to the baby with constant feeding, rocking, bouncing, burping, cuddling. It's amazing to provide such comfort to your child, but moms need social interaction and mental stimulation, too (but not too much because we're tired). A smart phone lets you send email, play games, listen to music, and even shop online with one hand. A camera feature helps you capture those first smiles - and whoever says it's just gas can just shush.
A journal - Speaking of capturing memories, a journal is indispensable. When you're going on four hours of sleep and juggling numerous responsibilities, if you don't write it down, you may not remember it. I like this "one line a day" journal because free time is something of the past, and quickly jotting down a special moment from the day seems more realistic than writing pages full of my feelings.
Support - Whether it's a supportive and patient spouse, grandmother, or friend, you're going to need someone to call for even an hour break from time to time. Raising a baby is hard work and it's easy to let your own needs fall by the wayside. Enlist someone's help so you can grab a nap or just a few minutes to yourself. You'll be all the better for it.
This list is in no way complete, but just a few ideas to make your parenting life easier. I'll leave it up to you to decide whether a wipe warmer or baby jacuzzi makes your list. And trust me, you'll be visiting the baby stores frequently as you uncover more unexpected needs (and just an excuse to get out of the house).