Keep in mind that we did things a little "offbeat" - co-sleeping, no nursery, cloth diapering for 6 months, etc.
1. Carriers. I'm lumping these together because I found each of them to be most helpful at different stages of babyhood. For newborn Declan, there was nothing better than the Moby Wrap. I wore that thing alllll the time. It cuddles and cradles them, plus it's super comfy. When he was a little older (and the weather was hotter, making the Moby Wrap suffocating) we used and loved both the Ergo and the Kokopax backpack. He still fits comfortably in the backpack, and I recently got a regular old sling (on mega-sale from SevenSlings) and it is awesome for carrying him on my hip.
2. Pacifiers. Before you click away because you're anti-paci, hear me out. I was anti-paci, too. Before Declan was born, we had exactly one pacifier, it had been a gift from my doctor's office. It was hidden away in a drawer somewhere; I fully expected to never use it. For the first 6 weeks or so, we didn't use a pacifier. At that point, I was on the verge of absolutely going nuts. Declan was nursing every 30 minutes to an hour, basically back-to-back. Someone suggested trying a pacifier, to see if it was just the sucking that he wanted, and not milk. It was the golden ticket. He started nursing every 3-4 hours. My preferred pacis are Avent Freeflow, but we've used everything from Nuks to Soothies.
3. A great stroller. For the first few months, I didn't use the stroller much, because I always wore him. But as he got heavier, and when we moved to a small town where everything is within walking distance, I learned to love my Jeep Liberty 3-wheeled stroller. It's a breeze to steer and push (I've pushed other people's strollers - there's a huge difference!), it's comfy for baby (can lean all the way back), has plenty of storage space, cupholders, and best of all, speakers that you can plug your iPod into! I would buy it again, given the same budget. If I had unlimited money, my dream stroller is the Bumbleride Indie.
4. Boppy. You may find it strange that the Boppy is so high on my list, but the fact is that we've used it since he was about 4 hours old, and are still using it today. In the early days, it was great for supporting my arm while I cradled him, whether nursing or just holding him. When he was a little bigger, I started using it to prop him up during naps - it was the only way he'd sleep for more than 15 minutes outside of my arms. I still put him in it for naps, although he does sleep okay laying flat. When he falls asleep in my arms, I like to lay him on the couch next to me rather than in the bed in the other room, and I feel safer laying him on the couch in the Boppy, so that he can't fall off.
5. Baby food grinder. It was awesome to be able to just stick some of the food that I made for us grown ups into the `, rather than buy jars of separate (and questionable) baby food. Of course, I did buy baby food sometimes (like when we would travel, or if he needed prunes), but I loved having the grinder there when I needed it.