I use these for everything. As a blanket, cover from the sun, to swaddle, mop up sick, over my shoulder when burping, tummy time blanket, as a sheet, under his head while feeding (milk tends to leak everywhere)...the list could go on forever. I have bought most of my swaddles from Aden & Anais, but also have some really cute London print ones from Piccalilly. We have over ten of these, which may seem excessive, but even with a white load of washing going on 4-5 times a week I still sometimes have no spare ones in the cupboard.
We didn't have one of these when James was first born, but it would have saved a lot of stress if we had. We bought the Graco Duet Rocker when he was a few weeks old and it's made my life so much easier. I could not get half the things around the house done without it and sometimes it soothes him more than cuddling him. It also comes with a bar that you can hang toys off of!
These are the only dummies James seems to like and they come with a microwave steaming box. I know some people are against dummies, but they work well for James either for spacing out feeds or if we're out and he's unhappy or unsettled in the pram they help to comfort him till I can pick him up. I used to feel guilty or like I was doing something wrong giving him one, but now I just think if my baby likes them then it shouldn't matter what anyone else thinks!
A changing table/station
We originally just had a changing mat that we pulled out on the bathroom floor when we needed it, but this was so impractical for us. So we bought a £25 table from Ikea that is fabulous and makes life a lot easier (even though it takes up what little room we have in our bedroom).
Mamas and Papas Acqua two stage ergo bath
This bath has a side for your newborn to lay in and a side for when your baby is sitting up. It's great because you don't have to hold your baby while they're in the bath which leaves your hands free to wash them, grab their towel..etc. The only downside is that it is huge!
Milton AntiBacterial Handgel
I love this handgel as it doesn't seem to dry my hands out. I always have a bottle at our changing table.
Lots of sleepsuits and bodysuits
This does depend on your lifestyle, but we spend lots of our time at home at the minute, so I don't put James in an outfit everyday. And, for the first month I didn't have any outfits for him, just sleepsuits because it was so much easier! He's also quite prone to drinking too much milk and spitting it back up and also having massive poo explosions! Although we do lots of washing throughout the week, we're often running out of sleepsuits. My favourites are from Next as they have built in scratch mitts, aren't stupidly expensive and wash really well. The best quality have to be Jojo Maman Bebe, but at £15 a pop, I doubt I'll be buying many more of them - I bought most of James' off EBay for half the price six months ago. As for bodysuits, I just go for the £2,75 basic white 3-pack from Tesco.
This removes all the poo stains from white clothes and gets rid of bacteria, but it is quite harsh on clothing so I only use it on items that really need it.
Do you have any essentials you couldn't live without when your baby first arrived?