ZoloWear Sling: a ring sling that is super easy to adjust, wash, and carry. Easy and discreet for nursing newborns in public, useful even at 11 months for Dominic (we use it when we take him to Mass, and I sometimes walk with him around the block in it). Pretty much any ring sling will work this way, but I recommend finding one (like the Zolo) that has a zipper pouch for 1 diaper, wipes, keys, and cell while you're out and about.
5 Yards of Jersey Cotton from the Fabric Store: Use it like the Sleepy Wrap or the Moby Wrap, and get two for the price of one when you cut it in half. Share one with your friend who just had a baby. This option divides the weight on both shoulders, so it is easier on the back. I was able to nurse Dominic as a newborn in this one sometimes (hit or miss) and it was tricky to get him into it when he was wailing to eat. This one is nice for carrying forward facing after 4-6 months, carrying on your back, or carrying mom-facing. It is much more tricky to get the baby in and out of, especially if you are also trying to worry about a diaper bag or shopping bags.
Amby Baby: pretty expensive "cocoon sleeper," suspended by a spring, so when baby wakes or stirs in the night, it gently rocks according to baby's movements. Dominic slept through the night around 2 months in this... very comfy for him. He outgrew it around 6 months when he was ready to sleep on his tummy on his floor bed. We bought ours on craigslist for less than half the retail price, and very gently used. They've been recalled, and they promise a fix, so keep an eye out for that.
Montessori Floor Bed:basically an IKEA 3-part twin mattress on the floor in a totally baby-safe room. This concept allows for the most freedom of movement and independence for infants. We like that when Dominic wakes up he can play in his room happily right when he wakes up (no fussing to get him out of a crib). A challenge has been that we didn't start a good bedtime routine early, so when he became mobile he would crawl off and become fussy from being so tired and wound up. It took a lot of will power to stick with it, and it is getting to a point that we can leave the room with him awake but drowsy and he goes to sleep on his own. An added bonus is that he will sometimes crawl over to it and fall asleep on it completely unprompted, while he is playing independently in his room (with me down the very short hall on the computer).
Maxi Cosi Mico Infant Carrier: releasing this from the base is a little trickier than the Graco or Chicco. The seat is very comfy for the baby, and the design is very mod. Canopy/sunshade only extends half-way, which is a bummer sometimes.
For a travel system we used it with:
Maxi Cosi Pearle Stroller: an Umbrella style stroller that also adapts to hold the infant carrier. This is a one shop stroller that is infinitely smaller than the typical "travel system." Easy to maneuver while shopping or out in pedestrian areas (Rice Village, Galleria, Airports, you name it, we've maneuvered this there!) This is ultra-compact for storing in the car or house (or apartment).
We loved this system for traveling with a 7 month old (that's why we switched to it, actually). Dominic was small enough for the infant carrier, but the other travel system was too bulky/heavy to maneuver easily through an airport (with luggage) while also stowing under the plane easily. This and the carseat both fit into the same travel stroller bag (made for the larger travel system strollers only... so it is one less case to store if you will be flying with a baby).
Other Carseats/Strollers we tried:
Graco Snug Rider Infant Carrier: pretty comfy carseat for infants, easily removable/washable cover, full range sun sheild/canopy (very nice!). Handle a bit uncomfortable if carrying hooked over your elbow... only one side is rounded, the other has an uncomfortable edge, which was totally lame when out and about.
Baby Trend Snap'n'go Stroller: lightweight stroller frame specifically for use with infant carriers; it does not have a seat, so it is pretty much finished when the child outgrows the infant seat (around 20-23 lbs). Much easier to maneuver in tight spaces than a travel system stroller, and much simpler to load/unload from the car. When folded it takes up half the space of a typical travel system stroller, takes up twice the space of the Maxi Cosi Pearle, but weighs about half as much as either of the other strollers.
Graco Metrolite Stroller: the lightest of the big travel system strollers (that we found, anyway), though it is still quite cumbersome. It was really bulky, despite its smaller size, and too big for tight maneuvering (like shopping at a mall, IKEA, or on tight sidewalks). We quickly ditched this, although it may be a nice stroller for older children if you are interested in a big stroller for outings at grassy parks or on rough terrain? I just can't see myself having enough trunk space for it, even if it is a little more cushy for the baby! The storage under the seat was easy to get to, the shade was nice, and the handle was adjustable, if you are looking for this type of big stroller.
IKEA Antilop: The least expensive high chair option on the market ($20, or $25 with tray), the most compact/collapsible, and the most practical. Completely made of plastic and metal legs, this is the most parent friendly high chair. It is totally wipe-able, there is no padding or crevices to trap crumbs or splatters. It has a detachable tray, or it can be used pulled up to a table. Cushions can be purchased separately and are machine wash/dry-able; the cushion makes the fit a little better for smaller babies or those who are just learning to sit independently. My parents got this one as a spare for Dominic to use, and now it is Riley's high chair, and they are going to be donating their $200-300 high chair to Project Gabriel because this one is so good. It renders pricey Peg Perego highchairs obsolete! I even saw it in a parenting magazine as the top pick. Today we wiped some week-old goo off of this thing without any scrubbing... heaven!
IKEA Spolling: This is the first highchair we bought for our house because it folds flat (to fit against the wall in a tight space). It does not have a tray, and it is made of a wipeable or machine washable fabric seat on a metal folding frame. This one is really cute and has a handy pocket on the back, but the lack of tray and crevices in the fabric make it more difficult to manage... It costs 2x the Antilop, and we're thinking about cutting our losses and buying the Antilop to replace it. You may be interested in the idea of just pulling your kid up to the table, but in the end you'll probably prefer a tray on the high chair to contain the mess.
IKEA Leka Baby Gyms (Soft and Wooden): I recommend getting both. Dominic has LOVED the wooden one, and now that he is starting to walk, he will push it along the wood floors and pull up on it to play with the hanging toys from above. When he was younger he loved the soft baby gym at my parents' house. It was a nice pad to lay him on, easily machine washable, and the attached and removeable toys were very entertaining for him, the toy arch was also detachable if you just want to use it as a mat. To date, the wooden gym is one of Dominic's favorite toys, and it encourages gripping, exploration, mechanical thinking, and independence of movement (as an aid to standing and walking... it is very sturdy for only $25) We got a very expensive play mat at a shower, and wish we'd gotten 10 other things instead of that, since these were so good!
The top of a dresser with a changing pad. Easy if you have a short dresser. ... or...
IKEA Spolling: Fold-up table with ample pocket storage. We LOVE this. It is easy to keep everything on hand, and if we were crunched for space, we could just fold it in half and stick it in a closet or against the wall, which will be nice for storing it in between babies.
Other Gear you will appreciate:
Wipe Warmer: no cold hineys in the middle of the night... I thought this was silly until i put a cold wet wipe on a sleeping newborn's bottom... no fun.
Munchkin Plastic Spoons: they hold more baby food than the standard coated metal spoons, and more importantly, the shape helps keep the food on the spoon while feeding! Mealtime is much cleaner now that we have these. They are available at most grocery stores.
Wubba Nub Pacifier: If you plan to use a pacifier, this one is the hospital-issue soothie attached to a soft stuffed animal (almost like a beanie baby). It holds the pacifier in place for a newborn, and for older babies, gives them something to help grasp the pacifier to get it into the mouth. Pacimals is a similar product that has a removable pacifier, but it is much bigger than the Wubba Nub.
Columbia Diaper Bag: Looks like a computer messenger bag... nice for dads to carry without looking totally metrosexual. It holds a ton of gear. Great for dropping off kids with a babysitter/grandma, or taking a kid to daycare. I'm moving out of the spit up and blow-out diaper stage, so I'm about to trade for one that just holds 2 diapers, wipes, and mom necessities (phone, wallet, etc), so it will be easier for me to manage on days I'm just making small trips, we'll hang onto the big one for Ryan and Nana to use.
And now in List Form, excluding the stuff we would have skipped on a second time around...
Columbia Diaper Bag
IKEA Spolling Changing Table
IKEA Leka Baby Gym (Wooden, and Soft)
IKEA Antilop High Chair
Maxi Cosi Mico Infant Carrier
Maxi Cosi Perle Stroller
Amby Baby Bed
Matress for the Floor Bed (I know, it seems crazy)
In the words of one of my 5-yr-old students when I was leaving for maternity leave, "Happy Baby!"