There are very few things that you really need for a baby. And most of those things are free. That's not to say that there aren't a host of things we want to buy, but realistically babies need a place to sleep, something to cover their bottoms/bodies, and something to eat. If there were no other options, you could probably make due with your own bed, a blanket, and a boob.
There is one exception to this - the carseat. (Unless you were planning on living at the hospital - and I can't think of anyone who wants to do that.) Because despite what our parents and grandparents might have done, nowadays laying the baby on the floor of the backseat isn't considered safe.
The great thing about carseats is, that if it's on the market, it's safe - because they go through a ton of testing.
Which means, the best carseat for your child is the one that
1) Fits in your car best.
2) Has a color scheme you like. (Notice this is secondary to the first requirement)
We began with an infant carseat, which I'd read were safer for the little guys. One of the pluses of going with an infant seat is that it has a handle, so theoretically you can remove the seat from the car without waking a sleeping baby. I say theoretically, because in our case that never worked. First, because Thatbaby refused to sleep in the car - it would have gotten in the way of his screaming, I'm sure. Second, because if, by some miracle, he did fall asleep in the car, the second the car stopped, he would wake up. So we ended up never taking the car seat out with him in it. We didn't bring the carseat to restaurants, we rarely used the stroller with it, we never brought him into our home in it.
*Carseat tip - We purchased one carseat, which came with a base, and one extra base. This way we could have a base in each car and then just transfer the seat between. In retrospect, we probably didn't need 2 bases, because the seats do work really well without a base, which we realized when we traveled with it to Chicago.
The Keyfit 30 works until the child hits 30lbs or 30inches. When Thatbaby got close to the magic 30 inches, we started shopping for a convertible carseat.
As I mentioned before, the primary concern is finding something that fits in the car. Especially since Thatboy drives a small coupe.
He was thrilled when I reported to him that his BMW forum recommended the Recaro Pro-Ride. Because Recaro makes racing seats. And while he liked it for the cool factor, I thought that was a good sign in the safety factor. Keeping adults safe at very high speeds means they probably know a thing or two about keeping my small person safe at regular speeds.
We were originally going to just pick up a Recaro for Thatboy's car and get me something different, but we found such an amazing deal ($100 off each seat) that we ended up getting one for each of us.
For Thatmom's car, which is larger that Thatboy's, we looked for something that was a bit cheaper, since it won't be used as often. Thatmom has the Evenflo Triumph 65LX. I have no pictures of Thatbaby in this carseat because it's only used when we're not around, but I've heard he seems pretty comfortable in it.
One thing which you may notice in the picture of Thatbaby (or maybe not, I don't know if it's terribly obvious) is that Thatbaby is still rear-facing. And I intend to keep him that way for a very long time. I know so many people flip their kid around as soon as it is legally possible to do so, so I'll use a couple sentences for a PSA. It is MUCH MUCH safer to keep your child rear-facing. I'm not going to post any of the graphic internal decapitation videos which helped solidfy the decision for me, but I will post this handy dandy chart:
Two of the things that really stand out to me are the risk of injuries. Rear-facing drops the risk of severe injuries 32%! Also, if you read the statistic about neck loads you can see the drastic difference between what an infant's neck bears in a crash. Because I care about you and all the little yous, I urge you not to flip your seats just because your kid hits a certain age. I'd love to see their smiley faces around for a long, long, time.