Before I had my babe I had a massive registry filled with lots of things i thought i would need. I have found that you really don't need much for a newborn. Here is my "essentials" for anyone expecting.
1. Blankets - all shapes, sizes and materials. You'll want some swaddle blankets, maybe some receiving blankets and then a few heavier blankets to put over them and their car seat when you go out. I really liked these swaddle blankets from Carters I received at my shower. There were a few "accidents" and milk spills on the blankets so having 2 or each type is very handy. I also really liked this blanket too, its nice and warm. We're using it right now.
2. Sack/Gown Sleepers - These are amazing for midnight diaper changing. Trying to snap a bunch of little snaps in the dark is such a pain especially if yours is a kicker, like mine.
3. A Boppy and/or Brest Friend Pillow - I got a boppy handed down to me from a friend and my doctor suggested a brest friend for breast feeding. I figure a woman with 3 kids has to know a thing or two about feedings. Both are great for their own reasons and both have different uses. The boppy is great for holding your babe so your arms don't get tired, great for new dads I would suggest getting a couple different covers for them. The brest friend is ideal for breast feeding. Its a stiff pillow with two humps for the baby's head, It holds them at the perfect angle plus you strap the pillow to yourself so if you need to get up to get a drink of water or a snack you can just pack the pillow and babe with you instead of trying to put them down and hope that they don't wake up...which never happens. The brest friend is a little spendy but I think its totally worth it!
4. Sleep & Play Sets - My little man pee'd or poo'd just about every sleeper he wore for the first week or so, sometimes it takes a bit to get things worked out with their diaper, finding the right size and how tight or loose to wear it without leakage. He was going through 3 or 4 outfits a day, now he doesn't have any problems but you'll want those extra outfits just in case..I only had a few outfits in the beginning because he was 5 weeks early and much smaller than I expected. Of course I was not expecting to have a newborn sized baby and if he had gone full term he wouldn't have been but that's life for you.
5. Changing Pad - Our pack and play has a changing station in it but we've only used it once. We usually change him on our bed or on the floor with a changing pad from the diaper bag. I also ordered 2 of these vinyl pads for around the house too. I could not find somewhere to buy just a changing pad like the kind you get with a diaper bag...the one we got in ours is amazing, works wonders and we just rinse it off and it dries in seconds if he decides to tinkle on it.
6. LilyPadz & Nursing Bras (if you're breast feeding) - I've got disposable bra pads and lily padz, I love the lily pads for going out..the disposable ones are great for night time and being at home but I haven't had any leaks with the lily padz even after let-down. Nursing bras are amazing, Its so much quicker than having to try to find a bra that you can easily slip in and out of and they're really not that expensive..only about $20 at the Motherhood Maternity store. I really like this one, I want to get about a dozen more of them, they're easy to snap in and out of and they're comfortable to sleep in.
The rest of the items you'll surely receive from your baby shower and the hospital like baby soap, those nose sucker things..oh i can never remember the name of those things. Diapers and wipes of course. I suggest disposable until they're out of the "tar" stage. It only lasts a few days.