Things I was given or loaned that I thought I'd do without,
but found quite handy:
1.) Bouncy seat:
I didn't think I would want one of these, for a lot of the same reasons I didn't want a swing (see Baby Gear: Part I) But there started to be a few afternoons, about 2 months in, when Smooch was awake and wanted to be near me, but I was busy in the kitchen and needed my hands. I had made a 'nest' for her on the counter with my nursing pillow and some blankets, but she slipped down in it, and looked a bit uncomfortable. I thought to myself, "I can't bring myself to buy one, but if someone had a bouncy seat I could just borrow for a little while, that would be so helpful!" That night, someone offered to loan me one! ;-)
The window of use for a bouncy seat is quite small-- pretty much as soon as she was starting to sit up on her own, she was no longer content in the seat. And her time tolerance for it got shorter and shorter as she grew, but it was really quite handy for those moments when you just need a place to set her down where she's not going to get into any trouble.
Okay, I actually don't have room in my house for this, because it does not fold up, and there is really nowhere to put it. It sits in our living area, which I do not prefer. But it has been a handy 'upgrade' from the bouncy seat for short periods of time. Primarily, I use my Jolly Jumper for 'exercise' and playtime for my daughter, but when she is not satisfied to be so far from me (the only door frames are around the corner from the kitchen, so she can't see me when she's jumping and I'm cooking dinner), I pull the exersaucer over to the kitchen, and chat with her while she plays with all the little gadgets on the tray. Again, her time tolerance for this contraption is growing shorter by the day, but its been helpful for a little while. This was also loaned to us, so I will be probably be returning it soon.
3.) Food grinder/ mill:
My thoughts about solid food for baby have always been that, especially in the beginning, food is for exploration, not sustenance, so I never bothered with rice cereal and jars of pureed baby food. I just gave her things like slices of avocado, Cheerios, chunks of pear (without skin), sweet potato, and the like-- things she could pick up, rather than spoon-feeding her. I found it helped sharpen her dexterity, and strengthen the control of her pincher mechanism, instead of the whole fist pick-up. And she took to food like nobody's business, so we just went with it. My friend gave me a food mill, because she used one with her daughter, and I took it, but didn't think I'd use it much. But pretty soon, I found I could put things like rice or quinoa into it, and it mushed it all together, so she could handle 'smaller' pieces of food (I felt like they would be a gag/choke hazard being that small). I also found I could do 'stringier' stuff like spinach, zucchini, and green beans with it, to make it a consistency she could gum and swallow. I didn't use it all the time, but it certainly has been helpful in expanding my daughter's palette.
4.) Mesh bath support:
When I transitioned Smooch from the kitchen sink to the bathtub, this little contraption came in particularly handy, because I have a deep soaker tub. Before she was able to sit up, I could lay her in the water on this support, and then have 2 hands to wash her. It's incredibly simple, just a metal frame, higher on one side than the other, covered with soft mesh. It dries super fast, and the mesh cover comes off for washing, if necessary. I never had any issues with smells (from not drying) and it is surprisingly durable. Obviously, once she started rolling/ sitting up, she no longer wanted to lay back on it, but then we were into a different stage of 'tubby time' anyway, so it didn't matter.