It really depends on your child. DD has had American Girl dolls since she was 1.5, and she takes great care of them so I have no qualms. Her friend has a Bitty Baby that looks like it went up against a paint factory and came out the loser. Think about the quality and durability of the product, the temperament of the child, and your budget.
DD also has a Baby Stella - cute but not very realistic, shaped oddly so most off-brand clothes don't fit. Washable and soft.
You might look at Middleton Dolls Newborn Nursery if you want a really good, realistic baby doll. That's what we're getting DD as her big sister gift. They're weighted like an actual baby and come in many hair/eye/skin combinations. I see them on sale pretty regularly for 20-40% off.
Wife to my best friend
DD1 (4/15/10) and