Moms worried and disappointed by prohibition on sale of baby goods

08 April 2020 - 15:09 By Iavan Pijoos
Baby formula for sale in a supermarket. Some parents are struggling to buy baby items during the lockdown.
Baby formula for sale in a supermarket. Some parents are struggling to buy baby items during the lockdown.
Image: Wendy Knowler

Nothing beats the excitement of becoming a parent. But that joy is being affected by the struggle to buy baby items during the Covid-19 lockdown.

“It is extremely frustrating to be a new mother and sit in this situation [lockdown]. It is extremely sad because all a mother wants is the best for her child in all aspects,” Faith McCallum told TimesLIVE on Wednesday.

During a visit to Northgate Mall in Randburg on Wednesday morning, Baby City was closed.

The once busy mall was quiet, with only a few shoppers wearing masks walking about. Clothing, restaurants and service provider stores were closed. A pet shop was open, but a notice stated that they would only sell animal food.  

At Woolworths, the sections for men, women and babies' clothing were barricaded with red and white tape.

A notice said the store was adhering to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s lockdown regulations. Ramaphosa announced that all stores, excluding those selling food and emergency supplies, would be closed.

The Tebeila Institute of Leadership, Education, Governance and Training and the African Institute for Human Rights and Constitutional Litigation have launched an urgent application before the Constitutional Court in a bid to open shops that sell baby clothing.

There have been calls from mothers to ease the restrictions this week and some stores are selling baby clothing during the lockdown.

Pick n Pay has advised shoppers that stores are selling baby clothing, feeding bottles and baby accessories. Clicks also advised customers that baby clothes were available to buy at stores.

The section for clothing items was closed at Pick n Pay.
The section for clothing items was closed at Pick n Pay.
Image: Iavan Pijoos

At Pick n Pay on Wednesday morning, the section for general clothing items was closed, but the aisle with baby items was open. Formula, blankets, vests and other clothing, as well as other basic necessities for infants were on sale.

McCallum, who gave birth to a boy in February, feels that the grace period given by the president before the lockdown was “too short”.

“By that time we hadn't received our salaries and didn’t have enough time to stock up on baby items like warm winter clothing. Now that the lockdown has been implemented it is extremely difficult and frustrating but there is nothing you can do because your hands are tied.

“Not everyone budgeted in advance to buy clothing. I am unhappy and frustrated that no baby stores are open. The possibility that the lockdown might be lengthened will make it even harder for us moms,” she said.

Chrisjonel Botha, who lives on a farm near Greylingstad in Mpumalanga, said the nearest town with baby necessities on sale was Heidelberg, Gauteng. But crossing provincial borders is impossible under lockdown.

She said her husband was an essential worker which made it even more difficult for her to travel to the shops. “If I have to go to a shop, I would need to take all my children along and inside [the shop] because they can’t stay home alone, or in the car, and I have no-one else that can care for them during a trip to town,” she said.

Botha has children aged three, two and four months. She said the stores in her area did not stock the type of formula she fed her children.

“I ensured that I got some formula for my baby before lockdown but also adhered to the government’s request to not panic buy and to leave products for all consumers.

“Right now, I’m extremely worried that I did this, as it appears that baby formula has become a non-essential. If lockdown continues beyond the current 21 days, which is reasonably possible, how will I feed my baby?”

For now, Botha does all her shopping online. 

She said it was unfair that baby items for new mothers and those with young children were not widely available.

She called on the government to have a poll on which baby items were considered essential items.

“My concern at the moment is that it seems government has a list of essential items, which I understand, but some essentials in terms of babies and young children don’t seem to form part of these items.

“I’m lucky to have hand-me-down clothing for my youngest, but what about a mom who needs to purchase bigger or warmer clothing for her little ones?”