Opinion: Stop panic buying things I need for my soon-to-be-born baby

OPINION: On Sunday my wife, who is 38 weeks pregnant, thought she might be going into labour. We are well prepared, the cot is set up, we have a car seat, all the usual stuff you need when a new life enters the world. 

You can never be truly prepared for the arrival of a newborn, even if it is not your first. It's a disruptive, sleep-denying experience that you kind of stumble through until things settles down.  

Turns out it wasn't the onset of labour, but we thought we were short a few small supplies - hand sanitiser, baby wipes, disinfectant wipes and a few cleaning products. Basic stuff that makes life easier with a new baby. So I went to the supermarket to stock up. 

Except you can't buy these things in New Zealand at the moment. They are, or were, available in abundance, but since the first case of COVID-19 coronavirus was announced over a week ago people have been stockpiling them. 

It seems the population, in a panic-induced need to shop in preparation for the apocalypse many see coronavirus as, has stripped the supermarket shelves of goods many of us now need as we face our normal, panic-induced needs in our lives - such as having a baby. 

It's not a lot to ask for, we all need these basic products, can we just share them around a bit. I only need a few bottles of sanitiser, maybe a few packets of wipes and some basic cleaning product but it is all sitting in cupboards around New Zealand waiting for the end of days. 

The irony is one of the best things we can do to stop the spread of coronavirus is to regularly wash our hands, except we can't because the people who are worried about it spreading have bought up all the things to clean your hands with. 

Cleansing hands 

Any parent knows the pantomime of trying to change a newborn's full nappy. You have to clean the toxic sludge that comes out of them, put on a new nappy, often re-clothe them and then pick them up.  

It can be a messy affair, especially if the toxic sludge ends up on you. You need to clean your hands at least twice during the operation and hand sanitiser is a godsend. It would be great to be able to buy a couple of bottles.   

Wiping down the surfaces 

You need to keep a house sterile when a newborn gets home, particularly if you have other children. 

So you may need to quickly wipe a surface before you put the baby down on it. It's something that is done easily if you can pull out a disinfecting wipe with one hand and sanitise the area. 

Except you can't find wipes of any sort at the moment in New Zealand. You can't get the wipes you clean your baby with or the wipes you clean the changing mat with. It is the same as hand sanitiser, these things are no good piled up at home. 

Feeding your baby  

There is thankfully still plenty of formula milk in New Zealand, the supermarket shelves haven't been ransacked of this yet. But over the Tasman in Australia, it is a different story with supermarkets being raided for formula milk. Nappies are in hot supply there too. 

The Daily Express reported a run on formula milk in the UK. 

It is stressful enough having a newborn baby without having to face a shortage of formula milk for the mothers who don't breastfeed.  

And I know the debate around breastfeeding is a fiercely fought one, but some mothers just can't and not being able to buy a substitute food for their baby will be terrifying. I fear it will only be a matter of time before we see a run on formula here. The world has enough formula milk so there is no need to stockpile it. 

Selfish shopping 

There is apparently a difference between panic-buying and stocking up in case of an emergency. If a storm is forecast to last a few days then people will stock up for a few days. If there is uncertainty and fear as we are seeing with COVID-19 then panic sets in and we go crazy. 

Steven Taylor, a professor and clinical psychologist at the University of British Columbia, and the author of The Psychology of Pandemics told the BBC panic buying is fuelled by fear. 

"Under circumstances like these, people feel the need to do something that’s proportionate to what they perceive is the level of the crisis," Taylor told the BBC. "We know that washing your hands and practising coughing hygiene is all you need to do at this point.

"But for many people, hand-washing seems to be too ordinary. This is a dramatic event, therefore a dramatic response is required, so that leads to people throwing money at things in hopes of protecting themselves." 

Opinion: Stop panic buying things I need for my soon-to-be-born baby

There is also a herd mentality, if everyone else is panic-buying then maybe you should too. Like the virus that mentality spreads quickly from person to person. 

But most alarmingly it seems to be driven by a basic human desire to look out for yourself and screw everybody else. It is selfish shopping and is unnecessary.   

Many Kiwis can't afford to stockpile, they have to make their weekly budget stretch over a number of things. They live day-to-day and are being penalised for that now. 

A sensible reaction to the virus would be share out the products, such as hand sanitiser, that will help us curtail its spread. Instead, we are hoarding it at and preventing people who really need it - like parents of newborn babies, from using them. 

Mark Longley is the managing editor of Newshub digital.