Breastfeeding is an entirely natural part of motherhood, but it is not without its challenges.
First, there’s the stigma. Women are regularly shamed or punished for breastfeeding in public – as though it’s somehow indecent to feed a hungry baby outside of your own home.
Then, there’s the judgement. If you can’t breastfeed, choose not to, or breastfeed for ‘too long’ – it seems people will always find a way to criticise mothers.
But one woman is pushing back against this tirade of maternal judgement. Chaneen Saliee is a tandem breastfeeder – meaning she breastfeeds her two daughters at the same time, one on each boob.
The mum-of-two is also a breastfeeding advocate and wants to empower mothers to feel more confident to be able to feed their children in any way they feel comfortable.
‘The breastfeeding relationship between my daughters and I is one of understanding, love and compassion,’ Chaneen said.
‘I understand that they are still so new to the world, I love them and therefore I have compassion for when they need me, physically in the way of breastfeeding – even when it’s exhausting.’
Chaneen’s eldest daughter Jasmine is two and a half, her youngest, Ocean is ten months. She has been feeding the pair of them together ever since Ocean was born.
She says the technique is increasingly common in the breastfeeding community and is based on the principles of attachment parenting.
‘The general expectation is for mothers to switch to formula and wean the baby between six weeks and six months – but I don’t adhere to that,’ she explains.
A toddler meeting a newborn sibling can be a tense time. The eldest may act up or start behaving badly in a plea for attention – but Chaneen says tandem breastfeeding really helped this transition.
‘At the time, Jasmine was 19 months and Ocean was a newborn,’ she explains. ‘I had heard of all these stories about the older sibling feeling left out, lashing out, being really jealous or extra clingy.
‘We didn’t experience any of this. A huge benefit of tandem feeding is that the bond the girls developed – it was almost magical. They would hold hands and cuddle each other.’
Breastfeeding has many benefits, for both babies and new mothers. Chaneen says she loves the way her milk changes its makeup depending on what her girls need. If one of the kids was sick, the milk would change to try to protect them – she would even see a change in the colour of the milk.
‘Breastfeeding also lowers both mine and my daughters’ risk of developing breast cancer,’ she adds. ‘And breastfeeding benefits me and other new mothers around me because I now have the knowledge and experience to share with and support them.’
But it wasn’t entirely plain sailing from the very beginning. It’s completely normal to struggle with breastfeeding – or to choose not too – and Chaneen admits that getting used to nursing both of her daughters at the same time was hard at first.
‘Positioning wasn’t always easy, nor was having to explain to Jasmine why the baby always had to latch first,’ explains Chaneen.
‘What was most difficult, was the frequency of toddler nursing. I suppose after the milk drought that happens during pregnancy, Jasmine really enjoyed the excessive flow of new milk – but it was physically draining for me.
‘And although everyone told me it would be easier if I just weaned Jasmine now, no matter how she protested, I decided to be true to my own beliefs. Jasmine did not ask for a baby sister, she’s not ready to stop now, I won’t make her.’
Chaneen designs and sells breastfeeding clothes to help mothers breastfeed more confidently in public. She has created a range of tops, hoodies and dresses with a discreet zip along the chest, which allows for easy access to the breast.
One t-shirt even has a built-in nursing cover for extra privacy.
‘I do not believe that mothers should have to cover up,’ says Chaneen, ‘but in those early days most mothers want to – and the extra support and privacy helps them to feed more confidently wherever they are.
‘The more people see mothers nursing in public, the more normal it becomes. The more mothers feel confident to nurse anywhere, the more of the nation experience benefits in the grand scheme of things.’
Chaneen says that the idea of forcing breastfeeding women to cover up is completely baffling.
‘Seeing genuinely confident women breastfeeding their babies in public will help to make breastfeeding normal again,’ she says. ‘Breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed a baby or toddler, but because it is already difficult and it has become a taboo, many women opt out much earlier than they otherwise would have.’
Chaneen believes mothers should follow their instincts when it comes to decisions about their own children and not feel bound to follow unhelpful advice.
‘The advice that my daughters would hate each other if I made them share was, in my opinion, shambolic,’ she says.
‘My approach is to do what I want, what my girls need, and to follow the instincts that allowed me to grow and birth my babies. The same instinct that has kept the human race alive and thriving all these years.’