A mum who breastfed her daughters in tandem has defended herself against critics.
While Natasha Keane used to think it was “creepy” to breastfeed children who were over the age of one, she now thinks it’s the “most natural thing in the world” to do.
The 38-year-old, from Galway, Ireland, breastfed her six-year-old daughter Ellie until she was five.
She’s yet to wean her four-year-old girl Grace and has to put up with judgement from strangers.
Natasha said: “I try not to let the comments and stares get to me, but I have been made to feel uncomfortable.
“I find it such a huge double standard. It’s okay to put women in bikinis or lingerie on huge advertising billboards, but it’s not okay to let a mum to subtly feed her child?”
Natasha added: “To me, breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world.
“Ellie has never been to the doctor’s for a sickness bug in her life, and never needed antibiotics, and Grace has only been once for a chest infection she couldn’t shake.
“I absolutely believe that it’s breastfeeding that has made their immune systems so strong.”
The mum is likely to feel so passionate about breastfeeding because she had to wean her son when he was just four months old.
Natasha bottle fed her eldest son Stephen, now 19, when she started taking medication.
She said: “I wanted to do it for longer, but I was only 19 back then and didn’t think I could question my doctor.
“I cried so hard for about a week afterwards. Stephen struggled to take his bottle and it was very stressful.”
So in a bid not to let history repeat itself, the mum joined a local breastfeeding group when she was pregnant with Ellie.
She recalled: “I walked into my first meeting, and saw a woman tandem feeding her three-year-old and 18-month-old, with one at each breast.
“My jaw hit the floor. I genuinely had no idea it was possible to feed children past the age of one – let alone two at the same time.
“Instead of judging, I simply asked questions.”
Natasha started researching “extended breastfeeding” and looking into the health benefits of mothers’ milk.
She became an advocate for natural stage weaning and vowed to keep breastfeeding until she felt it was right to stop.
The mum said: “I tandem fed for two years.
“I was a little apprehensive at first about the practicalities of it all, but you find your own groove, and it gets easier the more you do it.
“As Ellie was a little older by then, I could explain to her to be patient and let Grace latch on and settle in first.
“Every single night, they would fall asleep without fail, one on each breast, holding hands.”
Natasha stopped breastfeeding Ellie before her fifth birthday, but is yet to wean four-year-old Grace.
She hopes sharing her story will educate those who criticise those who give mums a hard time about weaning their children.
Natasha said: “People see breastfeeding as fair game – something everyone is allowed to have an opinion on and criticise.
“I never would, as it is every mum’s choice, but I know if I said something about bottle feeding, it would be unacceptable.
“I have received some difficult comments over the years. When Grace was just eight months old, I had somebody say to me that I should be force-feeding her into weaning by that point. I just thought, ‘What would you say if you knew I’m also feeding her older sister?’
“I also get lots of people remarking that I’m ‘still’ feeding – with emphasis on the still.
“I don’t think people are deliberately trying to shame me, or be evil, though. It’s a lack of education – even within the medical profession.”
Natasha added: “It’s up to every mum as an individual what they want to do, and I understand that some have tried and tried, but simply cannot breastfeed.
“Because of the constant flow of oxytocin – known as the love hormone – breastfeeding is a great mood booster.
“I had postnatal depression with Stephen and Ellie, so thought it’d be written in stone that I would with Grace, but I didn’t.
“Before you make a comment, educate yourself. If a mum ever mentions something to me that I don’t understand, I will keep my mouth shut, then go away and look it up.
“Whether I agree or not is beside the point. It’s education that’s important.”