Pam’s Prize 2012

Breastfeeding counsellors from all over the UK are nominated for our annual award. Nominees can be ABM breastfeeding counsellors, NCT breastfeeding counsellors, La Leche League leaders or Breastfeeding Network supporters.

In November 2010, our chair Pam Lacey passed away. Pam had touched the lives of countless families but also encouraged many other women to train and go on to support others with her infectious humour, wisdom and determination.

Pam’s Prize was set up in her memory. It is a way to give recognition to the way breastfeeding volunteers make a difference to so many families in their time of need. We wanted to celebrate those who go the extra mile as Pam did.

The first year’s nominations did not disappoint: women were nominated from all over the UK and from all of the breastfeeding organisations. It was a big challenge choosing the winner as many nominations were extremely heart-felt. As we had suspected, it was undeniable that breastfeeding support volunteers make a huge difference all over the country.

We are proud to announce that our first Pam’s Prize winner is Debbie Hampton from Hampshire. She was nominated several times by different families she had worked with. It was clear that, like Pam, Debbie had a passion for helping new families. The judges were impressed by not only her contribution to the lives of individual women but her infectious enthusiasm in a wider area and the ‘ripple effect’ she had in inspiring others and expanding the support available.

You can read more about Debbie’s work with ‘Breastfeeding Babes, Bursledon and Fair Oak’ on her website www.breastfeedingbabes.info.

The ABM spoke to her about her work

1. Hi Debbie. Huge congratulations on winning this year’s Pam’s Prize. How do you feel about your award?

I am very shocked! It is a huge honour to be given this award, especially in its first year. Pam was a huge inspiration to me whilst I was completing my Breastfeeding Counsellor training, so I am thrilled to receive this award in her memory.

2. What first inspired you to train as a breastfeeding volunteer?

My daughter failed to latch on properly when she was a newborn, but this was not picked up by anyone until she ended up in the Special Care Baby Unit at 5 days old suffering from dehydration. If there had been someone who had the time to sit with me for a feed and observe what was going on, I believe that we could have avoided  her being re-admitted to hospital. Thankfully when we went back in to hospital, we received fantastic care and breastfeeding support and we went on to breastfeed until she self-weaned at 16.5 months old. After our experiences, I developed a passion for supporting mothers to breastfeed for as long as they wish to. I trained as a peer supporter with our local hospital before going on to complete the ABM Mother’s Supporter and then the Breastfeeding Counsellor course.

3. How is the support given from a breastfeeding volunteer different from the support a mum might get from her midwife or other health professional?

We generally have more time to sit and chat with the mother about what is happening and how she is feeling about everything. A lot of the time the mothers know what is best for them and their baby, and how to achieve it; they just need the confidence to believe in their natural instincts. I believe that our role is to support mothers so that they feel confident in making their own decisions.

4. Tell us a bit about Breastfeeding Babes.

I set up Breastfeeding Babes in June 2007 with two friends of mine. We run alongside the health visitors’ clinic, giving mothers a chance to access breastfeeding support at the same time as coming to get their babies weighed. We run weekly drop-in sessions and have a strong team of volunteers now running the group, all of whom have completed the ABM Mother Supporter’s course and most of whom are now training as Breastfeeding Counsellors. We also offer nursing bra fitting and electric pump hire services. We opened a second weekly support group in a nearby village in November 2011. We are now seeing younger siblings of our first ‘Breastfed Babes’ who are coming to group and it is really lovely to see these families growing!

5. What do you think are the features of a good breastfeeding support group?

I think a friendly welcome and a comfortable environment are essential. It is a safe place to talk and ask questions; a non-judgemental setting where a mother can develop confidence in her own abilities. A cup of coffee and a piece of cake on offer definitely help too!

6. Why do people normally come to your groups?

Most people come initially because they are having a problem of some sort. These are mainly in the early days of breastfeeding, but we also get people coming along when they want to wean (either on to solids or from the breast), or when they are returning to work. We always point out that we are a social group as much as a place to come when you are having problems. Many of the mums who come along with an initial problem or query continue to come along on a social basis, which is lovely and their experiences are often of great value to the other mums at the group. We also try to encourage ladies to visit us antenatally so that coming along with their precious new bundle is a little easier as they know what to expect.

7. What would you say to a pregnant mum if she wasn’t sure about whether to breastfeed?

I would encourage her to pop along to group, to talk to some other breastfeeding mums and to find out what they think. Most women are well aware of the health benefits for them and their baby of breastfeeding, but are concerned about more practical issues such as how to feed discreetly and how much sleep they will be getting. Talking these through with mums who are already doing it can often put their minds at ease and give them a better idea of what to expect.

8. What are your plans for the future?

We are hoping to build up the numbers at our new group and to see people coming back on a more regular basis as they do at our original group. We are also always on the look out for potential new volunteers to train up to keep the groups going in the long term. Our local borough council has a breastfeeding friendly initiative running at the moment, as well as getting the breastfeeding support groups’ details better publicised, so it is great to have their support.

I am also involved in an exciting new project at our church which will be supporting families through both the antenatal and postnatal period and incorporates breastfeeding support, so I am looking forward to getting that off the ground.

About Pam

In November 2010, our chair Pam Lacey passed away. Pam had touched the lives of countless families but also encouraged many other women to train and go on to support others with her infectious humour, wisdom and determination.

Pam’s Prize was set up in her memory. It is a way to give recognition to the way volunteer breastfeeding counsellors make a difference to so many families in their time of need. We wanted to celebrate those who go the extra mile as Pam did.