Debbie works as a midwife at Hinchingbrooke Hospital and also volunteers as a Breastfeeding Counsellor for the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers (ABM), to provide advice and assistance to new mothers struggling with breastfeeding. Read her interview below.
It feels amazing, I can’t believe that so many of them took time out of their busy days to write such lovely things about the support I had given them. There are so many dedicated volunteers who offer their time to help breastfeeding mothers and to be chosen from all of those to receive Pam’s Prize is a real honour.
My journey started some 32 and a half years ago. I had been exclusively breastfeeding my first son (I have three sons) who was about 5 months old at the time. I was encouraged by my health visitor to introduce solids ‘to help him sleep at night’. I did this only to find he didn’t want to breastfeed anymore, I was so upset. Somehow (and not sure how back– in- the- day) I found a number to call for help. This really lovely Breastfeeding Counsellor listened to my tale among all my tears. She praised and reassured me and when she heard my son start to cry she calmly encouraged me to offer him the breast. He started to feed and from that moment we didn’t look back, and I fed him for about 13 months.
From that point onwards I wanted to become a Breastfeeding Counsellor and decided to train with the ABM and qualified in the late 1980’s after my second son was born. For many years I did telephone counselling for local women and joined the Helpline when it was launched. Due to my shift work I found it hard to commit to the Helpline so now I am part of the email counselling service for the ABM.
For the past 15 or so years I have been involved in running weekly support group in St Neots (Cambridgeshire). The group is well supported and is aimed as a problem solving /social group which attracts up to about 12 mums a week. It’s a drop-in group where we welcome antenatal women as well as mums and dads with any age baby. I have been involved for so long now I get to see lots of mums that I have supported with previous babies which is always nice.
Alongside the group I also do home visits when needed as well as a lot of text messaging and Facebook support.
A few years ago I was approached by our local Children’s Centre and asked about training local mothers to become Breastfeeding Peer Supporters, this I did for 3 years and really enjoyed seeing many of them go on to offer support in local groups as well as at the local hospital. Some of them have progressed to train as Breastfeeding Counsellors and even a couple of midwives too.
Last year I was very honoured to be awarded Volunteer of the Year by St Neots town council. I was nominated by a local mum/peer supporter and once again mothers took time to write the most amazing testimonials which reduced me to tears when I read them. (I have include a couple of photos)
I plan to continue volunteering at the group and answering ABM emails for the foreseeable future. I really love being part of women’s breastfeeding journeys. I have so much admiration for their strength and determination to do the very best they can for their babies.
Oh my goodness this is hard. Well apart from the my three lovely sons and my 2 little granddaughters, there is my career as a midwife which I have been doing since 1984. In the last few years I managed to secure the role in the hospital I have worked at since 1989 as the Infant Feeding Specialist Midwife. It’s a role which has its challenges but that comes alongside many rewards not least achieving Full Baby Friendly accreditation in January of this year which has been a career goal of mine for quite a few years now. So that alongside the Volunteer of the Year Award from 2017 I would say makes me very proud. It’s been an amazing 12 months and being awarded Pam’s Prize just tops it off. I could never have imagined that when I first became a Breastfeeding Counsellor it could have become such a fulfilling and rewarding part of me and my life, I absolutely love it.
Another tough one as there is so much, but I’m going to say this. If breastfeeding is causing them any pain then they need to seek skilled, knowledgeable help. So many women are still of the belief that painful, sore, cracked nipples in the early days and weeks is normal and that it’s just a case of ‘toughening them up’. Of course there are lots of mums who work it out for themselves and can overcome it without needing such help but as we know it’s a big reason why mothers start supplementing with formula or stop breastfeeding when that wasn’t their plan.
One day a week I care for my two little granddaughters the eldest (who is 3) loves baking with me and she has certainly got the hang of licking the spoon and bowl! I also enjoy knitting and more recently I have taught myself to crochet. My other passion is Formula One which I love to watch on TV and when I can I love to be trackside cheering on Lewis Hamilton.
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.