The Association of Breastfeeding Mothers is proud to announce the 2017 winner of our national prize recognising the work of breastfeeding counsellors from across the UK. Pam’s Prize is now in its sixth year and was set up in memory of Pam Lacey, our former chair, a breastfeeding counsellor that always went the extra mile, helped thousands of families and inspired many women to train in breastfeeding support.
This year our winner is Kathryn Stagg, from London. Kathryn is an ABM Breastfeeding Counsellor active on the NBH and ABM helplines and who runs the Breastfeeding twins and triplets UK Facebook Group.
The nominees for our winning candidate this year were almost all mums of twins and multiples. Kathryn had helped them face-to-face or online – often over weeks and months – and had clearly made a profound difference to their confidence and faith in breastfeeding as well as help with the practicalities. One nomination described the Facebook group Kathryn had set up for ‘Breastfeeding twins and triplets UK’ and said they felt “part of an online ‘village'”…
Members bounce off the positive vibes off the other members and there is very much a “can do” attitude amongst all of us.
Kathryn has created a community where breastfeeding multiples is normal and women can support each other through their journeys (while Kathryn is always there to signpost and support alongside them. “No post goes unanswered,” said one nominee). Another nomination said they felt they were able to exclusively breastfeed their 10 month old twins because of Kathryn. Another that:
She was running a twins antenatal class at our local hospital and her passion for breastfeeding and no nonsense approach blew me away.
Congratulations on winning Pam’s Prize! How does it feel to be nominated by mothers you have supported?
I can’t believe it. I get so much out of supporting mums to breastfeed. There is nothing like a mum relaxing into her breastfeeding ‘journey’ and beginning to enjoy it and her baby or babies. It’s a wonderful feeling to have affected someone’s feeding experience for the better. To have this recognised by some of the mums I have helped is wonderful.
Tell us a bit about your journey to become a breastfeeding counsellor.
I had my identical twin boys nearly 12 years ago. After a bit of a rocky start with unnecessary formula top ups and very sore nipples, I managed to breastfeed my babies for over a year. I only stopped because I thought that’s what you did when they reached 1. I received some excellent support from my local breastfeeding group and the local Twins Club. Plus a very good friend who lives round the corner from me who I would descend on for a cuppa when having a bad day! When my boys were 11 months I got the chance to train as a breastfeeding peer supporter. I have volunteered locally ever since. I decided I would like to further my training and learn more and so signed up for the ABM Mother Supporter training and then the Breastfeeding Counsellor training. I qualified about 4 years ago and have been volunteering on the NBH and have recently become one of the social media team, validating my over-use of Facebook! I have since had 2 more singleton boys, now aged 6 and 2, and I am still teaching woodwind 2 days a week, so life is pretty busy!
What inspired you to set up your Facebook group ‘Breastfeeding Twins and Triplets UK’?
I was a member of a couple of multiple birth breastfeeding groups on Facebook and I was always thinking about how they had a very American slant. Their health care system and lack of paid maternity leave mean they have quite a different outlook than us in the UK. It was a shame there wasn’t a UK version. And then I thought, ‘why don’t I start one?’ So I sat up until 2am and set up the group. I invited all the twin and triplet breastfeeders I knew, both personally and from the TAMBA online forums, and asked them to invite people they knew. A year later we had around 700 members and now, nearly 2 years on, we have nearly 1800 twin and triplet mums and even one quad mum who is doing brilliantly. I have a trusted set of admins who are fantastic and keep everything ticking over. But the group is incredibly well behaved and we have only had to intervene a few times. Everybody is incredibly respectful of other’s breastfeeding experiences and very encouraging of everybody else, celebrating each little goal achieved, whether it be a 28 week baby having its first suck at 33 weeks, or whether it’s a mum celebrating breastfeeding for 2 years. It’s a pretty wonderful group.
What do you wish you could say to all pregnant mums of multiples thinking about breastfeeding?
That it most definitely is possible to breastfeed twins and triplets and even quads. I think it is really important to learn a bit about how breastfeeding works before they arrive and set yourself up with a good support system for afterwards. You have to be very open minded when expecting more than one baby as you don’t really know what life will throw at you. Multiples are much more likely to be born early and often small if full term. A lot of mums have to start fully on the pump or at least topping up with expressed to begin with. But some babies will go for it 100%. You can’t really tell what it will be like before they arrive. But, in the long run, it is so much easier than bottle feeding. If you can stick out the first couple of months, which are an absolute blur for most, then you’ll be rewarded later. Give it a go!
What are your plans for the future?
I am currently training to become an IBCLC certified lactation consultant. I find it all so fascinating that I want to take my breastfeeding education as far as I can. I would love to be able to specialise in multiple birth support, but would also like to share my experience with health professionals and other post-natal supporters. We’ll see, it’s exciting. As a young musician and teacher in my 20s I never in a million years thought I would find something else I was so passionate about. I am very lucky.
Kathryn is a worthy winner and we’ll be proud to award her Pam’s Prize at this year’s ABM conference on Saturday 17th June in London.
Kathryn is our sixth Pam’s Prize winner. If you wish to find out about our last year’s Pam Prize winner click here.