Kristy Manners has a real fire in her belly to help women during those important early days as a new mother. She is particularly passionate and experienced in maternal and paediatric nutrition. She provides nutrition and breastfeeding services at Growth Spectrum – helping women with their health, providing breastfeeding support and also baby and toddler nutrition. We spoke to Kristy to learn more about how she got started.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
I’ve been an Accredited Practicing Dietitian for over 13 years, spending many years overseas in the humanitarian sector with the Red Cross, UNICEF, etc, working in malnutrition feeding centres and mother and child health and nutrition programs.
I went into labour very much unprepared and of course my birth plan going out the window. I had gained 18 kg during the pregnancy. The labour was loooong and complicated (over 24 hrs!) with a Buddha baby of 4.1 kg. After birth, I had a number of complications, many of which impacted my breastfeeding journey with my child, including chronic hypothyroidism. I felt like my body had failed me. After all I had been fit and healthy all my life… where was the reward?!
I realised just how little support women had during pregnancy, labour and postpartum in nutrition, physical and mental recovery from labour, and breastfeeding support.
I discovered that breastfeeding, though natural, was a learned art for both the mother and child, and needed to be taught and supported by health professionals. This also led me to start studying to be an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).
All these years in the humanitarian world, I had been telling pregnant/lactating mothers who had walked 200 km with their child, malnourished and dehydrated that they needed to exclusively breastfeed – not taking into other considerations such as latching issues, tongue/lip ties, thyroid issues, their lack of diverse food, or their social support.
Even though I was educated, and a health professional, I was coming from a world of privilege, and only as a mother did the light bulb come on that I could finally empathise in their struggles.
From this platform, Growth Spectrum was born.
When I came back to Australia to deliver my son, I also wanted to find a job that would allow me to do short humanitarian mission trips away overseas and still have flexibility with work back in Australia. This was going to be too difficult to work for an employer if I did that, so I decided to revamp my general dietetic business and focus on paediatrics and maternal health, an area I had been working in for a while overseas but which I became more passionate about after my birthing and postnatal experience. I also soon realized how difficult it was for mums to get out of the house for appointments with babies, taking into account their feeding schedule, sleep times, all the bags and things you have to carry, so I began to do Skype and home visits to help take out the stress for mums. I also started being a stockist for the Yummy Mummy Food Company who sell Totally Devoted’s lactation teas and cookies to help women with their breast milk supply. They are a fantastic product filled with natural ingredients and wheat, dairy and egg free which is great for the allergy mums and bubs that I see.
The Launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
I actually had a business name already, Health Spectrum, so I just changed it to Growth Spectrum to encompass the critical window of the first 1000 days of life (from preconception through to the second year of life). My brother helped me set up a website and I started writing blogs. I then went overseas for a couple of months with UNICEF and didn’t really start focusing on the business until about September 2018. Since then, I’ve been doing more branding and relaunched my new website in February 2019.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
Realising how much I wanted to help mothers on their breastfeeding journey, after my own difficult experiences. To cut the overwhelm, to help them to be knowledgeable, informed and confident in learning the art of breastfeeding. But also realizing that there is so much going on in the postnatal period, that women need step-by-step guidance… to have their hand held and supported during this vulnerable time – hence the passion to start up a membership support service for the postnatal period.
Yin and Yang: How do you balance work and family?
To be honest, this last year has probably been a bit out of balance, trying to set my business up and focusing on a new website and membership launch. Self-care and time for myself has gone out the window a bit. Putting my son into daycare 1-2 times a week, even when I probably didn’t need to from a work perspective, helped me to find time for myself and my business and to get a lot of work done in a block of time. I think working in blocks of time really helps to get into your work goals in a deeper and more time efficient manner.