Lucy Neary is a specialist paediatric dietitian, mum of two and lifelong food fanatic. She is on a mission to eliminate outdated and widespread feeding myths and to turn the next generation into enthusiastic eaters with a healthy relationship with their food. As a mum herself and an advocate of supporting parents in a practical way, she is determined to make your child healthier and your mealtimes easier by providing science-backed information that is simple to understand and easy to implement into daily life. If you have concerns about your baby or child’s eating, their growth, or if they are suffering with allergy symptoms or other medical issues, she can help. Here Lucy talks to The Natural Parent Magazine about the passion behind The Early Years Dietitian, the challenges she has overcome along the way, and her exciting plans for the future.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
I launched my business whilst I was on maternity leave with my daughter, Juno. I always knew I wanted to set something up that would work around my children but I didn’t realise I would feel so compelled to set up and get started when my first was less than a year old. I just felt really strongly that I wanted to set up a business in order reduce other parents’ stress levels as much as possible after a fairly stressful start to weaning myself.
A short while before I planned to wean Juno, I started looking into what I needed to do; it quickly became very clear that there was a lot of conflicting information and what was available didn’t always seem to be up-to-date science. At the time, I was a dietitian but was working with adults and didn’t know huge amounts about feeding babies at that point! I felt really quite nervous and unsure about what I should be doing, but thankfully I had paediatric dietitians as friends who were able to give me guidance and show me the best places to find information. It made me think that as a dietitian, if I was struggling to find my way through the vast amounts of information, I definitely wouldn’t be alone!
I used any spare time I had to learn about weaning and used my own journey during maternity leave to get my head around the process. I wanted to learn enough to help other parents too. The aim was to help parents like myself to ensure their babies grew up with a healthy relationship with their food (something I didn’t have myself until I was much older, but that’s whole other story!) and to take the stress out for parents by giving them the confidence to enjoy weaning their babies (something I also definitely didn’t have at the very start of our own journey!).
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
When I started, I was offering only weaning workshops. I offered these in local venues that people could book onto and I would also go round to people’s houses for private groups. I still host weaning workshops, though currently only for other companies such as antenatal companies and colleges where I train parents and also other professionals.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
I don’t think I’ve had one specific breakthrough, but over the last 8 years, I have done lots of studying and started offering more and more services to include fussy eating, food allergies, reflux, constipation, growth issues and more. I do a lot of 1-2-1 appointments to help families to work through feeding difficulties.
I also do consulting for companies, helping them to write programmes and overseeing content writing. I am also part of a start-up called Sprout; we are developing a fussy eating app which is very exciting!! We won some innovation funding last year to help us to pursue the development of the first personalised fussy eating app, which we are super proud of.
Yin and Yang: How do you balance work and family?
If I’m honest, with difficulty!!! I am a single parent; I’ve been co-parenting with my husband since we separated 18 months ago so life is very busy. I am now fully freelance as I stepped out of the NHS nearly a year ago too. It is great as it means I almost never have to miss any commitments with my children like sports day, however, as I am supporting myself, I find it very difficult to switch off from work. I do have very clear boundaries for myself – no working at mealtimes and very little work when my children are around after school, etc. Once they are in bed or when they are at their dad’s house, I do spend more time working than I probably should do. So I suppose I work around the children, which is great for them and for my relationship with them, but probably not so good for myself personally.
I am lucky though. I am genuinely one of those people who loves my job. So, when I am working, I don’t begrudge it as it fills me with joy to help parents to feed their little ones.