Trigger Warning: Miscarriage; Infertility

Aida Garcia-Toledo joined me for this week's session of Reflections of Motherhood. She's an expert in non-toxic living and the founder of Three Little Plums, a company dedicated to educating parents about the hazards of daily exposure to toxic chemicals and helping them transition to a healthier and less chemically dependent lifestyle without adding stress. Join us as she shares the highs and lows of motherhood, breastfeeding, and how her years as an investigative journalist and producer created the foundation for her work as an expert in non-toxic living.

Tell me about yourself outside of motherhood.

I grew up moving around a lot, about every four years. We lived in Latin America, Canada, and the U.S. At home, we speak Spanish. That's my first language. I went to school in Boston, and my first job out of college was in news production. Then I made my way to investigative journalism for a Spanish network news show. That's where I started, and I really enjoyed the research part of journalism. As a producer, that's a lot of what you do and you become an expert in so many things.

Later on, I worked on a couple of documentaries. Then my husband and I moved to Mexico City, and I started freelancing as a journalist. When I became pregnant about 13 years ago, I started researching all things non-toxic living and from there began forming my company. Along the way, I have had three kids. I have two older boys, ages twelve and nine, and a baby who's two months old.

{ Aida in the Estelle Nursing Dress with her baby }

You've mentioned before that you call your newest baby, your miracle baby. Tell me about her.

Prior to having this beautiful little baby that we have now, I had my two sons. I got pregnant quickly with each of them and had easy pregnancies. Four years later I became pregnant but had an early miscarriage. I ended up having three miscarriages within three years. The third miscarriage was brutal. They were all very hard, but the third one happened later at 17 weeks, and was extremely difficult for all of us. We ended up doing IVF for this one because I could get pregnant but the babies weren't surviving. 

It's been a difficult road. It was three back-to-back years of loss and then the fourth year of IVF. 

Honestly, a lot of people don't talk about IVF, but it is an extremely difficult process to go through physically and emotionally. That was a very tough year, and having a pregnancy after three losses is also very difficult emotionally. This last pregnancy was definitely hard. It was nothing like my first two, but everything worked out and we had our baby at home.

I try to be open about the losses through the years. I remember when all that happened, I found a lot of support in the stories of other women on Instagram who were open about their experiences.

Tell me how breastfeeding has been going this time around.

Breastfeeding has never been easy for me. I was able to breastfeed my two boys for about six months. I was very proud of that because it was so difficult. This time around, I knew it was going to be hard, so I had lactation consultants on standby. The early days were really stressful because our baby wasn’t gaining weight and had a tongue tie and lip tie.

I really wanted to breastfeed, so I was petrified of supplementing. I was convinced that it would either ruin my milk supply or confuse the baby, so I resisted for a long time. Eventually, I had to give in because she wasn't gaining weight. We ended up using a Supplemental Nursing System, which is like a little feeding tube. When we started doing that, my milk started coming in more. I think my supply increased because I wasn't stressed anymore about the baby gaining weight. I think for me, supplementing helped me continue breastfeeding.

I worked with three different lactation consultants and had amazing support from friends that helped get me through those early days. My friends were like, “call this lactation consultant.” “I tried these supplements that have been really helpful.” “Remember to drink water.” They would also bring food to make sure that I was eating nutritiously. I think the friendship and support helped me push through the moments when I was like, I just can't do this anymore. I'm gonna have to give up breastfeeding.

{ Aida in the Estelle Nursing Dress with her baby }

As a third-time mom with a newborn at the moment, how are you taking care of yourself?

I think that as a third-time mom, one of the things that I've done differently this time around…and I don't know why it took me so long to do it…has been making myself a priority even during pregnancy. Once I was in the third trimester, I started preparing for postpartum by cooking nutritious meals. I also followed the idea of the first 40 days, which is used in a lot of other cultures. During the first 40 days after birth, the mom and baby don't leave the house. Ideally, they are home together and the mom focuses on her nutrition, sleeping, recuperating from birth, and bonding with the baby. Healing from birth is a big deal that most of us in our society are forced to fast forward and get on with our normal lives.

When I had my second child, I was already getting us out of the house to take my oldest to summer camp a week after delivery. This time around I was like, we're gonna do this differently.

I'm older and going to have a C section, so my body is going to need time to recuperate. We didn’t follow it 100%, but we stayed home as much as possible.

I think making myself a priority has helped make this postpartum experience so much better. Even with the whole breastfeeding saga the first few days being home were much more enjoyable than the other two pregnancies. I’ve taken more naps and have been eating nutritious foods. I’ve focused on taking it slow and not making any plans. Putting myself first feels weird sometimes, but it's important for my mental health.

What advice would you give to a new mom regarding breastfeeding?

I’d say that it's often hard. Sometimes it doesn't come naturally and that's okay. Try your best and don’t compare yourself to anyone else. I’d also tell them that it's one of the most amazing experiences you can have as a mother. I think it’s good to go into breastfeeding with your eyes open. Recognize that it might be challenging, so you have to prepare yourself and reach out for help when you need it. Ultimately, I believe fed is best. Having been on the brink of having to switch over, I get how difficult it can be. The great thing is that usually the difficulties happen in the first couple of weeks, so if you can push through it gets easier. It's definitely a wonderful experience and worth fighting for.

What would you say is your favorite part of motherhood?

I think seeing them grow, reach their goals, and develop into their own people is really amazing. I don't know if it's my favorite part of it, but it’s definitely at the top. I think it's so great that you have a part in helping form a human being's life and get to see them grow into their own people. I'm seeing that now having older kids. In the early years, the best things about motherhood are holding hands and snuggling. Also having a human being growing inside of you. It's just such a privilege and a miracle.

What is the most challenging part of motherhood?

There are a lot of really difficult parts depending on the stage that you're in. The most difficult thing about being a mother to an older child is them becoming more independent. You let go of control and being their go-to person. My mom always said, “small kids, small problems; big kids, big problems.” I don't think I realized that until now that I have a preteen, but it’s true for sure.

I also think watching them grow is the best and hardest part. It's exciting because you're seeing them achieve all these amazing things, but it's also difficult at least for me as a mom, because part of you always wants to keep them little and close to you. 

When you have little kids, the hardest parts are the long days without a break. You’re always a mom. You don't get the weekends off. If you're not watching out for yourself and your wellbeing, it can take a toll for sure.

{ Aida in the Estelle Nursing Dress with her baby }

What would you say has surprised you the most about motherhood?

I think the fact that I've learned so much from my kids because they're so different from me. This is especially true with regard to my oldest child. He has dyslexia and some learning disabilities. He’s also very creative. I've grown as a human and in my way of looking at life thanks to him. I think it's really neat that your children can have that effect on you. You always think that you're going to shape them but then they shape you.

Tell me more about how you started on this journey of non-toxic living.

When I was finishing college, my mother had breast cancer. She survived and is doing great, but when she was going through all that she started researching and learning about links between environmental chemicals and cancer. On occasion, she’d email me something she’d read and I started learning a little by being exposed to that.

Then when I got pregnant, 13 years ago, I really took a deep dive. I started realizing that everything I put on myself or expose myself to affects my child, and I really wanted to buy the cleanest things possible for my child. At that point, it was more basic things that I was focusing on like mattresses, toys, and strollers. Of course, 13 years ago, there wasn't that much information or brands out there like there is today, so it was hard to find information. I started investigating and reading studies, which came naturally to me because of my investigative journalism background.

I found out my friends who were also getting pregnant around that time were interested too, so I started putting everything together in a blog. It was called Non-Toxic Munchkin. I did it to organize my thoughts to share with my friends and then my friends would share the posts with their friends. That’s how I started as a blogger. It took a while for me to get to where I am nowadays. I think a year or two into it, I thought about how overwhelming it was when I started trying to find information and recognized that a lot of moms go through that and feel the same exact way. That's when I realized I could help more people and started becoming more active on the blog.

Fast forward a couple of years, we had moved to LA and that's when I launched it as a consulting company. It went from totally being a blog to really being a business for me. I started doing more consulting one-on-one with families and then started working with a couple of corporate clients. I was probably late to Instagram but when I joined about five years ago, that opened up my work to a bigger audience, which has been wonderful. The community that we have, via Instagram, is mostly mothers and it's amazing. They're interested in learning about low-toxic living and they usually come to me really stressed out, overwhelmed, and not sure where to start. I get to help them which feels really good.

You mentioned it feeling overwhelming in the beginning. Tell me more about that and trying to find information about toxins.

I think one of the most overwhelming things for me when I started was, the more information I read, the more I realized there were potentially harmful chemicals in everything. I started with the mattress, which led me to mattress protectors, which led me to the crib and the nursery. The more I read, the more I knew, and the more I freaked out. They're everywhere! Chemicals are everywhere! They're going to harm us! The reality is at some point you come to the conclusion that you cannot live in a bubble and neither can your baby. We have detoxing organisms in our bodies that are capable of helping us. The problem is when they're overwhelmed because of too much exposure to so many chemicals. That's when it can impact your long-term health. 

In the beginning, I didn't realize that is how our bodies work, so it was overwhelming and a little bit scary. Then I came to the realization that you can only do so much and that's okay. It took me a while to find that balance.

When you start learning about non-toxic living, you're like, I need to do everything. I need to overhaul this house, everything needs to change. That's not really the healthiest way to go about it. When you find balance, it becomes easier. You realize, oh, I can do this. Then you be smart and take small steps instead of trying to do everything at the same time. 

{ Aida in the Estelle Nursing Dress }

What advice would you give a parent who was starting to make the switch to non-toxic living?

I'd tell them to slow down and focus on small steps. Think about when you're dieting. If you're doing an extreme diet, like a detox, that's not sustainable. This is more of a lifestyle change, not an overnight change. Start in the areas of the home where you spend the most time. That's usually either the bedroom or the kitchen for most families. Then start taking one thing at a time to tackle. That way you don't get overwhelmed and it's so much more sustainable.

I will say it's never going to be worth it if it costs you your mental health. A lot of people are intimidated and think it's going to be expensive to switch over to non-toxic living. However, there are so many free or cheap things that we can do that make an impact like taking your shoes off or dusting. Dusting is probably the number one thing that you can do in your house to reduce toxins. A lot of chemicals migrate to dust and then we're exposed to them because we breathe it, we touch it. Don't let thinking it'll be too expensive be an obstacle. If you're not in a position to spend money, it's okay. There's so much you can do without spending money. There are small steps for everyone.

If you could talk to your younger self before you had kids, what would you say?

I'd say everything works out, so don't stress too much. Our kids will learn how to sleep through the night and how to use a toilet. They're all going to learn how to read eventually. Everyone has their own time, and it all goes by really quickly. I think sometimes as new moms,  we focus on the difficulties: toilet training, sleep training, etc. The reality is none of our kids are going to go to college in diapers or not sleeping through the night in their own bed. If I had the perspective that it'll all work out, I think I would have enjoyed my first two rounds of early motherhood more. I enjoyed them a lot, but I think that perspective would have helped me.

{ Aida in the Estelle Nursing Dress with her 3 children }

I like to end with this question about your kids. What is one of the funniest situations that has happened with you and your kids?

Having two boys, there are always funny things going on all the time. Most of the time has to do with bathroom words. I remember when my oldest was little and still in diapers, and we were in Boston for my brother's college graduation. He was playing with his older cousins in a courtyard of the restaurant we were at, and suddenly there was a massive poop on the floor. It hadn't been there before and it looked like horse poop. It was huge. We thought there was no possible way it could have come from my son, but it must have because no animal walked by and he was the only one in diapers. We were all laughing. We couldn't figure out how it made it out of his diaper and why it was so big. It's a mystery to this day and we still refer to it.

To learn more about non-toxic living, you can visit Three Little Plums or follow Aida on Instagram.

At Ellie and Becca we strive to lessen the number of toxins that you and your children are exposed to by using Organic Tana Lawn® Cotton for our nursing-friendly dresses. Conventional cotton production uses pesticides and other harmful chemicals that can impact your health, so organic cotton is a great alternative that is better for your skin and overall health. We selected our fabric with mothers like you in mind because we want you to feel beautiful and comfortable in a dress that you know is safe for your skin.


You have successfully subscribed!
Weekly dropping in with tips, Gentle Parenting strategies, the latest releases, and content that was created with Y-O-U in mind!
Thank you for subscribing!