Maternity Fashion: How to Keep Your Style While Wearing a Bump – THIRD TRIMESTER

I’ve written about maternity fashion for first trimester here, and second trimester here.  This is the final post on third trimester.
The thing to remember at this stage of pregnancy, when you’re feeling sweaty and uncomfortable, having increasing trouble sleeping, and putting up with a daily onslaught of comments ranging from, “Are you SURE you’re not having twins?” to “ARE YOU SURE you’re not having twins,” to “You haven’t had this baby yet?” to “When are you due again (was it yesterday?)” to “ARE YOU ABSOLUTELY sure you’re not having twins,” here’s the thing you have to remember:
This precious, precious little one is going to make it all worth it.  And with the sense of humor God instilled in the universe, you will exchange your sweaty pregnancy body for a drippy-lactating body; your firmly shaped baby-belly for a squishy, lumpy post-partum belly; and lots of trouble sleeping for no sleep at all, topped off with a bazillion comments about how freaking adorable your little one is and are they sleeping through the night yet?
And once again I will repeat, oh the precious little one that is worth it all.  Oh the joy they will bring to your days.  And just like the awkwardness of toting around a pregnancy belly, a puffy face, and swollen ankles, the sleepless nights of early parenthood, too, will pass.  It is for a season that seems long in the moment and short in the past.
Hang in there, mamas!
Overall third trimester fashion tips:
1. If you have any remaining ability to still wear non-maternity blouses or dresses, rock it.  However, pay attention to lines like bra lines or pregnancy boobs popping out of things, panty lines in your dresses, etc…. Being pregnant comes with a lot of imperfections, but you can embrace those curves while smoothing them out.  If the weather allows it, wearing a thin cotton tank under a fitted shirt, or a belly band over the pants and popped-out belly button, will help smooth things out.  I used Ingrid and Isabel belly bands during my pregnancy, because of their high quality and durability.
2. Your face inevitably changes.  Looking through these photos, I can see the beginning of “pregnant face” at about twenty weeks, but by thirty-four weeks, I was having to photograph my face at different angles in order to be happy with how the photos turned out. The good news is your face is probably the first thing to go back to looking normal after delivery, and should do so within a couple days, depending on if you had a lot of IV fluids during a hospital stay (which will add a few more days to losing the puffy look).  You can feel better about how you look by taking care of the parts you CAN control.
3. Comfort becomes increasingly important.  If the weather is cool enough, leggings or tights under a tunic or short dress can be wonderfully comfortable while still looking put-together.
4. You may need to invest in new shoes, if your feet or ankles experience swelling.  I needed new shoes by about thirty-two weeks ish.  I opted to purchase two pairs of flats that were dressy enough for work, but casual enough for daily use – a brownish color and a silvery color since those two seemed to look good with everything.  I had one pair of Crocs flats that also fit until the end of my pregnancy.  I couldn’t wear flip flops because the straps pressed into my swollen feet, plus it really showed that I was swollen, and I got tired of people freaking out over my ankles.  I wore a lot of thin pants at the end, to help hide my ankles.
5. You can still look and feel beautiful. In fact, I guarantee that you look prettier than you think you do.  Other people don’t see the imperfections the way you do, and the bigger your belly gets, the more attention it gets than your face anyway.  Once the baby is born, people hardly look at you anymore because they are too busy looking at the precious tininess.

6. Decide when it’s time to lose the “fitted-under-the-belly” blouses.  You may make this change based on a glance in the mirror, or based on how many twin comments you get in a day.  As long as belts are still comfortable against your ribs, I think they look great all the way till the end.  You will need skinny belts though; wide ones won’t do.  Preferably 1/4 to 1/2 inch at a maximum, or a soft sash or ribbon is even better.

29 Weeks. Dress: Old Navy (not maternity, but two sizes larger than my normal size). Necklace: thrifted. Belt: Ebay. Tights: Walmart or Target. Boots: Ross.  I can’t do the ankle-height booties that are so popular right now – they look like hooves to me, especially on my size 9.5 feet.  But these boots were a short length that was comfortable to wear without being so low they turn me into a horse.

30 Weeks. Blouse: Old Navy (not maternity, but the ruched sides made it an awesome maternity blouse). Cardigan: Old Navy. Skirt: thrifted (not maternity, super stretchy waist). Boots: Ross. Necklace: gift, from India. Belt: thrifted.

31 Weeks. Blouse: I don’t remember, not one of my usual stores… super stretchy and soft, not maternity. Cardigan: consignment, also not maternity. Necklace: fabulous, gift from my boss from New Mexico, real turquoise and various handmade beads. Pants: Craigslist, maternity slacks. I bought a pair of black, brown, and grey dress slacks off Craigslist early in my pregnancy, before they fit.  It was a great purchase as I wore them daily to work.  I paid more than I wanted to for them, but they were still cheaper than buying new high-quality maternity dress slacks, and I definitely got my money’s-worth out of them.  Shoes: thrifted, one of my all-time favorite thrifted finds, red leather retro-looking heels that fit perfectly and were my favorite brand of dress shoes, Gianni Bini from Dillards.  I paid $10 for them, and $16 to have them repaired where some of the leather was fraying.  Which is also to say that high-quality leather shoes can almost always be repaired by a good shoe shop.  I’ve saved many a pair of lovely shoes by sending them for a $10 repair.

I included the close-up belly shot here, to show the transition happening with fitted blouses.  In the first and second trimester, fitted blouses are your best friend. As you get further into the third trimester, they definitely show off your belly still, but it becomes a question of how much you want to show off your belly, and how many questions about triplets you want to field that day.  I was hitting the transition point here for sure.  As you can see, the following week’s photo my belly actually looks smaller, which is just a matter of how I dressed.

32 Weeks. Cardigan: thrifted (Gap), Blouse thrifted, Belly Band (showing under my blouse) Ingrid and Isabel, Pants maternity slacks Craigslist (see prior photo), shoes brown leather heels from Gianni Bini, Belt thrifted.

The cropped sweaters started looking good around this stage of pregnancy. They worked to visually shorten my torso, which seemed to make my belly appear a bit smaller.  This blouse that isn’t fitted-under-the-belly also helps visually shorten my torso and belly size.

33 Weeks. Blouse: Gap (not maternity), Necklace Ebay, Belt Urban Outfitters, pants Craigslist, Shoes Walmart.

Although I was slowly moving away from fitted-under-the-belly blouses at this stage, I wanted to photograph this blouse I had worn repeatedly during my pregnancy.  I had a gift card to Gap Maternity from a friend, and this was one thing I bought with it.  It was incredibly soft and flowy, and not hot to wear.  It was from the non-maternity part of the store, and was a size extra small. I guess they intended it to be worn like a short dress or something, because it would have been absolutely enormous on me if I wasn’t 33 weeks pregnant.  There was room for me to wear it right up until the end.

It is belted at the empire waistline, because I think this is such a wonderful look for pregnancy.  At this stage however, you may be feeling pretty constricted in the ribcage area, depending on how your baby and placenta are positioned.  I was lucky in that my placenta was at the top of my uterus, under my diaphragm and ribs, so I never experienced baby kicks knocking the wind out of me. If he kicked straight up, I couldn’t even tell.

Also, I use Ebay when I have a specific item I’m searching for.  For example, a gold leaf necklace, or a skinny silver belt.  I could visit a ton of stores before finding the exact item I have in mind, or Ebay usually yields it with a ten or fifteen minute browsing keyword search.

34 weeks. Cardigan, thrifted (Gap), Blouse Old Navy (not maternity, I think a regular size L maybe), pants Craigslist maternity slacks, Shoes Crocs Malindi, Necklace thrifted.

Eventually I couldn’t wear these Crocs anymore, as the sling back strap would press into my swollen feet. You can tell in this photo that my feet and ankles are merging.  It was getting hard to hide.  Around 36 weeks, I had slight signs of early stages of preeclampsia, but after treatment from my naturopath and lots of prayer, the symptoms all disappeared and I had a safe, normal home birth.

The looseness under my belly looked best on me at this substantial-belly stage of pregnancy.  The cropped cardigan helped to raise up the eye off the belly and visually shorten my torso.  I love, love this necklace.  I only have a few very-large necklaces in my wardrobe, and they always seem a bit overwhelming when I put them on.  But when I see them in photos, they just look fabulous and really bring vibrance to an otherwise simple outfit.

35 Weeks. Scarf Old Navy, Cardigan consignment, Blouse Liz Lange Target maternity), pants Craigslist, shoes Ross.

I usually say I don’t like purple, but then I realize I have a substantial amount of plum in my wardrobe, and it’s a color I really enjoy wearing.  This is the ivory blouse I wore backward in an earlier second trimester post with a black and white skirt.  I wore it front-ward for this outfit, since the scarf was drawing attention and I didn’t want to overwhelm it.  The cardigan also has little cut-outs on the bell sleeves, so there was plenty of detail here already.

My poor puffy feet.
My poor puffy nose.

36 weeks. Blazer: thrifted (not maternity, two sizes larger than my normal size). Blouse thrifted, not maternity. Pants grey cords Ebay. Shoes Crocs Malindi.

Again, the crop-length jacket really helps here.  This blouse was non-maternity, but had an empire waistline and a generous hemline, making it ideal for a maternity blouse.  It had a bunch of different colors in the pattern, so I was able to wear it many different ways.  I like using one item with a pattern on it to draw together the colors of the rest of the outfit.  The plum colored shoes here are one of the colors in the blouse.

37 weeks. Blouse, thrifted, not maternity. Tank Old Navy, Skirt gift from a friend, maternity and so huge and stretchy that I was only able to use it right at the end, and still had to use the belly band to hold it up. Shoes, Ross. Necklace, gift (some kind of rock/stone on the pendant).

Wow. Really swollen here.  It actually got a bit better after this week, but this was probably the peak of the swelling.  I really wanted to stop wearing shoes at all.  I got a couple “huge” comments this week, which for the record, isn’t a word a pregnant woman likes to hear.

For the rest of the photos in that week, I knelt down on the ground to hide my feet, so I wouldn’t get comments on my blog.

Also, after seeing these photos, I decided I should definitely avoid blouses that fit completely around my belly for the remainder of my pregnancy.

38 Weeks.  Necklace and bracelet, consignment, real coral, one of my favorite pieces of jewelry.  Blouse Old Navy, not maternity. Tank Old Navy. Belt Ebay. Pants Ebay. Shoes Crocs Crocband Loafer.

This blouse was a size XL but was thin cotton and flowy and soft.  If I hadn’t belted it, it would have been waaaayyy baggy under my armpits.  But it was comfortable and seemed flattering at this end-of-the-road stage.

I have never cared for my profile in photos, because it makes my face very angular.  However, at this stage of pregnancy, when my face was so puffy, my profile was actually what I preferred over a straight-on shot.  That’s not really something you can manage in real life, what angle to view your face, but if you’re taking photos at this stage, it’s worth considering.

My son was born six days after this photo, one day before we would have taken my 39 week photos.  As it turned out, after our midwife gave him a thorough review when he was born, she concluded that I was about a week further along in my pregnancy than we were calculating.  His conception date had been a bit iffy, but she felt like she could determine once he was born, which of the two possible dates it was.

So I actually delivered him with a couple days of “40” weeks.  However, I still only “thought” I was nearly 39 weeks, which made it emotionally easier to still be pregnant.  I was prepared to go 42 weeks without induction, since that is the law in Texas during which time you can still deliver at home with a midwife.  As any full-term pregnant woman will tell you however, she doesn’t want to be pregnant one day longer than she “needs” to be.  We chose natural labor and natural home birth for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the over-use of induction in hospitals, leading to many unnecessary cesarean surgeries.  That said, I sympathize with every woman who is emotionally “done” with pregnancy.

So my 39/40 week outfit looked like this: (photos taken by my amazing photographer Ann Marie Itschner out of Kerrville).

And for all the twin comments I received during my pregnancy, it was a bit of relief to discover that my son was 10 pounds 4 ounces at birth, plenty big enough to have been a set of twins.  I lost 20 pounds the day he was born, from him, placenta, water, blood, etc.  And my ankles were back within 24 hours which was such a relief since I have always liked my feet!

I had fully intended to do some post-partum photos, because in many ways, it’s harder to dress THAT body shape than a pregnant one.  Chances are, your belly looks somewhere between three and seven months pregnant still, but it is loose and floppy instead of round and firm.  If you are breastfeeding, your nipples are extremely tender and sore and you would ideally want to walk around shirtless everywhere so no fabric touches your nipples.  Luckily both these things should last just a few weeks, and your belly will regain a sense of normalcy after time, and the nursing soreness will fade and become and easy and delightful nursing relationship.

I am now 22 months post partum, and not yet pregnant with my second child.  I would say that my belly looks now about like it did when I was 10 weeks pregnant with my first child.  It is a bit poofier than it ever was, even though I weigh the same as  I did then. I don’t exercise at a gym, or do special exercising at home, so I imagine it could look different if I did some working out.  But that’s not on my priority list at the moment.

My breasts went through so much change… Pre-pregnancy I am about a 34AA cup size, barely fitting into push-up/padded style 34A bras.  During my first trimester of pregnancy, I increased to a size 36C, and wore that size for the remainder of my pregnancy.  When I was first nursing, in the few weeks while your body doesn’t know if you need enough milk for a singleton or quadruplets, I experienced some engorgement and have no clue what my bra size was.  I didn’t wear a bra during that time, as it was too constricting.  I just wore a loose nursing blouse, and when I went out of the house, I wore a scarf that draped over my breasts to conceal anything showing through.  I guess that wouldn’t work in the summer, but I haven’t crossed that road yet.

I am now 22 months post partum, and still nursing my son at bedtime, nap time, and wake-up time.  I’m probably a size 34B, but nursing bras are stretchy and don’t have the distinct measurements that normal bras do.

I’m proud of the changes my body went through, and the permanent shape-changes that remain with me.  My body was meant to be used, it was designed to carry, nurture, and nurse babies, and it has done so (well one baby, not plural yet).  It has been serving some of that purpose, and shows marks from that use.  And that’s okay with me.

I have been so thin my whole life, primarily by genetics, and I never really liked my body or thought I was beautiful.  It was pregnancy, and all its crazy changes and lovely curves, that taught me to love my body, for how it looked, for what it can do.

So while fashion focuses on what we can do to our bodies externally, pregnancy is also a time to emotionally process how we feel about our bodies, good or bad.  I hope it becomes a time where you can enjoy your changing shape, no matter what size you were or are or become.  I hope the strength your body shows in growing and delivering a new human into the world (by the grace of God), can help you love your body more or begin to accept it for the first time.

We might be dressing the outside, but our hearts are on the inside, and our perception of ourselves is something that can blossom during this season of pregnancy, with all its loveliness and all its flaws.  This is me.  This is you.  Thank God for our beautiful, strong bodies.

And if you’re just here for the fashion, but curious about the birth of my son, I blogged about that too.
Birth Story short version
Birth Story long version
Two days old (the cute baby pics that make you remember why you’re pregnant after all)

| Filed under birth, fashion, God moments, health, pregnancy

From the Farm: Natural Bug-Bite Remedies

Since there are no fire ants in Kentucky, I have been enjoying the luxury of sitting in the grass. Jax loves to sit between my legs, pulling up the grass and weeds. He was wearing pants, but I had on shorts. And inevitably, even though there are no fire ants, something bit me.

I’m guessing it was a small spider since within two minutes it made a tiny red dot surrounded by a raised white welt, and redness streaking outward from there.

I got a little nervous since it really stung, and the skin was reacting so quickly and visibly.

Kristin calmly took care of me. She put tea tree oil on a cotton ball, and I scrubbed the surface of the skin everywhere it was enflamed. Then she made a paste of baking soda and water, mixing it with her fingers in a tiny cup. I spread just a fingertip’s worth of the paste on top of the welt. In about two minutes, the stinging, itchy, burning sensation was completely gone. In another few minutes, the red dot and welt were also gone!

Now I gotta try this at home the next a nasty fire ant takes advantage of me.

| Filed under health, natural, the farm

From the Farm: Natural All-Purpose Household Cleanser

Jax and I are staying at a friend’s farm in Kentucky for two weeks to help her while she’s on pregnancy bed rest.

It is so beautiful and peaceful here. And I’m learning a lot.

During my pregnancy with Jax, I made efforts to get toxic things out of my body and home, one step at a time. There’s a lot of things I still want to eliminate, but it takes time to find affordable, effective replacements.

Household cleansers were a big one on the list. They are expensive, hurt my throat and lungs, and are so dangerous if ingested. And I had a feeling more natural solutions didn’t need to have the price tag of Method or other brands.

I purchased a book called Super Natural Home. They suggested using a spray bottle of vinegar and a spray bottle of hydrogen peroxide to clean most things around the house. You can’t mix them together. Instead, spray one on the surface, wipe down, then spray the next one, then wipe clean. Tests have shown this process kills more than 99% of household germs, and is more effective than traditional chemical disinfectants. And, vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are super cheap.

We’ve been using those products since.

One day I came home and my lungs felt like burning. Benjamin admitted he had used the old chemical cleansers to clean the bathroom, even though he had been using vinegar for months. It shocked me how noticeable the difference was, after a few months of going without the strong chemicals.

But I was still stuck on one thing. I hate the smell of vinegar. I am a high-olfactory person (super sensitive to smells). And I dread cleaning my house, having to bear the smell of vinegar.

My friend Kristin has the solution. She mixes vinegar and water, half and half, in a small spray bottle. Then she adds about a tablespoon of dish soap (preferably a natural one, or you can skip this step), and about a tablespoon of orange oil. Don’t bother measuring; just pour a bit in. The orange oil removes the vinegar smell and gives your cleanser a delicious fresh citrus scent!

I have been using this cleanser around her house since I’ve been here. If it was possible to fall in love with a cleanser, I have done so. It has also made me eager to clean, so I can enjoy the delicious fresh smell of oranges!

I have used it in the bathroom and the kitchen, on counters, floors, mirrors, toilet, greasy kitchen residue, inside the refrigerator, and more. The only thing I wouldn’t use it on would be something you wouldn’t use water on, like wood furniture.

The orange oil has only two ingredients: orange peel extract and emulsifiers.

Kristin also uses the mixture as a bug repellent and bug killer. I have sprayed it on ants, flies, and spiders, and it either kills them within minutes, or it slows them down immediately, making it easy to kill them and clean them up with paper towel or toilet paper. She had me put straight orange oil on a cotton ball and wipe it in the back corners of the kitchen counter to deter little black ants from coming inside. It worked.

With this homemade cleanser, you have a disinfectant, degreaser, bug repellent, and air freshener all in one! And it is made from dirt-cheap, earth-friendly ingredients!

I can’t wait to get home and clean my house!

Update: I’ve been asked to do the math on the cost of this stuff. I’m not the best at math but here’s what I got.

Water: one cup, not priced
For the sake of this post we’re assuming water is free. You can add your local cost of water if you wish.

Vinegar: one cup, $0.3125
($5 for one gallon on Amazon; 16 cups in a gallon)

Nature’s Wisdom Orange Oil Concentrate: 1 Tbsp, $0.453 or 1 tsp $.151
($29 for one quart on Amazon; 64 Tbsp in a quart)
If you don’t plan to use this for killing bugs, you could reduce the Orange Oil to 1 tsp (about one cap full)

Seventh Generation biodegradable dish soap: 1 Tbsp, $0.06
($18 for six 25 oz bottles on Amazon; 50 Tbsp in 25 oz)

To mix a solution with one cup water, one cup vinegar, one Tbsp orange oil, one Tbsp soap, costs $0.8255. A 24oz bottle would cost $1.21.  If you only used one tsp orange oil, that would reduce the cost of a 24 oz bottle to $0.79.

I did not include the cost of a reusable spray bottle. I found a cute one I liked on Amazon for $5.

As a comparison, on Amazon, Lysol antibacterial kitchen cleanser is $3.19 for 22 oz. Clorox Clean Up with Bleach is $7.75 for 32 oz (perhaps this is cheaper in stores? I don’t remember cleansers costing that much).

Another note from a friend: use baking soda for things that require scrubbing!

| Filed under health, natural, the farm

From the Farm: Milk

I’m staying on a friend’s farm for two weeks to help her around the house while she’s on pregnancy bed rest. I’m learning a lot, and some of it is rather shocking.

There are so many controversies and strong opinions regarding food. What foods are good for you, bad for you, healthy, unhealthy.

Most everyone I know, myself included, says they try to eat healthy. But what does that mean? That the package says “Lowfat”? “Gluten-free”? “No trans fats”? That we include fresh fruits and vegetables at each meal? That we avoid sugar? Limit carbs? That everything we eat has to be labeled “organic”? That we raise chickens in our backyard?

The whole thing is so overwhelming and hard to navigate. And whoever the experts are that “know” seem to be changing their minds all the time.

“Eggs have too much cholesterol – stop eating them!”

“Eggs are the good cholesterol that helps fight the bad cholesterol!”

“Soy is chock full of protein and super good for you.”

“Soy is loaded with phyto-estrogens that hurt the natural hormone balance in your body.”

And on and on it goes.

And worst of all, it seems the things I decide would be best, such as shopping for organic, locally-grown produce, or organic, free-range meats, are financially out of reach. So I close my eyes and try not to learn too much, so I don’t know how truly bad the “good” things are that I eat. When I face the reality of the toxins and pesticides and antibiotics and steroids that are in my food, and how trapped I am into eating that way because of our finances, I feel like I’m slowly killing myself with every meal and I can’t stop.

I have experienced amazing success in seeing my body healed of several chronic (10-15 yr) issues under the care of my naturopathic doctor, a PhD in clinical nutrition. Issues I tried unsuccessfully to treat for years with traditional medicine and doctors. That story is for another post. But because I’ve experienced such amazing results using the vitamins, supplements, and dietary changes he has recommended, I trust his opinion.

He told me I should never eat commercial pork, because it too often has parasites that will not be killed by cooking, and will go undetected in my body. He told me not to eat commercial chicken and turkey, because the amount of hormones in them is a major cause of serious female hormone-based problems like uterine fybroids, ovarian cysts, breast cancer, uterine cancer and more. He believes it should be illegal what is done to our meat. Even if you’re not an animal-lover who protests the treatment of our food animals, you might be inclined to protest what it’s doing to your own body. To your children’s bodies.

On this farm they have two milk cows. They are treated how you picture an old-timey farm cow: tied by a long rope to a stake in the ground, out in the grassy fields. The stake gets moved once a day, and the cows get brought in twice a day to be fed alfalfa while they are machine-milked. Each cow gives about one-fourth gallon per udder, or “quarter” as they are called. A good milk cow with all four quarters working well gives 2-3 gallons per day. She needs to have a baby calf to start lactating, and can have one baby per year. She can go up to three years between calves and still lactate. She can get mastitis (plugged milk ducts leading to infected udders) just like a lactating woman. She will live 15-20 years and can be milked that entire time as long as she has calves periodically.

Cow manure has a three-day life cycle of bacteria growth. So here on the farm, they let the cows graze all day in one area, then drive them into a new area each afternoon. It moves them away from their own feces while it passes through the bacteria cycle and dries out sufficiently the cows can be brought back to the same area without breeding disease and ingesting their own manure (which in turn affects their health, and the safety of their milk).

This isn’t even remotely close to the situation for the milk we buy and drink from the grocery store. Those cows are continually kept in concrete stalls where they cannot move around. They stand in their own feces until the stalls are hosed down with strong chemicals. They eat the cheapest feed possible, which reduces the nutritional quality of their milk. They are given hormones to stimulate milk supply, and milked multiple times per day. Instead of two to three gallons per day, they produce ten or more. Because they stand all day long in feces and are depleted from steroids and over-milking, they get sick frequently. So they are given a constant stream or daily dose of antibiotics to keep them alive in spite of the sickly sitution. Finally, this takes such a toll on their bodies that their life expectancy, despite constant antibiotics, is only three to four years, one-fifth of what it should be.

So then I asked the next question, what about pasteurization? Here on the farm, they drink raw milk from their cows. This means the milk is drawn by pumping machines into sanitary, covered containers, to keep out flies or other contaminants. Then it is strained to be extra sure nothing has gone into it like a stray hair from the cow.

It is refrigerated immediately, and left in its original form. The cream naturally rises to the top and can be spooned off to make whipped cream, or mixed back in to drink whole. Keep in mind that your body desperately needs good fats to function properly, so fat is not the enemy of your waistline (sugar and empty carbs are, but that’s a story for another day).

So Daniel, Kristin’s husband, gave me the scoop on pasteurization, and it is an interesting one.

People used to live in the country, and either milk their own cows, or get milk from a close neighbor. The milk would be consumed before it spoiled enough to cause illness.

Cities started to form, moving people further from the country, and thus the milk source. The milk started spoiling before drinking. Since refrigeration was still not common in every day homes, the solution was simple: move the milk source close to the people again.

Who capitalizes on this need? The beer and alcohol breweries, already located in the cities. The mushy leftover from processing grain into beer was going to waste. The beer factory owners discovered that cows could eat the mush, called swill, without it killing them. Soon, hundreds of cows were being kept in close, confined quarters in diaries right next to the breweries. They were called “swill dairies.”

In those filthy, cramped dairies, cows were no longer naturally kept from disease by grazing (and moving away from their feces) on open farmland. The swill dairies became breeding grounds for disease, which slowly infiltrated the milk. Simultaneously, the nutritional quality of the milk plummeted, because of the residue the cows were being fed.

The situation worsened. The demand for milk in the cities was increasing, and the swill dairies couldn’t keep up. They found if you diluted the milk with water, it still had a milky-looking color, and customers couldn’t tell the difference. Then they found, if you diluted it further, and it began losing its color, you could add chalk dust to make it white again. People were used to shaking up their milk to mix the cream back in, so perhaps they wouldn’t notice the slight separation caused by the chalk, once they shook it up.

Prior to this, milk was considered one of the best things to feed babies, because if its high nutritional value, and ease to which babies adapted to it from mom’s milk. So when babies went from drinking whole, creamy, high-protein milk from grass-fed, free-range country cows, to drinking half-chalk, watered-down milk from swill-fed, bacteria-ridden, sickly city cows, babies stated dying. By the thousands.

It took a while to trace down the reason for the epidemic-level deaths of infants. Because of the tie to milk, swill dairies were investigated, and forced to close or clean up the filthy conditions. Most were eventually outlawed.

At the same time, Louis Pasteur and others working on this problem (and other problems of disease), invented pasteurization. If you boil the milk hot enough, they found, it kills disease and becomes safe to consume.

And finally, refrigeration showed up not long after and solved the milk spoilage problem as well.

Daniel, my friend here, said, “You can take a huge vat of milk, chuck some manure patties in, boil it up, and drink it without it making you noticeably sick. That’s basically what was happening then, and it’s still not far from what’s happening now. Does that make pasteurized milk safer or better for you than raw milk? Instead, you can raise your cows and handle your milk in such a way that it prevents disease from the beginning, AND retains all it’s nutritional value, instead of losing a lot of it by boiling.”

He also told me that milk lactose (present in all forms of milk, including human milk), requires lactase in order for the body to digest it. When the milk is pasteurized, it destroys the lactase, leaving behind only the lactose, which is indigestible to the human body. And hence, the lactose intolerant dilemma for many people (who can often drink raw milk with no issues, since it still has lactase).

It’s the same reason why there’s strict guidelines for handling of human breast milk. Sterilize the bottles and the pump.
Breast milk is safe on the counter for four hours. It is safe in the refrigerator for four days. To reheat it, either hold the bottle underneath warm (not hot) running water, or put the bottle in a pan of warm (not boiling) water away from the stove top. Too much heat, and the milk loses its most important nutrients necessary for the baby. Additionally, the lactase could be destroyed, making the baby’s body unable to digest or tolerate the milk.

I’m sure there’s a lot more than the bit I’ve learned and described. This is probably just scraping the surface. Daniel recommended the book, “The Untold Story of Milk”, for a thorough history and biology lesson that steers clear from some of the abrasive opinions of some raw milk advocates.

My body doesn’t handle milk well, so I switched to almond milk and hemp milk for drinking and cooking. I can tolerate dairy in small amounts, like cheese or butter, but avoid large quantities like milk or ice cream. Yogurt I adore and can eat because the yogurt bacteria must make it digestible for me.

I drank a glass of the raw milk here, hoping I could handle it, but no. I still had lots of stomach cramping a few hours later. So my issue with dairy must be something other than the lactose/lactase problem. I’ve also noticed Jax spits up within 24hrs of me having a lot of dairy. It runs in my family, so it’s not unexpected, just disappointing.

But that cold glass of milk was so, so delicious. And I’ve met the cow it came from. Her name is Flo.

| Filed under health, natural, the farm