(Part 2 of a 4 day series)
3 days? 5 days? 10 days? Exactly how long is the milk good in the fridge? How about at room temperature? How about when it’s warmed up? There is no consensus on this topic. Depending on where you look, you can find that the “safe” range for expressed milk varies from 2-8 days in the refrigerator, and from 3-10 hours at room temperature. We choose to err on the conservative side, with the goal of providing Trixie with the safest, freshest milk possible.
There’s an inherent trade-off between giving Trixie the freshest milk, and keeping a supply in reserve to protect against unexpected demand or interrupted supply. Businesses in the late 90’s learned to deal with this situation by introducing the concept of just-in-time supply chain management, where they reduced the amount of inventory kept locally in favor of trying to better predict inventory needs and improving distribution. Managing Trixie’s milk presents a similar problem.
Jennifer usually pumps more milk than Trixie is going to drink. So we could just let the bottles line up in the fridge, ensuring there will always be a bottle waiting as well as several days in reserve. However, this works against the goal of giving Trixie the freshest milk possible. Plus, we would soon run out of storage bottles, leaving Jennifer nothing to pump into. At the other end of the spectrum, I would like to give Trixie the milk that Jennifer pumped from the previous day, but that would leave me without any reserves if a bottle gets spilled or Trixie has a growth spurt.
In the end, we decided to keep a 2 day supply in the fridge. This puts her milk on the safest end of the storage range, and gives me a 1 day buffer to manage the supply. It might seem like we’re cutting it close, but we’re able to carefully track the milk demand with a web-based “Bottle Log” application [see screen grab below] specially developed to measure her daily milk intake. I can give Jennifer about 36 hours notice if there’s an indication that Trixie’s needs are ramping up.
In addition to making sure Trixie’s needs doesn’t exceed the supply, I have to make sure the supply isn’t outstripping what Trixie can drink. It kills Jennifer to hear this, but I pour bottles out when there is an over-supply and the front bottle is more than 2 days old. It sounds wasteful, but if you give her one old bottle, you are ensuring that all subsequent bottles will be old as the next in line is pushed back, and the one behind it and so forth. These small shifts would rapidly accumulate, leading to 3, 4 or 5 day old milk. So to prevent this from happening, I have to pour some out occasionally. (I just usually don’t tell Jennifer about it — and she appreciates not knowing.)
So while it does take a certain amount of planning to manage the milk supply, there’s a payoff in seeing all those tiny little bottles lined up and ready to go. Come back tomorrow to find out if our small-scale milk operation can apply for federal agribusiness subsidies in Part 3 of our series: The Dairy in the Fridge.