The Dairy in the Fridge

The Dairy in the Fridge
(Part 3 of a 4 day series)

If you were to take a peek in the fridge, you might think we had a tiny little cow out back judging by all the miniature bottles of milk carefully lined up inside. But, of course, we keep no livestock at the apartment, and all those cute little bottles are actually the result of Jennifer’s dedicated, hard work. Still, at a glance it looks like our little operation could qualify for small agribusiness subsidies. Well, maybe if we lived in Wisconsin.

Just like your grocer's dairy section

The milk inventory is in a constant state of flux. Sometimes Trixie drinks more (or less) than we expect. Sometimes pumping is less frequent on the weekends. Sometimes I drink one by mistake when I’m trying to grab a beer. On average we try to keep 12 bottles in the milk line — enough to feed her for 2 days. The stock rotation is very straightforward; new bottles go the back of the line.

The ebb and flow of the milk line

We use a two-tiered system for milk processing. No-frills bottles are used for collection and storage, and fancier “VentAire” bottles designed to reduce spitting up and discomfort are used for feeding. When it’s milk time, we warm a bottle up to room temperature, transfer it to the VentAire, and Bottle Log it. [Click here to see a demo version of the Bottle Log that you can play with!]

Once logged, the bottle is good for 2 hours. We arrived at this length of time through trial and error. Initially, we thought we were playing it safe by retiring bottles at 3 hours. One day, however, Jennifer taste tested some 2+ hour old milk that Trixie wouldn’t touch. I can’t really describe the face she made, but I can see why Trixie wasn’t biting. As poor Jennifer discovered, the milk had spoiled and spoiled bad.

In retrospect, I guess it shouldn’t really have come as much of a surprise. Jennifer milk is whole-fat, vitamin-rich, and unpasteurized. It’s not designed to exist at room temperature at all, and once it’s out of the fridge and warmed up, the bacteria get to work. So now we draw the line at 2 hours. Keeping track of the time is extremely important because if you forget, you either have to throw the bottle out early or resort to a taste test. Both choices are unpalatable, the latter more so. We use The Bottle Log to track the expiration time in addition to the amount of milk Trixie is drinking.

The Bottle Log keeps track of her daily milk intake

Currently Trixie is drinking between 5-6 bottles a day. There’s a 6am (prepared by Jennifer for me to deliver and then fall back asleep), 10am, 1pm, 4pm, 7pm (optional because Trixie has probably been breast-feeding) and a 10pm (that puts her asleep for a good 5 hours.) From these 5-6 bottles she’s getting an average of 18-19 oz. a day. This is about 70% of the 26 oz. we estimate she needs daily. The rest comes from breastfeeding.

Finally, Trixie has had all she can drink. She’s sleepy, fat and content. End of story, right? Not quite. Come back tomorrow to find out about clean-up in the final part of our series: After the party’s over.

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3 Responses to The Dairy in the Fridge

  1. schaff says:

    As usual, TTU delivers information you otherwise wouldn’t know — and with copious illustrations. It’s truly become the most relevant look-at-my-baby Web site today. What’s next, a spinoff baby instruction manual? A line of Trixie-approved bottles? Customized baby-documenting software? Call me.

  2. Shelly says:

    Congratulations on a fabulous Halloween costume. What I want to know is: did the world get to enjoy it? Did you go trick or treating? Or, go to a costume party?

  3. Nicole R. says:

    It’s way too late for you, Ben, but for parents searching ‘Milk Week’ for pumping and storage advice, I wanted to cite a few studies. (I found these articles at the excellent breastfeeding site Kellymom)

    “In a landmark study, mature human milk was expressed into clean, not sterile, containers, some stored at room temperature (19-22o C or 66 to 72o F) and some refrigerated for ten hours. The milk was then cultured to evaluate bacterial formation. No statistically significant difference was found between levels of bacteria in the milk that had been refrigerated and the milk stored at room temperature (Barger and Bull 1987).”

    So if it’s not bacterial growth (that is, “spoiling”) then why did Jen’s milk taste bad so quickly? I did this research because the same thing happens to my milk, which becomes rancid after about 24 hours in the refrigerator, instead of the 8 days the experts say is acceptable:

    “Some moms find that their milk seems to spoil rather quickly despite careful attention to proper storage and handling. This is thought to be a result of the milk having an excess of lipase, an enzyme which helps break down the fats in human milk. One way to keep milk from spoiling so quickly is to halt the breakdown of fats by scalding the milk just prior to storing it. This is done as soon after expression as possible and over a stove eye. Scalding the milk involves allowing small bubbles to appear on its surface but removing it from the heat before an actual boil occurs. The milk should then be stored immediately either in the refrigerator or freezer.”

    As an experiment I took four ounces from the same pumping session and scalded half of it. Then I put both bottles in the fridge for a day or so. The raw milk smelled terrible by the next day, while the scalded milk was just fine!