Anyone familiar with Etsy, the online community for selling homemade goods, knows that there are many vendors of fine handmade jewelry. Custom-made trinkets can be made-to-order. Jewelry and crafts are made out of everything from teeth to bronze booties to even dog fur – and now breast milk.
A new trend among some breastfeeding mothers is preserving their own breast milk as a keepsake to remember their days as a young mother.
But how does one come up with the idea of making jewelry out of balls of condensed breast milk?
“I created the Milk Mom Baby Breast Milk Keepsake Locket Kit after making a locket for myself and getting comments from friends who wanted to make their own,” said Brooke, an Etsy breast milk jeweler. “And so in October 2012 the kit was born and has been a hit with moms ever since.”
Society’s views on breast milk have varied over time, from inspiring disgust – and using poor “wet nurses” to do the “dirty work” – to inspiring art. During the Italian Renaissance paintings depicted breast milk squirting across the sky and becoming the Milky Way. Making art out of bodily fluids and other kinds of effluvium has been done before. Joseph Beuys, for example, created artwork out of fat and lint. Other artists have used dung, urine, and even period blood to create artwork – despite disgusted reactions.
This isn’t the first time that breast milk has suddenly become popular. In fact, many supporters of breast milk view the fluid as symbolic of family ties .
“In the later 1700s – around 1780s-1790s – breastfeeding comes into vogue at least in Britain, and is written about as a sign of maternal nature and tenderness,” Dr. Miriam Wallace said. “The early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft writes about it this way. Men are supposed to be emotionally moved at seeing their beloved wife giving nutrition to an infant as a sign of inherent domestic feeling and familial affection. It goes along with the development of the nuclear family of mother- father-infant. “
“Preserving breast milk is one of the hottest mom trends right now in the U.S.A., Europe and Asia,” Brooke explained. “It is a sweet memento of [a] baby’s first years, and women enjoy having something tangible to hold on to from this special time.”
This is a dramatic change from the recent past. Five decades ago, breast milk wasn’t seen as hygienic. Now, it is seen as more than that – an art form.
“It’s also worth noting that while breastfeeding got associated in the 1960s with a particular concept of “naturalness” and also of course with health benefits,” Dr. Wallace explained. “Housewives [from the 1950s] were encouraged to bottle-feed as being more hygienic and more ‘modern.’”
“There are several ways to preserve breast milk,” Brooke said. “In the Milk Mom Baby Breast Milk Keepsake Locket Kit the process involves boiling the milk, and adding a mix of solvents to condense the milk into clay-like substance that is molded and dries in a locket to create a wearable keepsake. The kit comes with a locket, solvents, detailed directions, a spatula, paintbrush and protective glaze. To complete the kit you need a stove, small pot, several paper towels and two ounces of breast milk. It is actually quite easy to do!”
If you or someone you know wishes to purchase custom-made breast milk jewelry, visit www.etsy. com. Prices range between $20 and $40.