Calligraphy brushes made with hair from a baby’s first haircut. Umbilical cord stumps stored in little treasure boxes. Tiny handprints and footprints preserved in clay. We’re all familiar with how these items celebrate a baby’s birth.
But the latest baby fad to hit our shores? Breast milk jewellery.
A tiny amount of breast milk, between 10-20ml, is sent to the “jeweller”, who processes and dehydrates the milk into a plastic-like state. The hardened and shaped milk will then be coated with resin for protection before being worked into necklaces, beads and pendants.
These pendants retail for between S$100 to S$200 before shipping, and take 10-20 weeks to complete. Two very popular sellers among Singapore parents are MommyMilk Creations and MomsOwnMilk.
“About a year ago, I would say that none of my customers were from Singapore. But this year, I have received at least 200 orders, or 30 per cent of my customers, from Singapore,” said a very popular American breast milk jewellery seller.
The mother of three started creating breast milk jewellery as a way to preserve her breastfeeding memories.
Her breast milk charms – a hit with her Singaporean customers – can be inscribed with the baby’s name and used on the hugely popular Pandora bracelets.
“Anyone who has breast-fed their babies knows how challenging the process can be, and yet how rewarding it is when you form that special bond with your child. My pendants are a way for that connection to be remembered,” said the breast milk jeweller.
She declined to be named for privacy reasons, as she readily admitted that breast milk jewellery is not for everyone.
“I don’t want people to be judging me for the business I do, so I prefer to keep it under wraps. Not everyone understands the special meaning behind my products, and I have received nasty e-mails telling me that I am disgusting or unhygienic to work with other peoples’ breast milk,” she said.
She used to sell her creations on online marketplace Etsy, but has since been banned from selling on the site as Etsy classifies breast milk as “human remains”. She now runs her own online store.
Freelance writer Anna Sim, 32, who has made two pendants through this seller, agrees that she has been judged when people find out that she is wearing her breast milk.
“The reactions range from fascination to disgust – disgust mostly from people who do not have children,” said Sim, who wears one pendant and plans to give the other to her daughter when she is older.
“It’s so meaningful for me – I battled infections, so much pain, stress and tears to successfully breast-feed my daughter and now we are so close. It’s my trophy, and it reminds me that I am a fighter.”
Creepy or Cool?
The 20 mothers Yahoo! Singapore spoke to about breast milk jewellery either loved or hated the idea and were almost equally divided on the issue.
“Sorry, but no I would never do that,” said bank executive Joann Yeo, 31, who is still breastfeeding her seven month old son.
“Breastfeeding is a very personal and private thing. I definitely do not want to wear it around my neck and have people ask me questions about it.”
“I’m not against the idea totally, but I would be concerned about hygiene. Will the milk go bad? How can I be sure that they are using my milk?” said housewife Lynn Tan.
Tuition teacher Catherine Rodrigues, 29, is waiting for her breast milk pendant from popular site Mommy Milk Creations and felt that the idea was “adorable”.
“My breastfeeding experience is a huge part of my life and a big milestone. People wear keys to symbolise coming of age, or pendants to represent a certain time of their lives when they overcame obstacles. How are breast milk pendants any different?” she said.
“One day, when my daughter goes through the same struggles as me, I am sure she will be touched by this memento.”
Lactation consultants Yahoo! Singapore spoke to declined to comment on this fad, saying that they do not know exactly how the milk pendants are made and cannot vouch for the hygiene of the milk.
“As long as the milk is encased safely and not accidentally consumed, (and does not) come into contact with the mother and baby, it should be fine,” said Mdm P. Chua, 48, who has been a lactation consultant for 10 years.
“I personally feel there is more danger in those who try to preserve human placenta. Dried milk is harmless.”
Just another baby fad?
Some entrepreneurial Singapore moms have caught onto the trend and are now offering the service here, at almost half the price.
“Milk Bunny Singapore”, run by a local mother, says it will help breastfeeding mothers preserve their “liquid gold” in heart, rabbit and horse-shaped breast milk beads sealed in clear lockets.
“The first creator in Singapore and probably Asia,” states the Facebook page.
With the growing popularity of breastfeeding, these human milk charms might just be here to stay – until the next fad comes along.