04.15.13 8:45 AM ET
Rhode Island Woman Creates Jewelry Made From Breast Milk
Breast milk is no longer just for babies.
After struggling with breast-feeding her first child, Rhode Island mother of three Allicia Mogavero decided to commemorate the lactation process by turning her breast milk into wearable jewelry.
“The whole nursing experience was really profound for me. I was like, I wonder if I can preserve this. I wonder if there’s a way I can make it last forever,” she tells The Daily Beast.
Mogavero launched a website to help others do the same. Her so-called MommyMilk Creations are made by petrifying customers’ breast milk and encasing it in resin, which protects the hardened milk from shattering. The resins come in a range of shaped molds, including hearts, trees, and handprints, and can be customized to include a child’s name. Once the resin is cured, Mogavero then attaches chains to the molds so the pieces can be worn as necklaces, bracelets, and key chains.
Mogavero began her initial design process by figuring out the best way to preserve her breast milk. In early 2007 she spent roughly a year and a half conducting a series of at-home experiments, and, after much trial and error, she finally developed a five-step method that effectively petrifies the milk and transforms it into a bead. She keeps mum on the details of her procedure: “It’s a trade secret,” she says. “If I explain that, everybody’s going to be doing it.”
Other sellers have already begun rolling out breast-milk jewelry of their own. Milk Mom Baby crafts breast milk into lockets and offers DIY kits to assemble at home, and Hollyday Designs creates pendants similar to MommyMilk’s designs. But according to Mogavero, Hollyday’s milk preservation process is different. “I know people who have purchased from her [owner Holly Dayle] and complained about their milk beads turning yellow or spotty after purchase,” Mogavero says.
MommyMilk’s website stipulates that its breast-milk pendants will not discolor or turn yellow or spotty. “There is a very special process I use that I can guarantee no other seller uses,” Mogavero writes. “No one else will promise your milk won't turn yellow after receiving your pendant.” If for some reason one of her pendants change color, Mogavero offers to remake it free of charge.
The pendants can be purchased from MommyMilk’s Etsy store and range in price from $6 to $222. Once an order is placed, customers receive a confirmation email with detailed instructions on how to send in their breast milk. Mogavero requires between 10 and 30 milliliters of milk to create her pendants, and recommends that it be double-bagged in breast-milk storage bags for shipment.
The jewelry-making process takes approximately six to eight weeks: three to four weeks for the breast milk to be preserved, one to two weeks for the resin to cure, and additional time to create special backgrounds and custom designs. According to Mogavero, the most in-demand shapes are six-point stars, hearts, and handprints. “I just got a request for a goddess,” she said.
Mogavero initially started MommyMilk as a hobby apart from her day job—running a cloth-diaper store—and never anticipated it turning into a full-fledged business.
“I didn’t expect [MommyMilk] to get as big as it did,” she says. “It’s pretty overwhelming.
Yet despite successful sales, Mogavero’s designs have also received some negative attention. According to the Daily Mail, some commenters on the BabyCenter blog thought the idea was “gross.” One user writes, “The jewelry is cute, but I’m just trying to imagine how I would feel if I had received such a gift from my mother ... ‘Here honey, here is a lump of my preserved milk in a locket for you’ ... I would have probably been a little creeped out.”
But Mogavero brushes off the criticism: “It’s not for everybody,” she says. “I do think that people find breast-feeding in general disgusting, and I think they need to get over it.”