By Nicole Brochu
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.
Convinced of breast milk’s healing powers, one South Florida mom isn’t just feeding her baby with it. She’s been using this so-called “liquid gold” to make organic soap for the whole family.
Now, Paula D’Amore is selling the bars, custom-made from each customer’s own expressed milk.
Launched in January from the kitchen of her Greenacres, Fla., home, Liquid Gold Soaps is a labor of love, D’Amore said, born from a desire to give other breast-feeding moms natur al solutions to everything from cradle cap in infants to acne in adults.
“Breast milk has many, many healing properties: [It] softens the skin, helps control oil, reduces redness, helps to treat acne, rashes. I mean the list goes on and on,” D’Amore, 29, says on her Liquid Gold Soaps Facebook page. “So [by] putting it in [an] organic soap base, I am creating a soothing soap that the entire family can use.”
Cooked up on low-to-medium heat and mixed with ingredients like coconut oil, therapeutic-grade essential oils, glycerin, purified water, organic honey, soybean protein and, for the exfoliate variety, oatmeal, each bar of soap lasts for up to 34 uses, D’Amore said.
With 5 ounces of breast milk, she makes three bars that sell for $15. Likewise, 10 ounces can produce six bars for $30.
“I think it’s great,” said Vanessa Hernandez, a Lake Worth, Fla., mom of four who has used Liquid Gold Soaps on the “really bad eczema” plaguing her 8-month-old daughter. “It’s the only thing that helps her. I used all of the creams the doctor recommended, and I didn’t see much of a relief.”
Hernandez was so impressed that she’s now using the soap on her face for the occasional breakout.
“It’s not a cure-all,” she said. “I do see blackheads, but I don’t break out as badly, and I don’t feel like it dries my skin out like other soaps.”
Though obstetricians and dermatologists contacted by the Sun Sentinel had never heard of soap made from breast milk, and could not vouch for its safety or effectiveness, it’s not an entirely new concept.
The Internet is rife with mommy blogs touting the benefits of topically applied breast milk and YouTube videos offering tips and recipes for making soaps and lotions with the precious resource.
A similar practice stirred controversy earlier this year in China, where some entrepreneurial moms used their breast milk to make soaps, then sold them over the Internet to strangers.
That is a dangerous phenomenon, experts said, because consumers could not be sure the milk was free of bacteria and disease.
D’Amore uses customers’ own breast milk.
The stay-at-home mother of two said she’s never experienced negative side effects, either from the soap or from putting her own breast milk directly on herself or her baby.
“I’ve had other clients re-order because they loved it so much, and I’ve had one client in Broward in the past say that she didn’t see a difference but still liked it because she knew she was using an organic soap instead of ones that have chemicals,” D’Amore said.
Area doctors question whether breast milk truly has benefits when applied topically or made into a soap.
“Obviously, all the benefits we know of are if it’s ingested,” said Dr. Audry Castellanos-Vidaurre, an OB-GYN and member of the Memorial Healthcare System’s breast-feeding task force. “I have to say, I really haven’t heard much as far as benefits from an absorption standpoint.”
And there isn’t enough scientific research to suggest that breast milk soaps, lotions or other topical products help, or whether they may be harmful, especially when there are no safety controls or oversight on D’Amore’s kitchen-based operation, Castellanos-Vidaurre said.
“I always worry about cross-contamination,” the doctor said. “People think that because something is topical, there’s minimal harm, but that’s not necessarily true. People’s bodies absorb things differently.”
Miami dermatologist Dr. Leslie Baumann called the concept “a far-out idea but interesting,” saying it makes some sense.
“Breast milk contains all kinds of antibodies and lipids [fats] and proteins,” said Baumann, chief executive of the Baumann Cosmetic & Research Institute. Those nutrients, however, “are likely broken down in the soap-making process.”
Christine Thompson, a leader with the La Leche League of Broward County, didn’t know much about breast-milk soaps, either, but said she couldn’t see the harm in it.
“People make soaps out of goat’s milk and cow’s milk,” she said. “It’s the same concept. It’s just milk from another animal.”
Karen Dorfman, 29, a stay-at-home mom in Cooper City, Fla., said she heard of D’Amore from several other breast-feeding moms who recommended the soaps. She’s eager to try her first batch of eight bars.
“I know the amazing benefits of breast milk. I’ve seen it firsthand,” Dorfman said, though this will be her first experience with breast milk soap, which she plans to use on her baby’s eczema. “If it works, I’ll definitely pump more and order more. I think it’s pretty cool.”
D’Amore got the idea for Liquid Gold Soaps during her last pregnancy, when she got “super-itchy” all over her body. When none of the doctor-prescribed creams and soaps worked, and she became bothered by the thought of “harsh chemicals” in most products, she had a brainstorm.
“I thought, what’s more natural than my own breast milk?” D’Amore said. “Whenever my [2-year-old] son got a rash, I’d put a little bit of breast milk on it, and it went away.”
She began making soaps, using recipes she found on the Internet, and her itch went away _ along with her blackheads, her son’s diaper rash and her 2-month-old’s cradle cap, she said.
D’Amore said she knew she was on to something when she posted a comment on her personal Facebook page, asking whether anyone would be interested in buying soaps custom-made from their own milk, and got an “overwhelming response” from more than 70 people.
So far, without advertising and largely by word of mouth, hers is a fledgling business. Most of those interested have excess supplies of breast milk from pumping, she said. Since the milk eventually expires, Liquid Gold Soaps gives moms another option to donating it, she said.
“You don’t want to throw it out. It’s precious,” D’Amore said, estimating that it costs about $30 to $50 to fill the orders of five clients. “I’m not making too much of a profit. I do it because I’ve been there.”