By Beth Whitehouse Newsday
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Some women are now touting the sentimental value of having a piece of "Mother's Milk" jewelry. The jewelry is made with actual breast milk and celebrates the accomplishment of a breastfeeding a child.
When Jennifer Gutkowski of Seaford was weaning her daughter from breastfeeding, her best friend gave her what she calls "the best gift ever", a necklace whose charm was made from some of Gutkowski's breast milk.
"It is really nice to have a forever memory of that experience I had with my daughter and that bond we shared through breastfeeding. It almost looks like a pearl," says Gutkowski, 33, who works in admitting for a hospital emergency room and whose daughter, Devin Lane, is now 3.
Bonnie Macchio, 30, of Bellerose, is the friend who surprised Gutkowski with the pendant, enlisting Gutkowski's husband in swiping an ounce of Gutkowski's frozen breast milk from their freezer. Macchio had purchased for herself a pendant in 2017 from an online company called Precious Milk Drops to celebrate breastfeeding her son Logan, now 2.
Macchio had Gutkowski's pendant made by Kristina Galea-Siegel, 30, of Floral Park, who offers 20 different pieces she can make incorporating breast milk; a pendant, for instance, is $80. The milk in the jewelry isn't in liquid form, Galea-Siegel says she pasteurizes and treats the milk and then mixes it with resin in a mold. "It hardens like a stone," Galea-Siegel says.
Galea-Siegel started making charms for herself because she wanted to mark the accomplishment of nursing her daughter, Linda, 4, and son Mason, 2. "I wanted to be able to look at that ring or that necklace and think, 'My body accomplished this,' " she says. When people complimented the jewelry, she'd say, "It's actually breastmilk." Their response? "They'd say, 'I'm sorry, What?' " Galea-Siegel says. Fellow breastfeeding moms would say, "Can you make me one?"
Women interested in breast milk jewelry keepsakes can find people to make it for them through word of mouth and through Facebook groups that cater to breastfeeding moms. A Google search also will bring up people advertising such jewelry, and Etsy.com allows the sale of do-it-yourself kits. Galea-Siegel advertises on her Mother's Milk Jewelry Facebook page.
The New York State Department of Health doesn't regulate breast milk jewelry. Its regulations that apply to human milk are specific to human milk that is donated by a mother and then ingested by a child that is not the donor's child, says Jill Montag, a department spokeswoman.
Alison Ross, 40, an accountant from Syosset, had three bracelets made from her breast milk while nursing her fourth and youngest child, and they have sentimental value, she says. "I haven't worn them," she says. "I'm really afraid to lose them. It feels almost like a treasure to me." She keeps them with her other mementos, including her children's baby teeth and her pregnancy tests, she says.
Says Lauren De Palma, 29, a nurse from Farmingdale who purchased a ring made with her breast milk and gold flakes to mark breastfeeding her daughter Gianna, 1: "Breastfeeding is such a special thing that we get to do as women. I wanted to preserve that. Some people think I'm crazy, and some people think it's really cool. It's subtle. Nobody knows what it is except for me."