Following the tragic loss of my baby boy #3 at 21 weeks, I had been grieving for the loss of my boy #3 while my breasts were ironically engorged at the same time.
Although nurses and doctor told me not to pump the milk, I decided to take out my 12 yr old Medela Harmony hand pump and started pumping once a day for a little bit.
I found it comforting as I touched the nursing log book of my previous two pregnancies, bringing back precious memory of more than a thousand days and nights of nursing my boys.
Then I came across an old CBC article about a jewelry artist making resin jewelry from customer’s own breastmilk. Knowing that I most likely will not have more pregnancy due to the complications of this pregnancy, I hope I could also preserve my breastmilk as a memorial.
I really hope that I could get my breastmilk pendants as soon as possible so I could hang it on my chest to somehow fill the emptiness in my heart, but after inquiring a number of N. American stores, it looks like the sooner will still be more than 2 months.
After placing my order and sent 2oz breastmilk as instructed, I decided to do my own research and see if I can figure out how to make my own DIY breastmilk pendant keepsake.
It seems like many of the DIY kits are over $50 and they either uses high ratio of chemical solvent or barely wax which won’t really keep the breastmilk last from rotting.
Each store owner keeps the formula an industry secret and claims that the DIY kit they sell will not be the same as what they actually use, so I think it’s not worth to waste that $50.
A few other blogs have stories about how mothers are attempting with trials and errors. I like one idea to freeze dry the breastmilk and then powder it to dust then mix and encase it with resin.
However, household grade freeze dry machine is $3000 so I decided to try with either vacuum container method or dry ice method.
I don’t really have a standalone deep freezer, so putting dry ice in a cooler than put the whole cooler in my freezer will not be easy.
So I decided to go with the vaccum jar method. I purchased a vacuum hand pump and a Foodsaver mason jar sealer. The theory behind this freeze dry method is that at high level of pressure, water will sublime under reduced pressure, skipping the liquid stage and covert from solid ice to vapour directly.
Using the vacuum hand pump, I could seal the mason jar at around 20Hg. It seems like I have to redo the vacuuming twice a day to keep that pressure level.
For the breastmilk, I decided follow a blog’s suggestion to heat it on a non-stick cooking pan and add a preservative that is commonly used in DIY lotion, the Optiphen Plus.
It seems like breastmilk is alkaline (ph 7) but Optiphen Plus works better with slightly acidic ph 6, so I was thinking to add a tiny little bit of citric acid, but I didn’t do it for this round.
After putting the mason jar to the back of my freezer, hoping my boys won’t disturb the freezer that far down, I realized there was tiny bit of left over dried breastmilk on my non-stick pan, so I decided to try something that were not suggested by the other breastmilk jewelry artists – mix the dried breastmilk (heated and added preservative) to resin.
There was only a tiny bit of dried breastmilk here compared to the ratio of resin. I mix the BM after mixing resin and hardener and they don’t seem to mix well. The BM appears as flakes in the resin encasing. I think I will try mixing it before adding hardener as another blog suggested. I might try adding a bit of pearlizing powder next time to make it looks more milky.
Here’s a BM pea pod pendant.
Here’s a BM dome inside a sterling silver mother and child pearl case pendant.
Here’s BM oval pearl dome in sterling ring
I plan to leave the mason jar in the freezer for a week and keep re-vacuuming it daily and see if the freeze drying will happen after a week.
I’ll post Breastmilk Jewelry Keepsake DIY #2 in May.