As an experience, breastfeeding can vary from mother to mother. Some women don't enjoy it at all while others consider it to be very special.
A Chennai-based artist is turning the emotional experience of breastfeeding into tangible keepsakes that parents can cherish forever.
30-year-old Preethy makes jewellery such as earrings, rings, pendants, and other keepsakes from breast milk.
Preethy, who is also a mother of a six-year-old, hit upon the idea after coming across a query for breast milk jewellery on a Facebook forum.
"As I have been making polymer clay jewellery besides doing other clay work for four to five years, I thought why not explore this," she says.
Since it is a niche market, Preethy had nowhere except the Internet to turn to for learning about the craft.
"There are quite a few techniques that are available online but they don't work actually. Firstly, milk is perishable and the colour of the jewellery can change . And you can only see the exact result after a month or more of making the piece," she shares.
Preethy learnt by trial-and-error method. While she is creative when it comes to designing, chemistry is not her forte. Friends with a background in the subject helped her with developing the technique scientifically.
It took her over six months to settle on a technique that worked and from May this year, Preethy started taking orders.
Interested customers contact Preethy through her Facebook page after which she instructs them on how to send the milk.
Since Preethy gets orders from other states as well, one question that is often asked is wouldn't the milk spoil by the time it reaches her?
Preethy says human milk doesn't spoil easily if kept under the right conditions.
"It won't be fit to feed a baby, but you can make jewellery from it. Once I get it, I add preservatives and store it in the freezer where it can stay for nearly six months," she says.
Though the trend is unusual, the demand is high and Preethy says she gets up to 12 orders a week: "But I am able to finish only 4-5 pieces per week."
Currently, Preethy only uses artificial material or sterling silver to make her products and the prince ranges from Rs 1,000 to Rs 4,000, depending on the design and the material.
And while most of her orders are for breast milk jewellery and keepsakes, she occasionally also gets requests to make pieces with a child's first tooth, a lock of hair and even the umbilical cord.
Preethy also makes pieces with the umbilical cord, lock of hair and a child's first tooth; Image source: Momma's Milky Love/Facebook
Not all those who buy these pieces wear them regularly and most keep the jewellery as a remembrance.
"Breast feeding is an emotional bond that a mother and her child share in the baby's first few years. Most people buy this jewellery just to cherish that bond forever. I sometimes feel bad that I couldn't do something similar for myself," she says.
All images courtesy: Preethy Vijay