I nursed both kids exclusively until they were just shy of two years old. After all the sleepless nights, the mileage I put on my pumps, the crazy text messages I sent frantically to my favorite lactation consultant, and the tears, fears and nursing bras, I wear this now like a badge of honor. I’m not even going to pretend like I wasn’t sad when the journey eventually ended.
Kyra Brooks hears stories like mine frequently. Brooks, the owner of Indigo Willow, creates jewelry and similar keepsakes from breast milk. “I started Indigo Willow about five years ago. My daughter was a few months old and breastfeeding was a big part of my life,” she explained. “As moms know, breastfeeding is a challenging, rewarding journey, and I really wanted a way to memorialize this time in my life that I knew I would want to remember forever. I searched for a way of doing this, and discovered the concept of breast milk jewelry.” Brooks then sought seed money from husband to launch Indigo Willow. “He initially said no,” she laughed. “He didn’t think it would be a good business model. I did it anyway, on a shoestring budget.” Brooks selected the name “Indigo Willow,” a nod to her favorite color and the beauty of the willow tree. “Also, my daughter has a tree name, and naming the company after a tree is a reminder that I’m doing all this for her. It’s tough to run a small business and sometimes that little motivation helps.” Brooks’ resilience soon paid off. “Pretty soon, the orders came rushing in faster than I could keep up.”
Handcrafting jewelry from breast milk is about as complicated as it sounds. Brooks has her own proprietary technique, but generally speaking, the process involves shipping expressed milk (in a sealed storage bag) to the shop. The received milk is then preserved by combining chemicals and resin, which cause the milk to plasticize (i.e., harden), and then shaped into a stone or other keepsake. “I also really enjoy seeing what my customers can imagine with our colorization and shimmering effects,” said Brooks. In fact, breast milk jewelry is often confused for opals or pearls, although colors may vary depending on the color of the milk sample. “It took a lot of chemistry and experimentation to discover our formula that we use. We tried every method you can think of before we found one that would work without yellowing and bubbling,” she shared. “That’s the biggest difference in quality between Indigo Willow and all the others – our breast milk stones are flawless. There are no bubbles, flaws, or inclusions in any of our stones.”
The shop offers a myriad of jewelry options to nursing mamas looking to commemorate their own breastfeeding and bonding experiences, including gold and silver rings, bracelets, charms, earrings and necklaces. Brooks personally designs many of the jewelry items herself. “They start out on pencil and paper as I think of what I want it to look like. I refine the sketch into something my silversmith can work with. We have an exclusive contract with a wonderful silversmith, so all these designs come out really beautifully and are only available from us.” Her favorite is the “Timeless Crown Setting Small Oval,” a delicate heart design that forms the shape of a crown around the stone. “It was the first design that I made from scratch. It is made in-house, and is a combination of customer feedback and my own imagination,” said Brooks. “Because it was my first unique design, it went through a lot of iterations as I taught myself how to design jewelry. I’m really happy with the final result.”