When a colleague asked where she got her beautiful necklace, Suzanne Williams braced herself for a shocked reaction.

"As I told her, her jaw dropped," says Suzanne, 40.

"She didn't say anything except 'Okaaay', but I knew she would be asking her friends later why anyone would want that around their neck. People don't know how to react - but I think it's fair to say some find my jewellery distasteful."

Why? Because, rather than precious metals or gemstones, Suzanne's blue pendant with ivory tear shapes is, in fact, made from her own breast milk.

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Photo / momsownmilk.com
Photo / momsownmilk.com

She is one of a growing number of middle-class mothers who, not satisfied with a lock of hair, a treasured tooth or a photo album to commemorate their child's early years, are instead opting for a rather more intimate memento.

Whether the trend is endearing or off-putting is a matter of opinion. Online craft retailer Etsy recently made its opinion clear by banning breast milk jewellery from its website on the rather unpleasant grounds it qualifies as "human remains".

Vickie Krevatin owns Britain's most prominent breast milk jewellery company, Mom's Own Milk (she adopted the U.S. spelling 'Mom' to match the company's acronym).

"I know what I do is offensive to some people, who tell me it's disgusting. However, I am getting more orders than ever," she said.

So why is her company going from strength to strength? One reason is the growing tendency to commercialise every aspect of babyhood.

With doting parents splashing out on anything from casts of their baby's footprints to professional photoshoots, making keepsakes out of breast milk is perhaps an inevitable next step.

But for many women, there is also a serious meaning behind the fashion statement.

Suzanne, from High Wycombe, Bucks, wears her necklace as a badge of pride for successfully nursing her three children - Ava, four, Henry, two, and ten-month-old Oliver.

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"The challenges grew with every child," says Suzanne, who is married to Matthew, 37, a bank project manager.

"I found it effortless with Ava, but more of a struggle with Henry."

Then, when Suzanne was 34 weeks pregnant with Oliver, she suffered a critical internal bleed. He arrived prematurely via emergency caesarean section while she was under general anaesthetic.

"I didn't see him for the first 12 hours and he had to be tube-fed for a week," she says.

"Breastfeeding was our way of bonding."

It was when Oliver was five months old that Suzanne read about breast milk jewellery on a Facebook forum.

"My first thought was that it was gross and would look gaudy," says Suzanne, a police officer for the RAF, who intends to stop breast feeding when her maternity leave ends next month.

"But curiosity got the better of me. I realised it wasn't like wearing a vial of milk that would go off. It was unique, and a way of celebrating the end of my nursing years."

So, last month, she ordered a £75 (NZ$178) pendant from Mom's Own Milk. They sent her two rubber-topped test tubes, into which she was to deposit 30ml of expressed breast milk before posting them back.

That meant the milk would sit in sorting offices for a few days. But Vickie, who works from home in Basingstoke, Hants, and has taken orders from as far afield as New Zealand, says breast milk stays fresh much longer than cow's milk as it has lower levels of protein.

"It doesn't curdle and there's no odour," she says.

Once she receives the filled test tubes, Vickie solidifies the milk with two secret ingredients - which she refuses to disclose for fear of aiding her competitors.

But British Dietetic Association spokeswoman Anna Daniels says: "The only way to make jewellery from any type of milk would be to separate the casein [the main protein in milk] from the rest of the liquid, which can be done by mixing the milk with an acidic substance, such as vinegar or lemon, which causes the proteins to come out and solidify into a stone-like structure as they dry."

Vickie then moulds the hardened milk into a shape and sets it in plastic resin, which takes 24 hours. Prices range from £12 (NZ$28) for charms to £150 (NZ$356) for sculpted lockets.

She set up her business in 2013 after having her son, Jessy, now four, and deciding not to go back to her job as an auditor in London.

Vickie, 42, is still breastfeeding Jessy five times a day - though she acknowledges this isn't "normal", and disputes any suggestion that her customers are breastfeeding evangelists.

"Mums who order from me just want a memento," she says.

Indeed, mum Kim Bartrum wears her breast milk charm to celebrate her bond with two-and-a-half-year-old Vincent, whom she is nursing alongside his brother, Felix, seven weeks.

"My necklace represents my achievement in breastfeeding and the closeness of my relationship with my son," says the 32-year-old from Birmingham.

Vincent was born in 2013 with a pneumothorax, an abnormal space between his lung and chest cavity. 'He was in a neonatal unit for five days, unable to feed,' says Kim.

"I had to express milk every two hours. The difficulty made me even more determined to breastfeed."

Then, last March, Vincent was hospitalised for six days with pneumonia. Kim, a piano teacher, says breast milk saved his life.

"He was too ill to eat or drink anything else," says Kim, who is married to Andrew, 41, an engineer.

"It convinced me I would allow Vincent to self-wean in his own time."

Five months later, Kim learned she was pregnant again. Knowing that carrying another child could disrupt her milk supply, she decided to have a keepsake made.

"I haven't had any negative comments," she says.

"In fact, my family think its lovely." She even hopes to pass on the jewellery to her sons when they're grown-up.

Whether it will last, however, remains to be seen. Light exposure can discolour breast milk, as can the enzymes it contains. Many who've bought the jewellery have found it turns brown within a year.

But Michelle Boyd, 31-year-old mum to 13-month-old Odin, is undeterred, and considers her breast milk jewellery a talking point. "Older women in particular say my jewellery is disgusting, and I appreciate it is not for everyone.

"But breastfeeding is a big part of life: this is a way to start a discussion about how important it is."

- Daily Mail