Mum of four turning breastmilk into works of art

A mum who works through the night to make keepsakes out of breastmilk while her children are asleep has spoken of her own breastfeeding journey and the 'highs and lows' of feeding twins.

Ali Hawthorn, from Wirral, came up with the idea of making jewellery and keepsakes from women's breastmilk after a "hellish" year of lockdowns.

The mum of four, who lives in Moreton with her partner Dan Byrnes, was breastfeeding her twin boys and looking after her two elder children during successive lockdowns when she started experimenting with resin.

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Inspired by wanting to celebrate the one year milestone of breastfeeding her boys, Ali, 30, started crafting a keepsake to mark the anniversary.

Ali told the ECHO : "After that hellish year of lockdown and breastfeeding the boys, I felt I was going a little bit crazy.

"I wanted to do something for myself, so I started playing with resin and keyrings.

Ali admitted how hard breastfeeding was, but wouldn't change a thing

"As we approached a year of me breastfeeding, I wanted to make a keepsake that we'd gone to a year, and came up with the idea of a teddy bear with a breastmilk cartridge.

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"I had a few practices and when it came off was lovely.

"I put on Facebook and its just progressed from there."

After Ali's story featured in the ECHO in April, she says her business "took off."

She said: "It really took off and I've been doing lots of jewellery, including rings and pendants, they're really pretty.

"It's just something nice to keep and look back once people have finished their breastfeeding journey as a little keepsake and reminder.

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"Every breastfeeding journey is different. There are some highs and lows, it's nice to have something to remember it by, nobody can explain what it's like to feed their own baby.

Ahead of Breastfeeding Awareness Week, Ali who has breastfed all of her four children, shared some of her insights, including the specific challenges of breastfeeding twins.

She said: "With my first, Daisy Jane, who was born in 2016, she breastfed for her first six months exclusively.

"I did want to carry on, but she got fed up and had enough at about five months, so we started to introduce bottles and she sort of weaned herself.

""With my second child in 2018, I wanted to feed her for longer.

"At four months, she was a nightmare and wasn't interested in feeding at all. I got up to about eight months and then she weaned herself off.

Examples of Ali's creations using breast milk, pet fur, hair and ashes

"I went on to have the twins in February last year, and we managed to get to the year with them.

"That was tough, really tough with two and with lockdown. They didn't have any bottles at all as they pint blank refused them.

"My twins didn't sleep for the first year, they just fed. It was good we were in lockdown and I was at home all the time, and I did what I could with the girls while feeding the boys as and when they wanted to.

"I was a different journey with each of my kids, but it's just lovely knowing that as a mum you can give them everything they need."

Ali says with her first she had many of the concerns a lot of new mums have around breastfeeding.

She said: "I was worried about whether the latch was right, whether she was getting enough milk, whether I should have been topping up with formula.

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"I was very lucky, my sister had just completed a Homestart breastfeeding course and with her there, she helped me to learn to trust my body and that as long as the baby's having dirty nappies, it's okay.

"I found the hardest thing was when I had the twins wanting to feed at the same time, I always had one latched on already and then it was a battle to get the second one on two."

Ali said she used a special cushion so she can get both boys in a "rugby hold" position to help both feed at once.

She said: "Although as they got older they would just come over then and help themselves."

Ali says she has always had positive comments when out breastfeeding in public and when she was feeding her twins would even have people coming over offering to help entertain her girls while she fed the twins.

She said: "I was so worried with my first about breastfeeding in public, I was always trying to be so discrete.

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"The more you feed, the more it used to it you become and it's second nature, you don't worry anymore.

"There's nothing to see, just a mother feeding her baby."

Ali says that he understands breastfeeding is "not for everybody" and respects mums making whatever choices work for them.

For mums considering breastfeeding, she says the most important thing she learnt was to "trust your body."

She said: "It comes with time.

"When you have your first, you've got apps on your phone to see when you last fed, which side they fed on.

"Soon you realise, whatever, you learn to trust your body.

"I speak to mums who talk about a common fear around colostrum when the baby is first born.

"It's such a small amount that comes out and mums worry their babies aren't getting enough when they compare it to the milk bottle fed babies get.

"But your milk comes through after a few days and the babies are getting exactly what they need from the colostrum.

"I think that is something that a lot of mums aren't always aware of and it can put mums off breastfeeding because of those first few days.

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"I also see posts online about mums worried about breastfeeding in public, and I really want to tell them it's fine, it's the most natural you thing you do.

"It doesn't matter if anyone does give a negative comment, you know you're doing the best for your baby so it doesn't matter what other people think.

"There are lots of great breastfeeding support groups online, and that's something I wish I knew about when I first started my breastfeeding journey.

"It's just a lovely thing to feed your own baby, you can see the comfort on their face, you can't explain it to people what it feels like.

"It's such a special thing, that's why it felt so important to have something to keep as a reminder of those days, it's lovely.

You can find Ali and her creations on Facebook page Make it Mine – Gifts by Ali

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