Baby booties made from breast milk
Published 15/05/2013 | 14:56
Tiny baby booties made from donated breast milk have been created by British designers.
Simple kitchen equipment was used to transform the protein in the milk into a hard plastic-type material before being moulded into the booties.
They cannot be worn but they have been created using milk donated by a mother to promote World Breast Milk Donation Day this Sunday.
The inch-long booties were created by Nick Gant and Tanya Dean, both lecturers at the University of Brighton in East Sussex, who have made shoes from a range of other unusual waste materials.
They have created children's slippers from dog hair, flip flops from beach waste collected by volunteers, recycled wine corks into men's brogues and they have 3D-printed a shoe from recycled office paper.
The pair - described as "masters of material manipulation" who have worked with brands including Absolut Vodka and Vivienne Westwood - are currently working on producing a trainer using chip fat.
On their breast milk project, Mr Gant said: "The aim is to highlight the importance of breast milk donation, and more broadly to challenge people's perceptions about so-called waste products. We want to show that they can be used to raise awareness and communicate issues about material culture, ethics and sustainability.
"Turning waste material like breast milk which couldn't otherwise be used, but which is embedded with meaning and personal history, into something new, gives the products created greater meaning and value."
The process to create the booties was relatively simple. It involved gently heating some breast milk, then adding some vinegar to help form a congealed curd cluster, similar to mozzarella. It was then pressed into silicon moulds and dried over the course of four days. There are plans for five more pairs of booties to be made. The first pair will be presented to a donor to mark World Breast Milk Donation Day.
Mr Gant and Ms Dean worked with Gillian Weaver, manager of the milk bank at Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital in London, and chairwoman of the UK Association for Milk Banking's national forum. The milk bank, run by Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, provides specially heat-treated breast milk collected from volunteer donor mothers for use in feeding sick and premature babies. Ms Weaver said: "Seeing these tiny booties made from breast milk is a unique reminder of the valuable role that breast milk plays in helping premature babies to survive and grow."