Do you like artisan, handmade soaps? I admit to having a serious weakness for luxurious soaps. The real stuff: none of this cheap shower gel or body wash. When I was at school and university, I used to invest my part-time job earnings into nice soaps, maximising their effectivness by putting them in my lingerie drawer. Oh, how I love the aroma of genuine essential oil soap (especially lavendar). Or of energing cinnamon scrubs, with citrus peels and the promise of making the new day fresh and exciting.
Some of my readers may know about my efforts to increase breast milk after the birth of my second child. Lactation was so successful that this created a conundrum: what to do with all that excess breast milk.
I had pangs of guilt about needing to supplement my eldest son, born prematurely, with formula. But the upside was that I did so much research, and tried so many different techniques to increase my milk supply that I had more than I needed to feed sumo baby number two. I froze excess milk in the freezer, in slimline clear bags that looked like Popsicle treats. These were useful stocks to support baby when I went back to work. I also tried to donate to the Taipei milk bank – twice. Unfortunately this was not successful, so I moved onto another plan.
A carer at our local park mentioned that Taiwanese mothers like to make soap from their breast milk. At first it sounded like a whacky idea, but for some reason the idea would not go out of my head so I thought about it some more and decided to give it a go. Breast milk after all has healing properties, and is incredibly good for the skin. I used to rub collosterum into my cracked and bleeding nipples when I first started feeding baby number two, and was surprised that it really did actually work. So I figured that breastmilk soap would have to be good for using on the delicate skin of young children. And perhaps even make me look more radiant — wishful thinking perhaps?
Mr Taiwanxifu did some research on the Internet. It turns out that making breast milk soap is quite a popular home industry. Many Taiwanese women apparently like to make breastmilk soap as a kind of momento to their breastfeeding experiences. Mr Taiwanxifu eventually contacted a lady named Angie, we decided which essential oil fragrances to include (lavender, eucalyptus, rosemary and unfragranced), and delivered 4.2kg of frozen breast milk from our stash in the freezer. (350ml of breastmilk is required to make 500g of soap.)
Then we waited. And waited, and waited. It takes nearly three months for the soap to set, so in the intervening months I almost forgot about it. And then, quite unexpectedly, one day we received a large box. We opened it with delight to find an exquisite array of artisan soaps, some shaped into rosebuds, scallop shells, sheep, cows or flowers and others with jellybean like colors. They looked and smelt good enough to eat. And there were a lot — six bubble wrapped packs of thirteen soaps each.
So, you are probably wondering, what is breast milk soap like to use? Well, at first it took some getting used to. The soap is soft, incredibly soft and will dissolve in water much quicker than commercial soaps. It lathers well, but does not form into large bubbles the way that Mr Taiwanxifu’s favorite — Cussons Imperial Leather — does. And it has an almost slimey textuer: not like Halloween fake-alien goop, but still it has the sense of having something organic rather than artificial in it.
But, OMG, it is so smooth on the skin. Angie’s instructions to mothers who have purchased the soap notes that it is PH neutral and suitable for use by both adults and infants alike. She also says that it can be used to cleanse your face and even hair — an all purpose, natural option. (She uses all natural oils and other ingredients, listed in Chinese on the back of each soap.)
This was not a cheap option, costing us nearly NT$5,000 all up. But compared with other artisan soaps, or baby-suitable PH neutral soaps, it was actually slightly cheaper. And it has enabled our family to put to good use something that might otherwise have gone to waste. Now we have more soap than we perhaps need. Perhaps for Christmas presents?