Mother's Milk Soap
A Local Artisan Makes Soap with a Unique Ingredient
When Donna Pixton-Hacker brought her newborn son home from the hospital, she quickly discovered a worrisome rash on his skin. She soon figured out it was caused by the soap she’d been given at the hospital.
“He was having this reaction, even when I used the hypoallergenic soap they’d given me at the hospital,” she says. “It turned out he was allergic to artificial fragrances. I made an herbal soap for him, and the rash went away. I gave some to friends, and they all wanted more.”
Today, Pixton-Hacker’s son is 18, and she’s been making and selling soaps professionally for the past eight years as the owner of Chamomile Cottage, in Collingswood.
Recently, she’s started making another product specifically geared for babies with an unorthodox primary ingredient—breast milk.
“I had a mom come to me and say, ‘I have all this extra breast milk,’” Pixton-Hacker says. “She said she knew some soaps were made out of goat’s milk, and she really wanted to have a soap made out of her breast milk for her family.”
Pixton-Hacker, of course, filled her customer’s request, and was soon receiving similar requests from women who were nearing the end of their lactation and wanted to repurpose their milk. While the practice of making mother’s milk soaps is popular in China, Pixton-Hacker says she’s the only soap maker in the area filling these requests, as far as she knows.
“I’ve started to advertise it in places like yoga studios and health food stores,” she says. “Basically I’ve been putting the word out in places where there are likely to be more open-minded people. I know this isn’t a mainstream thing, and I know some people who do it don’t talk about it or advertise it, I guess because they don’t want less open-minded people to act weird.”
For her part, Pixton-Hacker doesn’t see anything weird about it. Milk-based soaps, she says, are a healthy alternative to soaps made with chemicals and artificial ingredients.
“Milk soap, in general, is really good for your skin,” she says. “People with eczema and other skin conditions typically benefit from using soap made with a base of milk, like a goat’s milk soap. On top of that, we know that mother’s milk is very nutritious, so I think it makes a lot of sense to want those nutrients in the products you’re using on your children.”
Turning the milk into soap also prevents any excess milk from going to waste or being thrown away, which is something Pixton-Hacker says moms are often reluctant to do.
“The clients are typically bringing me milk that’s ready to expire,” she says. “It’s something that would be going to waste, and it feels so strange to just throw away something that’s a part of you, and something that your body produced to nourish your baby. It’s a way to hold on to that special time, because even after you stop lactating, you still have the soaps.”
Pixton-Hacker uses a basic method to create the soaps, mixing the mother’s milk with essential oils and lye. She uses ingredients like shea butter and vegetable oils, free from animal byproducts. Because natural milk contains a lot of sugar, she has to carefully adjust the temperature of the mixture, ensuring that it does not heat too quickly. When the mixture is ready, it’s poured into molds, dried and cured for several weeks.
“Some women choose to leave the soap unscented. The milk itself has a sweet-cream kind of natural scent,” she says. “Or sometimes they’ll have me add an essential oil, like lavender, or put in another ingredient, like oatmeal. There are so many customizations I can do to fit exactly what each customer wants.”
Once the soaps are cured and hardened, Pixton-Hacker says, they could last for many years.
“It’s such a special gift,” she says. “I think it’s a nice thing for a mom to give their child. It’s something you can save, and 20 years from now, when your child has a baby, you can give them milk soaps from when they were born. I think it’s all about doing something special to honor that bond between mom and baby.”
Chamomile Cottage is located at 686 Haddon Ave in Collingswood. For more information email Donna at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit chamomilecottage.comEdit ModuleShow Tags