Placenta Teddy Bears, Meals Stir Debate, Revulsion

Some women eat the placenta, but few have tried turning it into a keepsake.

ByABC News
November 10, 2009, 10:58 AM

Nov. 10, 2009— -- After the baby is born and the cooing in the delivery room begins, parents may do a variety of things with the placenta -- maybe take a picture, poke it a bit, or just divert their eyes and let the nurse take it away.

Whatever parents do, it probably wouldn't match London-based designer Alex Green's idea of turning the baby's placenta into a teddy bear.

"It just looks like a brown leather teddy bear and you get closer and say, hmm what strange leather is that," said Green.

Green claims he was motivated to make the bears to shake up how people think of placenta.

"I was very interested in how it was discarded unceremoniously as medical waste, why it's discarded and how we could bring it back…" said Green, who thought placentas deserved a symbolic treatment whether they're saved or not. "It was really about provoking a debate about placentas and how we treat them."

Indeed placentas get more respect outside of the United Kingdom or United States. The placenta is still eaten in some Chinese medicinal practices for strength, and buried in other religious and cultural traditions. Green said he was inspired after reading that ancient Egyptians revered the pharaoh's placenta so much they put it on a pole like a flag for public display.

Green started making his placenta teddy bears in January 2008, experimenting with an animal's placenta first to perfect the technique. The placenta must first be cured with salt to kill bacteria and remove water. Green then softens the dried organ with a mixture of eggs and tannins.

Once he cuts and sews the bears, Green fills them with brown rice. Most end up to be 5 inches tall.

"It's more heavy than you'd imagine -- they're more the sort of thing that you'd stick on a mantel pieces," said Green. "It feels soft, somewhere between leather and suede but it's much more flexible than leather -- it's bendy."

Time will tell if the placenta teddy bear will ever turn from statement to tradition. After an exhibition this October parent blogs have picked up on Green's teddy bears and largely dubbed them gross.

"Of course a lot of people feel it's grotesque," said Green. "But, quite a few women have expressed interest in making them."