The ads say amber teething necklaces can make babies pain-free in 30 minutes. But safety and pediatric experts say amber necklaces for babies are a bad idea. Parents are drawn to the necklaces not just for the benefits to their 9-month-old’s aching gums, but because they are beautiful, natural and originated with an ancient civilization. What’s so bad about them? Here are six reasons to choose other teething remedies over amber teething necklaces:
Babies shouldn’t wear necklaces
Teething infants wear the string of round amber beads, sometimes alternated with quartz, around their necks. “You should never put a necklace on your young child,” the Texas Children’s Hospital blog warned. “Strangulation is a serious risk for young children who can easily get something wrapped too tightly around their neck but cannot get it off.”
The FDA issued a warning in 2018 after getting a report of a 7-month old child who choked on the beads of a wooden teething bracelet. That baby survived, but only because the parents were supervising the child at the time of the incident and the baby was taken to the hospital as a precaution. “Strangulation can happen if a necklace is wrapped too tightly around the child’s neck or if the necklace catches on an object such as a crib,” the FDA warned. Horribly, the FDA also let pediatricians and parents know a napping 18-month-old had died from strangulation caused by an amber teething necklace. “Other concerns include potential injury to the mouth or infection if a piece of the jewelry irritates or pierces the child’s gums,” the FDA added.
Amber doesn’t release succinic acid
Those who would sell unsuspecting parents amber necklaces for babies claim that amber releases a pain-relieving substance called succinic acid. The theory is that this acid will move from the baby’s aching gums to the bloodstream where it acts like a naturally-occurring analgesic. But in reality, Baltic amber only would release succinic acid at temperatures more than four times a human’s body temperature. The estimated heat level would have to be 392 degrees Fahrenheit for the amber to release succinic acid.
Succinic acid doesn’t relieve pain
Even if the prior claim that amber released succinic acid through a baby’s gums were true, it wouldn’t have a benefit. Science does not support the claim that succinic acid has pain-relieving property. Even if someone were to apply it directly to a baby’s skin without using amber, it would not be absorbed by the body. And there’s no evidence that succinic acid will relieve pain, according to experts like the Texas Children’s Hospital.
A teething baby will drool
Unscrupulous, or perhaps unaware, sellers of amber teething necklaces may also claim they’ll help control drooling. The story goes that amber will stimulate the thyroid, which could halt drooling, or that it helps the immune system combat inflammation. Neither claim is substantiated by evidence-based research. And while it’s almost impossible to keep a baby from drooling, you can stop the only associated pain, which is chafing skin from the drool. Simply keep plenty of dry, clean towels at the ready to gently dry the baby’s cheeks and chin while teething is in progress.
Babies can choke on the beads
Even the Baltic amber teething necklaces with their rich history and natural beauty can harm babies or even kill them, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Along with the dangers of strangulation from these necklaces, parents should never use amber teething necklaces because the strings can break. If they do, the beads go flying and can become a choking hazard. This is particularly risky when the child is wearing an amber necklace (or any necklace) while they’re not supervised, such as when they’re sleeping. If the teething child has young siblings, the beads can also harm them or any visitors or daycare peers who are three or younger. All the same risks of amber teething necklaces apply to wood, marble or silicone bead necklaces that are also marketed with false claims that they’ll soothe teething pain.
Even if you could believe the big online sellers of Baltic amber teething necklaces when they say each bead has a firm knot between it and the next bead, remember this. It only takes a single bead catching on the changing table or one faulty knot to harm your baby. “One loose bead is enough for a child to choke on,” Dr. Isabelle Claudet, pediatric emergency head for the Children’s Hospital in Toulouse, France told Parents. And, too, lots of small vendors also sell amber teething necklaces and they might have smaller beads and forgo the so-called “safety knots” between the beads, increasing the choking risk. It’s much, much safer just to put off wearing necklaces until a child is old enough to avoid all the risks. Better safe than sorry.
Babies need effective teething relief
Necklaces of any sort are a choking or strangulation hazard for babies. Amber teething necklaces also might keep a parent from providing much-needed relief for babies whose teeth are coming in. Instead of a teething necklace, experts recommend tried-and-true remedies that are also safe. A few include rubbing your baby’s gums with a very clean finger; letting a supervised baby gnaw on a solid surface teething toy that’s been chilled in the refrigerator; or consulting a medical provider to see if it’s appropriate to give your child certain OTC medicines like Children’s Motrin.
And if you absolutely must try the unsubstantiated claims of the powers of amber, do this. Buy a single, substantial size chunk and simply rub it along your baby’s cheek. It probably won’t help calm or relieve pain, but it’s a fun way to get in on the fad without risking your baby’s life.