There are those who swear by necklaces made from Baltic amber beads as a natural way to alleviate the pain and discomfort of teething in their children. But science doesn’t back up any of the claims of the amber teething necklaces’ manufactures, sellers, or users.
While some may see this as a matter of personal opinion, there are real dangers to using amber teething necklaces and I do not recommend them.
Do the necklaces really work?
The makers and sellers of the necklaces claim the amber beads, which have been used for centuries to relieve pain and inflammation, work by releasing the therapeutic succinic acid when warmed by body heat. This claim has never been substantiated by a medical or natural therapies board. There are no academic or peer reviewed papers that provide evidence of such claims and amber is not included on Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods; a register which comprehensively covers almost 70,000 natural therapies approved for sale in Australia.
In fact, biologically, it would impossible for a baby’s body heat to realise the succinic acid from the amber resin, and even if it were the dose would not be enough to have a therapeutic effect.
Despite the lack of real evidence the amber beads have any effect on the body whatsoever, anecdotally, many families report seeing an improvement in the symptoms of teething when using the necklaces.
Why do so many people use them?
Teething, itself, is sometimes considered to be an ailment that doesn’t exist in the way it is perceived by most parents. As we can’t ask babies what they are feeling we rely on our observations of changes in our baby’s behaviour and attitude. I believe the amber necklaces serve as a placebo for the parents. While teething can cause discomfort it is often blamed for a variety of baby behaviours and symptoms that are probably unrelated. A baby who is grumpy, drooly, lacking appetite, sleeping poorly, becoming clingy, mouthing toys, grinding teeth, etc is said to be teething when they may be displaying perfectly ordinary baby behaviour.
Once the amber necklace is being used by a suggestive parent who expects or hopes it will alter their baby’s behaviour and experience, the placebo effect begins to work. Once you are no longer expecting to see teething pain you no longer unconsciously ascribe it to everyday behaviours.
So, why shouldn’t I use the necklaces?
If the efficacy of the amber was the only consideration of the amber necklace, then it would be no harm for the placebo effect to continue to do its job. After all, there is much to say for placebos generating some real cures – the mind can be a surprisingly powerful aid to good health.
But the amber beads on the teething necklaces pose a real choking danger, as well as a risk of strangulation. The amber is soft enough to break under pressure and can too easily be dislodged from the necklace and swallowed. Babies who wear the necklace when lying or rolling, both awake and when sleeping, can strangle themselves.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, David Bradbury has issued a warning notice to the public in relation to amber teething necklaces. The recommendations are that the necklaces ideally not be used at all. But if you do use them, it’s crucial:
- That you use the necklace only when you are watching your baby
- That you never allow them to put it in their mouths
- And that you never let them sleep or lay down with it on
Given that there’s no evidence amber teething necklaces work, and that they pose a possible danger to your child, my recommendation is to consider using other tested, approved, and safer methods of teething relief instead.
Brigid is a career nanny with over 15 years experience working with children and babies. She is dedicated to the care of infants and the very young, and the support and guidance of their parents and families. After having been integral in the care and raising of hundreds of children she has seen plenty, learnt a lot, and shares as much as she can.