Natural parenting. It’s what the 21st century is all about. Organic fruits and vegetables, grass-fed beef, cage-free chickens, and homeopathic pain remedies. None of these are bad. After all, every parent wants their child(ren) to grow up healthy and happy. A well-balanced, chemical-free diet will help achieve both. And pain relievers such as Tylenol and Ibuprofen come with possible side effects. The risk of side effects – though small – is probably why parents opt for a natural remedy when it comes to treating round-the-clock ailments such as teething.
Amber teething necklaces are listed on multiple websites as one of many ways parents can help soothe their children. But in 2018, The FDA publicly denounced the use of these teething necklaces after a small child died while wearing one. Many articles and studies have been written since providing information that will help parents decide if amber teething necklaces are safe and also if they really do work. Here is what you need to know.
History of Using Amber for Pain Relief
According to Baltic Wonder, a manufacturer of amber teething necklaces, amber has been used as a pain reliever for over 35,000 years. Numerous other retailers, such as The Natural Amber, claim that Germans were using amber teething necklaces to treat infants during World War II. It’s believed that a person’s body temperature will heat up the amber, allowing succinic acid – a natural pain reliever found in amber – to absorb into the bloodstream. The styles of amber teething products range from necklaces to bracelets.
Do Amber Teething Necklaces Work?
So you place an amber necklace on your child. Then what? How do you actually know if the necklace is working? I’ve heard some parents say that their children drooled less while wearing the necklace. But the bottom line is this: in order for the necklace to work the amber has to be warmed up so the succinic acid will be released and absorbed into the baby’s bloodstream.
What Temperature Does the Amber Have to Reach?
According to a 2017 article posted on the Texas Children’s Hospital website, the amber needs need to reach 392° F before any succinic acid is released. Normal body temperature is 98.6° F. So unless your baby is Jack-Jack from The Incredibles, odds are good the succinic acid isn’t being released or absorbed.
READ MORE: Natural Remedies for 5 Common Baby Ailments
Are Amber Teething Necklaces Safe?
Fox News was one of many media outlets that reported on a 2016 death linked to an amber teething necklace. The child was in daycare at the time of the incident. During his nap, the teething necklace he was wearing got caught and its safety clasp did not release. Was this a freak-occurrence with that safety clasp or is there a larger problem?
The above photo is an example of what a pop clasp looks like and not necessarily the same clasp tested in the following study.
An article from the Paediatrics & Child Health Journal, published in 2018, cited that after conducting numerous tests on amber teething necklaces, half of the safety clasps tested did not break away. These necklaces failed to meet the ASTM Child Safety Standards for Jewelry.
Alternative Pain Relievers
For anyone curious, there are multiple alternatives that will help comfort a teething child.
What to Expect listed teething toys made of wood or rubber, frozen wash cloths, a nightly gum massage, and Tylenol as options for teething children. Before giving your child medicine such as Tylenol, consult your pediatrician to make sure that an incoming tooth is actually the culprit. Remember! Ear infections have similar symptoms to teething.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against the use of teething gels or creams.
READ MORE: 3 Natural Teething Remedies
Best practices for Amber Teething Necklaces
If you feel amber teething necklaces are still the best option for your little one please follow the American Academy of Pediatrics best practices for using teething necklaces:
- Never leave the child unattended while they are wearing any jewelry.
- Consider using a bracelet around the wrist or ankle instead of the necklace.
- Never allow children to sleep in any jewelry.
Purchasing Amber Teething Necklaces
For the parents who believe in the healing power of amber, The Natural Amber has provided a few tips for selecting a teething necklace. This retailer cautions that not all amber necklaces will be effective. The quality of the amber is key when choosing amber teething necklaces. The retailer’s price is often a dead giveaway. If the price of the necklaces is significantly lower that other competitors, The Natural Amber advises buyers to be aware that the quality of the amber is probably not as good. If the quality of the amber is poor, the concentration of succinic acid will probably be low.
The Natural Amber provided a list of purchasing tips on their website. They remind buyers that no two amber beads will look a like and that each stone should have imperfections such as air bubbles or small cracks. The amber beads used in teething necklaces should be knotted on both sides. This is a safety feature designed to prevent the individual beads from falling off the necklace in the event the necklace breaks. Also, amber beads can be tested with a hot needle. Hot needles should partially penetrate the amber bead. Finally, look for retailers who provide certificates of authenticity with each purchase.
Mama Natural offered one more tip when selecting amber teething necklaces. This retailer recommends that buyers look for teething necklaces made of raw amber that was not processed inside of a pressure chamber, such as the necklace shown below.
READ MORE: 3 Tips for Amber Teething Necklaces
All parents, regardless of the paths they take, have one thing in common: they all want the absolute best for their child(ren). The information age is both a blessing as well as a curse, especially when it comes to wading through all of the studies and testimonials regarding child safety. Many of the studies mentioned above describe amber teething necklaces as ineffective and unsafe. Still, there are retailers and parents out there who swear by them. Before choosing any remedy for your child, whether it’s natural or over-the-counter, please consult a pediatrician or family physician.
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Sources: Food & Drug Administration, Baltic Wonder, The Natural Amber, Texas Children’s Hospital, Fox News, Paediatrics & Child Health Journal, ASTM, What To Expect, The American Academy of Pediatrics, Mama Natural