Amber teething necklace

Amber teething necklaces have become increasingly popular in just the last couple of years since they were introduced to the Australian and New Zealand markets, and websites devoted to amber bead necklace sales have sprung up everywhere. So, what is all the fuss about? Why is there so much interest in these necklaces?

Many parents claim that their child is calmer, cries less and seems to experience less teething discomfort when they wear an amber bead necklace. But is this sufficient proof that they deliver all the benefits that they are claimed to?

It pays to remember that correlation is not causation and despite the millions being spent on amber bead necklaces around the world, there is no hard scientific evidence which supports their maker’s miracle claims.

What exactly is amber?

Amber is fossilised tree resin, or sap. When the bark of a tree has been damaged – a tree cut down or there has been an interruption in the integrity of hard outer bark – sap leaches out. If this is left undisturbed, then over time the resin solidifies to a rock like hardness. Amber bead necklaces are made from polished chips of this resin.

Amber is fossilised tree resin, or sap. When the bark of a tree has been damaged – a tree cut down or there has been an interruption in the integrity of hard outer bark – sap leaches out. If this is left undisturbed, over time the resin solidifies to a rock like hardness. Amber bead necklaces are made from polished and rounded chips of this resin. Holes are bored into each chip and then they are threaded onto cord which comes in various lengths so they can be looped over the baby’s head. It’s also possible to buy amber bead anklets and bracelets and matching amber bead jewellery for parents, even earrings.

The necklaces come in a range of colours from white-yellow, beige or brown. Manufacturers claim that the darker the amber, the more therapeutic its properties. Likewise, where the amber is sourced is said to be an indication of its quality. Most of the amber used in the “better quality” or “first grade” necklaces come from the Baltic Sea region. The significance of the sun and its warming properties is especially valued by residents of European countries where cold weather extremes are common.

In medieval times it was common for adults to place amulets on babies for safe keeping. Doing this was thought to help ward off evil spirits and keep the child safe from harm. Death in infancy was far more common than it is today and superstition played a big part in childcare. Amber featured strongly in amulets and jewellery for children.

The idea of adorning a child with jewellery was also an outward sign of a family’s wealth, social status and standing. Jewellery was also thought to enhance the child’s natural beauty. Some form of adornment in the form of necklaces, headdress, crowns, rings, broaches and belts was believed to add to the inherent preciousness of the child.

Some people believe that amber bead necklaces assist with emotional bonding between parents and their child. They claim that the yellow glow from the beads supports a relaxed and soothing ambience which flows into and around their relationship.

Another claim is that when given as a gift, the necklace helps to build feelings of acceptance and belonging within a family.

There is also the issue of amber being the colour of the sun, a celestial body richly associated with folklore relating to warmth, healing and general wellbeing.

How do amber bead necklaces work?

Amber is a naturally occurring mineral. It is found around ancient forests, as well as underground where it is mined in a similar way to other deposits from the earth. Amber is said to have healing properties and when worn next to the skin, these benefits are passed on.

The warmth of the skin reputedly helps to release the natural oils contained in the amber and these are absorbed through the child’s skin and into their bloodstream.

Amber contains an element called Succinic Acid and it is this which is said to deliver the beneficial properties of amber bead necklaces. Historically, Succinic Acid was used as an anti-inflammatory agent and to ease various aches and pains. When ground up and pulverised, it was used in baths and immersions. Now Succinic Acid is used predominately as an acidity regulator in the food and beverage industry and as a flavouring agent.

Amber bead necklace benefits are said to be varied, though include anti-inflammatory, soothing, calming and to work as a general restorative. Interestingly, manufacturers claim that Succinic Acid concentrations are highest in amber sourced from the Baltic region at a level of 3-8%.

What’s the risk with using an amber bead necklace for my baby?

Choking and strangulation are the two major risks as well as general baby safety. Although most necklaces come with knots in the cord between each bead, there is still a risk of one of the beads breaking off and the baby inhaling it. Babies and children have a very narrow windpipe (trachea) and if this is obstructed with even the smallest foreign body, air cannot flow into or out of their lungs

The other risk is that children can be strangulated by the necklace and block off their airway. Blood flow to their head and brain can also be interrupted. The risk of strangulation is highest if the child wears the necklace during sleep.

The necklace can also be caught on household furniture, swings and play equipment. Though to be fair, most manufacturer’s recommend parental supervision whenever the necklace is on and to remove it before the child goes to sleep.

What can I do so my baby is safe wearing an amber bead necklace?

Make sure you read the manufacturer’s recommendations and follow them carefully. Individual styles and varieties of necklaces require different care precautions, so take the time to check what is advised.

  • Supervise your baby/child at all times when they have the necklace on.
  • When your baby goes down for a sleep, remove the necklace.
  • Check the necklace regularly for any broken or shattered beads.
  • Throw away the necklace if it is starting to deteriorate.
  • Don’t allow your baby to chew on the necklace. This could potentially weaken it.
  • Check the knots between each bead to make sure they are still firm and secure. Throw the necklace away if the cord is fraying or looks like it is weakening.
  • Keep the manufacturer’s recommendations. If you experience any problems with the necklace, make sure you contact them so they can improve their quality control practices.

Just remember this about amber bead necklaces

  • Believe or do not believe – the choice is yours.
  • Amber needs to be heated to over 200 degrees Celsius before any volatiles are released. Considering the normal body temperature of a baby is around 36.5 degrees then any therapeutic benefits are unlikely.
  • Check with your child health nurse or doctor if you are worried about any aspect of your baby's behaviour.

FAQs about amber teething necklaces

Do amber bead necklaces really work for teething?

The simple answer is no. There is no clear evidence that they can make a difference to a baby’s teething symptoms. However, some parents feel their baby is more settled and are happy to continue using them. Just be very mindful that the risks of using an amber bead necklace outweigh any potential benefit.

When should babies start wearing amber bead necklaces?

There is no age when teething necklaces should be worn. In fact, the recommendation from healthcare professionals is not to use them.

Why are amber bead necklaces so popular?

Because manufacturers can be very clever at marketing and understanding parent’s wish to make their child happy. Teething can cause discomfort in some babies but it’s highly unlikely that amber beads make any difference at all.

Reviewed and updated by Jane Barry, Midwife and Child Health Nurse, March 2024.

16/09/21 - min Read

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