A Word About Amber Teething Necklaces….

So, the boy and I were at our local library for the weekly baby storytime that he really enjoys. As we waited for the story to begin, I noticed one of the babies (probably about 6 months old, although I’m notoriously bad at assessing baby ages) had on a necklace.  I just assumed it was  a fashion accessory Mom had chosen for her little boy.

A bit hippie-esque for my taste but kinda cute, nonetheless. As a mother to a boy, I completely get the disappointment we moms’ may sometimes feel when it comes to accessorizing our little boys. Girls get hairbands in an array of colorful flowers, ribbon-strewn  barrettes, big bright bows, cute little tiaras, boas…..

Boys get hats. And, I’m sorry, but some of them are just plain douchey.  And I am not starting my kid down that road.  But I digress…..

Personally, a necklace on a baby = BIG FAT CHOKING HAZARD in my mind. I don’t care how fashionable it makes my little hipster.

Well……..later, my friend explained to me that the necklace the baby was wearing is made with Baltic amber and aids in teething pain.  My first assumption was that the amber beads were for chewing. Nope. Apparently, the way these necklaces *work* is that oils in the stone are absorbed through the baby’s skin. These oils then help soothe the pain in the baby’s mouth due to the teething.

Of course, my BS detector went off immediately. But I like to think of myself as a person open to new ideas. So I went online to do a little research on these Baltic amber necklaces.

Here’s a summary of what I found:

  1. Baltic Amber has  3-8% of succinic acid which supposedly has an analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect.
  2. By wearing the necklace, babies absorb the therapeutic succinic acid  through their skin which then minimizes the pain and excessive salivating associated with teething.
  3. As pointed out in the excellent critique here, amber is a pretty hard substance. To say the acid is moving through the stone into the skin seems dubious.
  4.  According to Chemistry professor at Otago University, Alan Blackman in this article, “You have to heat amber to over 200 degrees C to be able to get any volatiles out of it, so I find that quite unlikely.”
  5. Many websites touting the medicinal effects of Baltic amber referenced a study done in 2002 by a man named Nikolai Moshkov. I was unable to find his paper. If anyone gets a hold of it, please send it my way.
  6. The evidence I did find supporting the efficacy of these necklaces was all anecdotal ( i.e. consisted of personal testimony from both buyers and sellers  of the necklace).  Many of the reviews I read gave positive results, although some did not. Thus, the placebo effect may be at work here (in context of the parents, not the babies).
  7. One seller,  Amber Artisans,  had this to say about amber, which in my opinion plummeted any credibility they may have had:

“We are surrounded by all sorts of electrical devices: radios, television sets, microwave ovens, hair-driers, shavers, computers and mobile phones, which affect our organism. Modern research proves that we may protect ourselves against their negative influence by making friends with Baltic amber wearing amber jewellery, necklaces, ….. Warming up, amber changes ionization, positively influencing our frame of mind and rebuilding the disturbed electrostatic field. We will be happy and full of energy once again, and we will attract luck.

Sounds like a bunch of woo  to me.

Bottom line: So maybe you do have some friends who swear by their Baltic Amber teething necklace and claim they don’t know what they would have done if little Timmy didn’t have one.  They SWEAR it works………. but are the risks of choking and/or strangulation worth it?

And there are many alternatives. They may not be as cool and trendy but they’ve been tested to work. I don’t think Baltic Amber teething necklaces can say the same.

Ok…..stepping down from my soapbox now.

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