When baby’s first tooth appears, it’s exciting, but it certainly doesn’t come quietly. The drooling, fussing, and long nights probably have you searching high and low for natural teething relief.
Enter amber teething necklaces. Many mamas swear by them, but do they work? Are they safe? Should you go ahead and purchase one for your baby?
We’ve waded through the scientific and anecdotal evidence for you so you can make the best choice for your family.
Let’s kick things off with some commonly asked questions before digging into the nitty gritty about amber’s origins and healing abilities.
Commonly asked questions about amber teething necklaces
How do I use an amber teething necklace?
Babies simply wear the necklace. They do not chew them, however, and the parts are very small, so this is definitely not recommended. Your baby can and will probably want to use other physical forms of teething relief like chewing on a Sophie giraffe or frozen washcloth.
When can I start using an amber teething necklace?
Babies as young as two months old can wear an amber teething necklace, which is often recommended to get him or her used to wearing it at a young age, without biting it or tugging at it. Typically, amber teething necklaces can be used through 3 years of age, when teething stops.
How tight should the necklace be?
Obviously, you don’t want the necklace to be too tight on baby and cause discomfort, but an amber teething necklace also shouldn’t be draped too loosely either. If the necklace is worn too long, baby is more inclined to try and bite the beads or can get tangled in it.
That being said, it’s best to find a happy medium, where the necklace isn’t too tight, but also isn’t hanging too low that baby can get it into his mouth.
Can my baby wear an amber necklace while she sleeps?
This is probably the most asked question about amber teething necklaces, as parents are unsure if this is something that can be worn at all hours, even while baby sleeps.
It’s recommended, for safety reasons, that babies only wear an amber teething necklace during waking hours and while supervised, removing it during naps and sleep times.
Most amber teething necklaces include safety features, including a clasp that comes undone easily and beads that are individually knotted so they don’t come loose.
Are there choking concerns with amber teething necklaces?
Parents rightfully wonder if amber teething necklaces are a choking hazard, which is understandable given that it’s placed around the baby’s neck.
As mentioned above, the necklace length should be worn not too tight and definitely not too long, both of which are hazards. The necklace also shouldn’t be worn while the baby sleeps or if the child is unattended.
Many amber teething necklaces have breakaway closures and double knotted beads to provide additional safety measures against strangulation and choking so that a baby can’t get tangled up in the necklace or choke on an individual bead.
How do I know if it’s a quality amber teething necklace?
Do your research when purchasing an amber teething necklace because you’ll want to know that it’s made of genuine Baltic amber and not fake. Most commercially available teething necklaces cost about $20.
To confirm you have purchased the real deal, do a quick test, putting the amber necklace against something hot. You should smell a hint of pine from the release of oils.
You can also rub the necklace against a piece of cloth to see if it causes the cloth to become static enough to pick up paper. Static increases the likelihood you have real Baltic amber.
As for color, some mamas say that the lighter the color, the more pain relief acid it contains. That hasn’t been proven and there are a range of colors of amber, so as long as it’s real, it will provide healing benefits.
Why is Baltic amber featured in most amber teething necklaces?
Amber is the resin of trees that has pooled and fossilized. The most common kind of amber you’ll find is Baltic amber, so most teething necklaces, as a result, are made from Baltic amber. It originates in the dark, cold forests of the Baltic region and by some accounts, it is over 44 million years old!
The Baltic region is so well known for its amber deposits, it’s sometimes referred to as “Baltic gold.” Scientists continue to debate over exactly why and how such large amber deposits exist in the Baltics.
Other forms of amber from other regions of the world also exist, though Baltic amber is known for having higher levels of succinic acid. (The importance and meaning of succinic acid will be discussed below.)
Baltic amber comes in a variety of colors, including white, yellow, brown, black, red, green, and blue. The kind you’ll most often find for teething necklaces is brown/orange and milky. Blue and green amber, caused by gas and inclusions, is rare and thus highly valuable– too valuable for teething necklaces.
An overview of how and why amber teething necklaces work
The historic uses of Baltic amber in medicine
Historians don’t know when, exactly, humans began using amber as a medical tool. However, there’s evidence that people prized amber as far back as the paleolithic period (think cave men).
With amber’s age somewhere in the tens of millions, there’s little surprise that extensive lore exists as to both its metaphysical and medicinal properties. Amber used to be worn to protect the swapping of newborn babies, not to mention preventing snake bites. But from very early on, those who grew up with it believed it to have healing properties.
There’s written mention of amber as a healing agent as far back as 79 AD. In relatively more recent times, the 17th and 18th century, Amberpieces.com describes the recommended uses of amber in ingestible and distilled forms:
[D]octors recommended the use of amber remedies for rheumatic and heart diseases, skin tone and convulsions, neuropathic disorders, ailments of the lungs, kidneys and other internal organs, and for curing ulcers. Another recommendation of amber as a traditional remedy was the use of it against common coughs or stiff-neck pains.
Amber enthusiasts will point to how, in 1886, Nobel-prize winner Robert Koch discovered that a derivative of amber had “a positive influence on the body.” (Technically, he discovered an acid via his own bodily secretions that happens to be in amber, but the story remains true-ish.) The 1930s and 1940s found that the same acid was critical to how the body functioned. Today, the Baltic region still carries amber products in its pharmacies. Chances are, you’ve ingested the key healing property in amber as well. More on that below.
Baltic amber’s magic ingredient: succinic acid
Amber might often be part of traditional remedies, but what does our modern science have to say about it?
The key component affiliated with amber’s healing properties is succinic acid. According to the Portland Chamber of Commerce, amber contains as much as 8% succinic acid.
Succinic acid is a critical part of the Kreb’s cycle, the method through which we create the energy that keeps us alive. As stated on Vitanetonline.com:
“Without the Krebs Cycle, mammalian and most other animal life would not be viable and the world would be populated by anaerobic bacteria.”
In modern times, we’ve done away with the elaborate distillation process of natural amber for succinic acid, and it’s now commercially manufactured. That’s helpful to the global amber market, given how much of the acid we use. It remains a popular and common ingredient for everything from flavoring in beverages, to modern medicine, to the unexpected, like lacquers.
On the health side, succinic acid is found in:
- vitamin supplements
- heart medicine
- and topical creams for arthritis
Amber in its natural state remains popular to wear for everyone from babies to those suffering from arthritis.
Most of its pain relieving power now, however, is attributed to its concentrations of succinic acid.
So how exactly does succinic acid work in amber teething necklaces?
In theory, the warmth of baby’s body heats up the amber, causing it to release oils containing succinic acid.
The acid, in turn, gets absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream.
There’s no residue or oily feel from using an amber necklace, so no concerns on that front.
Definitive scientific studies do not exist on how much succinic acid gets released via physical contact and whether this amount is substantial enough to have an impact. Anecdotal evidence varies. Some mamas swear by Baltic amber necklaces and others claim it doesn’t work. This, like so many other things, appears to depend on each mama and baby.
Succinic acid safety
Succinic acid itself is considered safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), because it “occurs widely as a natural constituent of the plants and animals which are commonly used for human food.” Succinic acid received attention and testing from the FDA since it’s so often found added to ingestible products.
Other benefits of amber
Those who sell amber online point out some long believed benefits of amber, including controlling the pain of:
- and aching muscles and joints
They also claim it is an anti-anxiety remedy that relieves fatigue and weariness.
Others get a little more woo woo, praising amber for its psychic protection, ability to balance emotions and release negative energy.
All of these sound like good benefits for the unhappy, teething baby.
Longevity of a Baltic amber teething necklace
According to the Swedish Amber Museum, “amber is not forever.” However, when the museum says this, they mean decades, if not centuries.
Over time, amber will develop a crust from exposure to oxygen. The Baltic amber used in Roman jewelry, 2000 years old, has a crust.
Amber from the Baltic region often has a thin, milky crust that makes it seem less clear, but this can, before selling, be treated with heat to make it clearer.
Should you buy an amber teething necklace?
Given all this information, should you consider buying an amber teething necklace for your baby?
Anecdotal evidence of amber’s efficacy as a teething necklace abound in both directions, but the scientific research is sparse.
The natural healing properties of amber could potentially soothe the discomforts of teething pain, which is a win for both baby and parents.
If you choose to use one of these necklaces, always supervise your child while he’s wearing it. As an alternative option, baby can also wear a bracelet version or the necklace wrapped around his wrist or ankle. Some parents have found that if the baby is wearing it on her ankle, pulling a sock up over it keeps it out of sight and baby doesn’t bother with it.
Bottom line on amber teething necklaces
As a natural teething remedy, they are definitely worth a try. If nothing else, they look great on baby!
Where to buy an Amber Teething Necklace?
Here’s a list of true Baltic amber teething necklaces on Amazon.
In particular, we like this four-color version made with unpolished Baltic amber. It’s double knotted for strength and has a screw clasp.
How about you?
Did your baby wear an amber teething necklace? Let us know if you’ve tried an amber teething necklace and how it worked!