It’s so exciting when baby’s first tooth appears, but it certainly doesn’t come quietly. The drooling, fussing, and long nights have many parents searching high and low for natural teething relief.
Enter amber teething necklaces. Many natural 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 so you can make the best choice for your family.
Amber teething necklace Mama Natural
2022 UPDATE: Amber teething necklaces not worth the risk
When used as instructed, under adult supervision, never at naptime or bedtime, and ensuring that the necklace has a pop clasp instead of a screw clasp, amber teething necklaces do not pose much of a risk.
However, there have been reports of babies becoming injured by amber necklace, usually when sleeping with them or wearing them while unattended.
As a result, I no longer recommend amber teething necklaces for children and infants.
This is in line with the FDA and AAP who have also released warnings regarding amber necklaces for children. (source)
As a mom to young children, I know firsthand that we can’t always be on our game and on constant alert around our children. It’s easy to see how a hurried, sleep deprived mama can forget to remove a child’s amber necklace during car rides or sleep times.
In an abundance of caution, I encourage all moms to strongly consider other natural baby teething remedies.
What is an amber teething necklace?
Amber teething necklaces are designed to be worn by babies when they are teething. The common belief is that the child’s body heats the amber, causing it to release oils containing succinic acid. The succinic acid, in theory, gets absorbed into the bloodstream, helping to easy baby’s pain.
Nearly all amber teething necklaces are made from Baltic Amber, which is fossilized resin from the sap of conifer trees. It originates in the dark, cold forests of the Baltic region; by some accounts, Baltic amber is over 44 million years old.
The Baltic region is so well known for its amber deposits, they’re sometimes referred to as “Baltic gold.” Other forms of amber from other regions of the world also exist, though Baltic amber is known for having higher levels of succinic acid.
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.
Baltic Region, home of baltic amber for teething necklaces
The Baltic region refers to the countries surrounding the Baltic Sea.
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Baltic amber’s magic ingredient: succinic acid
The key component affiliated with Baltic amber’s healing properties is succinic acid, which accounts for 8% of its make-up.
Succinic acid is found in many vitamin supplements, heart medicine and topical creams for arthritis. Baltic Amber, in particular, is often found as an active ingredient in Chinese medicines. Baltic Amber necklaces are sold in pharmacies in many European and Asian countries.
That’s because succinic acid can be:
- immune boosting,
- calming and soothing
Amber in its natural state remains popular to wear for everyone from babies to adults suffering from arthritis due to its pain relieving potential.
So how exactly does succinic acid work in amber teething necklaces?
In theory, when placed around baby’s neck, Baltic amber warms up, causing it to release oils that contain succinic acid. The acid, in turn, is absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream.
Amber teething necklaces aren’t meant to be chewed or gummed on for comfort.
They’re simply meant to be worn around baby’s neck while baby is awake.
Your baby can and will probably want to use other physical forms of teething relief like teething biscuits, a frozen washcloth, or the types of teething necklaces made from silicone or wood that moms wear and babies can chew on.
Definitive scientific studies that show how much succinic acid is released from an amber teething necklace—and whether this amount is substantial enough to have an impact—do not exist.
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 often added to ingestible products.
How to use an amber teething necklace
- Fasten an appropriately sized necklace around baby’s neck (we recommend a “pop clasp” safety release)
- You may need to distract baby momentarily so baby forgets the necklace is there
- Leave the necklace alone; let the amber lay against baby’s skin
- Remove necklace during naps and at bedtime
- Never allow baby to wear amber necklaces unsupervised
- Enjoy the benefits that so many natural mamas attest to
How to find real Baltic amber teething necklaces
Do your research when purchasing an amber teething necklace. You want to be sure it’s made of genuine Baltic amber, and also that it’s raw.
Also, look for your amber to be certified by a third party. The necklaces that we sell are certified authentic by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), a nonprofit institute dedicated to research and education in the field of gemology and the jewelry arts. They’re the gold standard when it comes to certifying the authenticity of jewelry and precious stones.
You also want to be sure your amber teething necklaces are:
- Raw and unpolished so that the oils can easily escape the necklace and soothe your child’s gums.
- White, milky yellow, butter-colored, lemon yellow, or green in color. The traditional golden and darker colored beads are most likely cooked to enhance the color, and may be less effective as a result.
Is unpolished or “raw” amber better than polished amber?
We recommend raw, unpolished amber teething necklaces. When amber teething necklaces are polished, the succinic acid can become sealed inside, making it less available to the body.
Raw, unpolished amber is the way nature intended it to be. Raw amber contains the highest levels of succinic acid (up to 8%), which can naturally help quell inflammatory processes in the body.
Not all “raw” amber teething necklaces are truly raw!
Many amber teething necklaces claim to be raw, despite being heat treated in a process called autoclave. This makes the amber easier to work with, but it disqualifies the amber from being truly raw.
How to test your amber to make sure it’s genuine.
There are several tests that will help you confirm you have purchased genuine amber. We recommend these two tests:
- The heat test
- The saltwater test
1. The heat test
Heat the tip of a needle or nail, and then touch the heated tip to your amber bead. If it is genuine amber, it will give off a pleasant pine or forest smell, along with a slight smokey smell.
Do NOT hold a flame to the amber, as it will burn and not smell like pine.
Amber burns because amber is a resin, and resins burn. The fact that your amber burns does not mean that it is fake.
To summarize, the heat test does not involve setting your amber on fire. It involves heating a tiny portion of a bead and seeing if it smells of pine.
2. The saltwater test
This test involves creating a glass of extremely salty water and seeing if your amber floats.
Add salt to water in a 1:2 ratio. For example, mix 1/2 cup salt into 1 cup of water. Stir well. Drop your amber necklace in. Does it float? Great! It’s genuine amber.
Note that the water has to be extraordinarily salty water. Regular sea water, or slightly salty water, isn’t adequate to perform the test.
Truly Raw Amber Teething Necklaces
How tight should the necklace be?
A good, standard length for an amber teething necklace is 30 centimeters or approximately 12 inches. This fit isn’t too tight to cause discomfort, but also not too long where baby is more inclined to bite, play, or get tangled in it.
Can my baby wear an amber necklace while she sleeps?
No. Remove the amber teething necklace while baby naps and 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.
For your child’s safety, only allow them to wear an amber teething necklace during waking hours and while supervised.
Could baby choke on an amber teething necklace?
Parents rightfully wonder if amber teething necklaces are a choking hazard, which is understandable given that it’s placed around baby’s neck.
As mentioned above, the necklace length should be at least 12 inches long so it’s not too tight and definitely not too long, both of which can be dangerous. The necklace also shouldn’t be worn while the baby sleeps or if the child is unattended.
Many amber teething necklaces feature breakaway closures (aka “pop clasps”) and double knotted beads to provide additional safety measures against strangulation and choking.
How to care for an amber teething necklace
Wash your necklace every month or so with gentle soap and let dry it in the sun. Your child can bathe with his/her necklace on, too. It’s best to take amber necklaces off before entering a chlorinated pool.
Other benefits of amber
Online sellers of amber point out some long believed benefits, including controlling the pain of:
- and aching muscles and joints
They also claim amber can act as 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.
2021 update – Paleopharmaceuticals from Baltic amber might fight drug-resistant infections
Per this article and press conference from the American Chemical Society, scientists recently pinpointed compounds that help explain Baltic amber’s therapeutic effects — and which may lead to new medicines to combat antibiotic-resistant infections. This is very encouraging news, as each year in the USA nearly three million people get antibiotic-resistant infections. And it also affirms why people in the Baltic nations have used amber for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years.
Baltic amber folklore
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 cavemen).
With amber’s age somewhere in the tens of millions of years, 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. Amberpieces.com describes the recommended uses of amber in ingestible and distilled forms in the 17th and 18th century:
[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.
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.
However, amber teething necklaces may pose a risk if used improperly, or if the child is unsupervised while wearing one.
If you choose to use one of these necklaces, always supervise your child while he or she wears it.
Mama Natural recommends that you look at other natural teething remedies as an alternative to amber teething necklaces.
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!