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 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.
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 and, 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 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 is also:
- immune boosting,
- and calming and soothing
Amber in its natural state remains popular to wear for everyone from babies to those suffering from arthritis for its pain relieving power.
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, gets absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream.
Amber teething necklaces aren’t meant to be chewed or gummed on for comfort.
They’re just meant to be worn while baby is awake.
Your baby can and will probably want to use other physical forms of teething relief like teething biscuits or a frozen washcloth.
Definitive scientific studies that show how much succinic acid is released—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 so often added to ingestible products.
When can my baby start using an amber teething necklace?
Babies as young as two months old can start wearing an amber teething necklace. It is actually recommended to start that young to get baby accustomed to wearing a necklace without biting or tugging at it.
Amber teething necklaces are usually worn until baby is 3 years old, when teething stops. But many little kids like to wear them long after that because they like the way they look.
How tight should the necklace be?
A good, standard length for an amber teething necklace is 32 centimeters or approximately 12.6 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.
Some general guidelines on size of necklace per age group:
- 3 months – 1 year old: 12 1/2 inches
- 1 year- 2 years old: 13 inches
- 2 years-6 years old: 14 inches
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.
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 and double knotted beads to provide additional safety measures against strangulation and choking.
How to find real Baltic amber teething necklaces
Do your research when purchasing an amber teething necklace because you’ll want to know that it’s made of genuine Baltic amber.
To confirm you have purchased the real deal, try these two tests:
- Put the amber necklace against something hot. You should smell a hint of pine from the release of oils.
- 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.
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.
- Speaking of color, some mamas say that the lighter the color, the more pain relieving succinic acid it contains. That hasn’t been proven and there are a range of colors of amber, so as long as it’s genuine Baltic amber, it may provide healing benefits.
Most amber teething necklaces cost about $20.
How to care for your amber teething necklace
Wash your necklace every month or so with gentle soap and let dry it in the sun (the heat helps the oils to emerge again.) Your child can bathe with his/her necklace on, too. It’s best to take off before entering a chlorinated pool.
Where to buy an Amber Teething Necklace
Here’s a list of unpolished 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.
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.
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 cave men).
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. Chances are, you’ve ingested the key healing property in amber as well.
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 so 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.
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!