Nobody likes to hear a baby screaming in discomfort, especially their baby.  Teething is not a fun time for new parents or for children but it’s necessary and a part of life.  We here in the States have been told certain medicines are fine for babies, only to be told a few years later that they – perhaps – aren’t (ie ambesol, which new Moms used to slather generously on babies gums is now supposed to be given only to children over 2 years of age). Infant Tylonal is still fine by the CDC’s Pediatrics Council and they also have a range of holistic remedies. These range from wetting a small washrag in ice cold water and twisting the end and giving it to the child to chew on, rubbing the childs gums with a clean finger and gentle pressure, giving the child very cold (but not frozen) teething rings, but what they do not recommend are amber bead teething necklaces.

These have become all the rage with new Moms, apparently because “the Europeans all do it”.  Well, if the Europeans decide to jump off a cliff – are we Americans to follow?  Additionally, most of the Europeans do NOT do it.  It’s mainly Baltic tradition (where most quality amber is harvested) and has become “the new thing” in New Zealand and Australia.  Amber necklaces are not common in Germany or the UK and they are banned in France and most of the Netherlands where they have been deemed a choking and suffocation hazard to babies. Canada has also issues strong warnings against them and is moving towards a ban this year.

Even rabid “pro-amber” groups are finding it necessary to remined new mothers of the following (which should be common sense, but apparently – and frighteningly – isn’t):

  • Supervise the infant when wearing the necklace
  • Remove the necklace from the infant when the infant is unattended even if it’s only for a short period of time
  • Remove the necklace from the infant while sleeping during the day or overnight
  • Do not allow the infant to chew on the necklace
  • Always seek medical advice if you have any concerns about your child’s health and well being.
  • Do not take the necklace off the infant’s neck and put it on the infant’s wrist or ankle while sleeping.

It’s worth noting there at even Australia, where all the supercool amber using mothers are, is investigating the amber teething necklace as a contributor to the increase in SIDS related infant deaths. Also worth noting is the increased number of complaints about the quality of the beads.  Amber is not a stone or glass, it is fossilized tree sap. It feels like plastic and it’s very very easy to fake. Even seasoned collectors can get taken for a ride with amber. So how do you know your amber teething necklace comes from a little shop in the Baltic handcrafted with love by an artisan just for your little bundle of joy or if it came from a cheap sweat shop in China and is made out of recycled medical waste containers? You don’t!

In closing, babies should not wear jewelry.  It’s a choking and suffocation hazard that no parent should chance.  I have seen babies with these short necklaces on and they are very tight so the baby can’t grab them.  I would ask the parent to wear a knotted bead necklace that tight around their throat for 24 hours and then tell me it was comfortable.  It can’t be.

Americans typically find better, faster and more successful ways to do things than the Europeans – that’s why we moved over here and why they all want to come over here with us.  Sometimes being a parent means having to watch our children go through necessary, but not always comfortable, growing pains which include teething.  The amber bead teething necklaces appear by all accounts to be more of a pacifier for traumatized parents than teething babies.


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