Amber Teething Necklaces for Babies – Do They Work?

Do amber teething necklaces for babies really work? What's the science behind them?

These days it seems a toddler can’t throw a board book at the library without hitting someone who is wearing an amber teething necklace. Aside from being fashion forward though, do they really serve a purpose?

First of all, let’s talk about amber. Amber is basically old ass sap that oozed out of a tree somewhere in the range of 35-50 million years ago.  Baltic amber, which is what teething necklaces are made of, is a special kind of amber that did its oozing from trees found in a specific geographical area, and then spent a few million years kicking around the floor of the Baltic Sea. This is important because only Baltic amber contains comparatively high levels of succinic acid, which is the ingredient people believe to be responsible for the many health benefits attributed to wearing amber.

Proponents of wearing amber claim when warmed by body heat, the succinic acid passes through the skin and into the blood stream of your baby, and from there accomplishes a laundry list of goodness. While most commonly associated with reducing pain during teething, people also reportedly use them to help calm fussy babies, fight infection and respiratory disease, and reduce inflammation of the throat, ears and stomach.

A non-medicinal, natural, continuously effective, relatively cheap way to provide comfort to my cranky ass toddler, that is also super cute? Sign me up! Right?

Well, there are some things to consider.

For starters, according to folks on the Internet, true Baltic amber isn’t what makes up the majority of the teething necklaces being sold today. This is problematic because only Baltic amber has enough of the critically important succinic acid in it to be effective, which means the majority of babies sporting the necklaces are just wearing tiny balls of non-special old ass tree sap.

Also complicating things, in general, it is a bad -nay- a very bad idea to wrap things around the neck or limbs of a baby. It is also frowned upon to provide them with access to things small enough to be placed in the mouth where they could be choked on, or shoved up their schnoz. A few countries have gone so far as to ban the necklaces completely because the risk of choking or death has been deemed so high.

That said, there is an absolute Baltic Sea boatload of anecdotal evidence touting how well amber has worked for parents desperate to provide comfort to their wee-ones.

So what’s a confused parent to do?

If you are going to try the necklaces, do a little research on the specific product you are interested in buying.

  • Make sure the necklace you are purchasing is made from genuine Baltic amber, and has been guaranteed to have the promised amount of succinic acid in it (should be between 3 and 8%). Many sites offer certificates of authenticity, and some, like this seller on Amazon, go so far as to have product randomly tested at an outside laboratory for quality control purposes.
  • Make sure the necklace has individually knotted beads, and a breakaway clasp, in case there ever is a situation where it gets caught on something and is choking your kid.
  • To reduce the risk of choking, keep an eye on your tot when they are sporting their baby bling. Consider removing it during unsupervised nap or playtime, and at night before they drift into a peaceful, (hopefully) pain-free slumber.
  • Make sure the necklace fits properly – it should be tight enough your little can’t squeeze a limb through, but obviously not so tight it chokes them (duh).

While scientifically the evidence may be lacking, the sheer number of people who report benefits makes it unclear if wearing amber necklaces provides any measurable health benefits. Bottom line, if you do choose to put one on your child, it’s a good idea to remove it any time you aren’t directly watching them. But really, who could look away, when they look so damn cute in them anyway?

Courtesy of Leah Domingues David
Courtesy of Leah Domingues David
Courtesy of Megan Fenton
Courtesy of Megan Fenton
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15 Comments

  • Wow, clickbait much? "I tried to take an unbiased look at amber teething necklaces to figure out why people use them and some people lost their fucking minds about it." I guess I missed the people losing their fucking minds part amidst all the completely reasonable comments below?

  • If it works so well why hasn’t someone invented succinic acid lotion or body oil or some way that doesn’t include a choking hazard?

    • That’s a really good question. I wonder if it’s hard to extract or if it’s unstable on its own? Probably has something to do with patent issues – if they can’t patent it, they won’t invest in it regardless of how well it works or not.

  • I don’t believe in them at all (or pretty much any sort of "homeopathic remedy" for that matter), but hey if it makes you feel better, I don’t see any harm in it.

  • I realize that science hasn’t proven that these work, but anecdotally, they worked for my kids. I was a total skeptic about Baltic amber, but they are cute and I figured it was unlikely to hurt them. Once, I forgot to put my daughter’s back on after a bath, and I could tell the difference–teething, which had hardly made her flinch before, drove her to tears. Got home (two weeks later) and put it on her, and she went back to being the baby she’d been; her teething never seemed to bother her again. Could it have been the traveling? Maybe. But we’d traveled with her before (necklace on) and never had similar issues.

    I noticed less of a difference with my son, though, (different necklace) and he started noticing his earlier and pulling on it, so we took it off when he was around 1. My daughter wore hers till she was 3.

    I’ve also worn a Baltic amber bracelet myself for wrist pain (which I attributed to my daughter suddenly gaining so much weight in two weeks), and within days, my wrist was back to normal. Could it have all been in my head? Maybe. But I’ve never had my hand refuse to cooperate about picking up a glass of water again.

    As to the safety aspect–teething necklaces that are properly made are knotted between each bead so they don’t all come off in case of breakage, and I was assured the ones we bought were designed to break under a certain level of pressure so your kid can’t choke on them if they get caught or pulled on (say, by an older sibling).

  • I’m with you on the in-expensive, non-medical, easy way to calm my cranky, teething 7 month twin boys down! As we didn’t want to keep the necklaces around their necks, we’ve loosely wrapped them around their ankles. We monitor constantly the tightness and as their little feet and delightfully chubby legs are rarely out of socks or footed onesies, they can’t pull at the amber. Our favorite Dr, from whom we purchased the necklaces, did advise to keep the amber on them at all times excluding wash time. She said the efficacy would go straight down if the amber isn’t on them constantly, so I disagree with your statement of keeping it off them at night time. I will tell you this – one of my twins is a complete drool monster, and within 1 hour of having the necklace on him the drool diminished to a mere shellac. I took it off for a day and we were back to complete drool bath. After that, I’ve left it on. I don’t know the science behind it, and frankly, I don’t care. It works for my family, and for a working mom of twins, I’ll take whatever relief I can get. Thanks for the article! We love you in our house!

  • Just curious, is the necklace on the second baby too long? It looks like the baby could stick their arm in it.

    • I’m sorry that you’re disappointed, although, nowhere do we say that there’s any scientific evidence to support it. Even the article you linked to says, "not a single study of any kind or quality exploring the efficacy or safety of amber teething necklaces for infant teething". So while there’s nothing to support it, I’m sure as hell not going to stand in the way of a parent wanting to give a $20 necklace a shot to ease teething pain in their baby. 🙂

  • While they are ‘cute’ and have some supposed benefits, it seems like a really bad idea to put a beaded necklace on a baby or toddler. We are so worried about them chocking on small items (see the post from last week about choking hazards) or being strangled from dangling things or cords (such as cords on mini-blinds or stray electrical cords), but yet, we will put a string of beads on a baby?!? They are popular around my area, too, but they seem like a really bad idea to me!

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