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 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
So how exactly does succinic acid work in amber teething necklaces?
In theory, when placed around the 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
Why amber necklaces?
According to proponents, Baltic amber contains a “natural analgesic” called succinic acid. When a baby wears the necklace, his or her body heat then releases this magical chemical from the gemstone and gets absorbed into the skin, thereby easing their pain.
And do amber necklaces actually work?
Nope, sorry. There’s zero scientific evidence to back up these claims. While it’s true that Baltic amber does indeed contain succinic acid, there is no proof that it is absorbed into the skin or that it has any pain-relieving properties. In fact, putting one of these necklaces on your kid could actually do more harm than good.
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.
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
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.
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.
Baltic amber beads
Baltic amber beads are placed around a baby’s neck or ankle to help soothe the pain of teething. Baltic amber contains between three and eight per cent succinic acid, which is said to have an analgesic effect by warming the baby’s skin, reducing the pain of teething.
While RoSPA is not in a position to comment on the accuracy of these claims, concerns have been raised about amber teething necklaces representing a choking hazard. The main concern relates to the beads and clasps which can become detached. There are also inherent strangulation hazards associated with having any type of cord placed around a child’s, and especially a baby’s, neck.
RoSPA does not advocate any cord being placed around any baby’s neck at any time. Our ongoing research into the risks posed by blind cords highlights just how quickly and easily young children can be accidentally strangled or hanged.
What is a safer alternative to baltic amber?
There is a wealth of options available to help soothe teething pain and RoSPA advocates the use of medically approved creams applied directly to the gums. RoSPA also recommends teethers and teething toys which are often filled with a liquid and are sometimes kept refrigerated before being given to a baby to chew on.
Above all, RoSPA advises parents to seek advice from health workers (even before the baby is born) on the best and safest ways of soothing teething pain.
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