Parents have always been eager to find ways to relieve teething discomfort for their babies and small children. So, when it could be as simple as putting a string of beads around the child’s neck, it’s understandable that parents would become interested. But like many solutions to health-related conditions, it’s not that simple.
What’s an amber bead necklace?
An amber bead teething necklace is a string of round amber chips the child wears around their neck. The amber forms from fossilised tree resin which is shaped into rounded, small beads threaded onto a piece of string or cord. Manufacturers claim the resin, once warmed by the child’s skin, has anti-inflammatory properties and can help to soothe a child’s swollen, sore gums.
Amber bead anklets and bracelets are also available, although necklaces are the most popular. The beads come in a range of colours, from white to yellow and from beige to brown.
Who are the necklaces made for?
Amber bead necklaces are made for children who are teething or showing signs of teething. The recommended age varies between manufacturers although they generally say there are benefits in wearing them between 4 months and 3 years of age.
Why are they used?
It’s natural to look for easy, quick and effective solutions when small children are unhappy. But it can be very hard to soothe a crying baby who seems miserable because of teething pain. Gums can be swollen, red and sore as teeth erupt, and until they emerge through the gum margin, the only way to help the baby is to alleviate the symptoms.
These are some of the reasons why amber bead necklaces have become so popular. The fact that they are also formed from a natural substance, are easily put on and some people believe the jewellery looks attractive, adds to their appeal.
Are amber bead necklaces safe?
Amber bead necklaces and bracelets are not safe to use. They are a strangulation hazard to children if they tighten around the child’s neck. They can also break and the child could inhale the beads if they mouth or chew the necklace. Some necklaces have a magnetic clasp which, if swallowed, could cause gut perforation.
What do the experts say?
There is no clear evidence that amber bead necklaces or jewellery help to soothe a teething child. Managing the child’s behaviour is generally the safest way to manage teething episodes.
Red Nose recommends nothing be placed around the neck of a sleeping baby and identified the risk of choking to babies who wear a string of amber beads.
During the teething period, it takes around 4 days for the tooth to emerge through the gum and around 3 days afterwards. There is no consistent pattern of behaviour when it comes to teething. Some children don’t seem at all bothered; others become quite irritable.
10 safer alternatives to amber beads
- Lots of cuddles and soothing
- Extra day sleeps if their night sleep is being disrupted
- Extra breast or bottle feeds if they’re keen
- Teething rings and toys to chew on
- A cool, wet washer can be a popular choice
- Foods with extra texture
- Offering something firm to suck on, such as a sugar-free rusk
- Massaging your baby’s gums with a clean finger
- Drying the skin around your child’s mouth and chin if they’re drooling a lot – rashes are common in areas that stay moist
- Pain relief medicationif your baby is miserable – make sure you use the right dose for your baby’s age and weight and speak with a doctor or pharmacist first
If you do choose to use amber beads
- Always supervise your child when they are wearing amber bead necklaces, bracelets or anklets.
- Remove any amber bead jewellery before you leave your child alone and when they go to sleep.
- Never let your child chew on the amber beads.
Who can I speak to for more information?
Speak to your doctor or child health nurse if you have any concerns about your child’s teething. They can give you clear, evidence-based support and advice.
- There is no clinical evidence that amber bead necklaces work.
- Using amber bead necklaces and jewellery has several safety risks, especially the risk of strangulation or choking.
- Teething is a normal developmental stage — extra cuddles, soothing and chewing on a (safe) teething ring or toy will help most children.