Mumbo Jumbo

It isn’t easy to pick out an amber teething necklace for your son, especially when you only have pictures on the Internet to go by. Is it going to end up looking too feminine on him? Will the size be what he needs? How good is the clasp? Is it going to be the real goods or no better than a piece of plastic?

The way these teething necklaces (allegedly) work is that amber (supposedly) has analgesic properties when its warm. When worn against the skin (so they claim) it can cut down on a baby’s teething pain.

Honestly, I thought it sounded like a lot of hokum when I first heard of it. Still, it’s not like they’re expensive and it’s better to be safe than to have a wailing baby, right? If our first baby had been a boy, I might not have been as willing to try it. As it turned out, I figured if it didn’t work, baby RU would still have something pretty to wear. (I guess I’m more okay with boys wearing jewelry that’s theoretically functional.)

I was concerned about the possible strangulation hazard a necklace might pose to a baby. The one we went with had a magnetic clasp that would’ve popped apart if the necklace was pulled on. Once RU was a toddler, that might have become a choking hazard, since she could have taken it off herself. As it happened, we had to replace it before that became too much of an issue. By then, we felt it was safe enough to get a screw-together clasp. Ideally, the necklace is just big/loose enough that it’s comfortable to wear, about like a shirt collar; it shouldn’t hang down enough to catch on anything.

Do they work, though?

It’s hard to say. RU never seemed to have any teething problems. Seriously, I think she got a little testy once when working on her molars. We can’t know if that was due to her necklace or not though — I sure didn’t take it off to see if that made things worse for her!

When MeToo was teething, she was a little more vocal about it. She had a different necklace. Maybe it didn’t work as well? On the other hand, MeToo is a lot more vocal about everything, in general. She certainly would’ve let us know if she was in a little discomfort, whereas it would have been just like baby RU to not make a fuss.

One of ours with a broken screw-on clasp.
One of ours with a broken screw-on clasp.

Little Z has now gone through his first teething episode; he’s got two bottom teeth now. He seemed to be pretty unhappy about the process, but he was also going through a wonder week and, maybe, a growth spurt. These things always seem to stack up on top of each other like that. Z’s amber teething necklace looks fine on him, but it doesn’t look or feel like an effective apothecary’s charm. The good stuff is supposedly the dark baltic amber, and RU’s first necklace certainly looked like it had the goods. Does that mean Z’s is worthless? Or is he just a different baby with different teeth?

RU's original necklace. If any of them have really worked for us, it'd be this one.
RU’s original necklace. If any of them have really worked for us, it’d be this one.

This website has the skeptical perspective. My take is that every kid is different and, if you think about it, each of these teething necklaces is a unique thing as well. Some may work better than others. Some babies may get more relief from their properties than others. It’s exactly the kind of thing that isn’t going to be consistent enough or clear enough for the Scientific Method to be able to give a thumb’s up to.

Do I give amber teething necklaces a thumb’s up? Since I can’t be sure, either, I may give just a single thumb out of two. Or maybe both thumbs kinda halfway up. It’s absolutely better than not doing anything — unless it’s exactly the same as not doing anything. But it shouldn’t make your kid feel any worse!