Monday, 30 April 2012

Amber, teething and the recall

Baby M doesn’t have any teeth yet so she has been spared the incredible pain of teething so far.  I know from friends just how hard some babies find teething and how many sleepless nights can accompany the cutting of a new tooth.  I’ve also heard a few lucky mums saying their babies barely noticed the eruption of their shiny whites. If your baby is one of the unlucky ones you will want to do anything to reduce their discomfort.  If you could use something natural that is meant to reduce or prevent the pain you would want to try it wouldn’t you?

Many mums swear by amber necklaces, bracelets and anklets to reduce the nasty symptoms of teething.  They are meant to work by being worn next to the skin (not to be chewed).  As they are warmed it is claimed they release succinic acid which is then absorbed through the skin and reduce discomfort.  As far as I’m aware there is no scientific evidence to support these claims.

Baby M was given a amber teething necklace as a Christening present.   Neither my husband or myself were sold on the claims of this wonder jewellery or any other treatments that lack evidence.  A few weeks before her christening Baby M had been experiencing a lot of teething pain so despite our scepticism we thought we would give it a whirl.

Baby M wearing her amber teething necklace

Baby M showed no interest in the necklace at all: no touching or playing with it so I was confident in leaving it on at all times (the advice is generally to take it off at night when the baby is unsupervised).  The first night she wore it she had a really good night’s sleep.  Of course there is a good chance this was nothing to do with the necklace, but it was enough to persuade me she might as well keep wearing it.

A month ago I lost Baby M’s necklace when I took it off for bath time.  I didn’t notice any difference in her in the days that followed. 

In the last few weeks I think Baby M’s teeth have been on the move again: she’s taken to biting me during some feeds, increase in dribbling, pink cheeks etc so I thought it was time to try the amber again.  I went online to buy her a new necklace from Amber Pumpkin but I discovered they were no longer on sale.  Amber Pumpkin, alongside other reputable stockists of baby teething necklaces such as Dino Daisy, had voluntarily stopped selling them at the request of Trading Standards.  I bought an anklet instead of the necklace, but these too have stopped being sold.

An EU wide investigation has taken place into the safety of the necklaces, bracelets and anklets for children under 36 months.  The concern is that “small parts can be easily detached and swallowed” becoming a choking hazard.   In addition necklaces that are too long are considered a risk of strangulation (source: Europa Consumer Affairs website).  I have not found any reports of harm caused by amber jewellery.

I’ve no doubt that if an individual bead was inhaled or swallowed there is a possibility it could become a choking hazard, but I think this risk of this happening is very slim. The necklaces are designed with a double knot between each bead so if the jewellery did snap only one bead is likely to come off.  Baby M has very good hand to eye coordination, but I’ve seen her trying to eat peas;  I very much doubt she would be able to swallow it.  I’ve also seen the size of some pieces of food in her nappy, they are bigger than any of the beads.  Her necklace was of a sensible length that was not too tight and was not long enough that it was likely to catch on anything.

The findings of tests have resulted in Trading Standards in the UK asking suppliers to issue a voluntary recall of the products.  A quick browse of facebook, forums, blogs etc suggests that the majority of parents will not be returning the jewellery.  I will not be returning Baby M’s jewellery and I will continue to allow her to wear it.  I don’t want to risk my baby’s safety and if at any point I do become concerned I will put it safely away.

Whether or not amber jewellery does help to relieve symptoms of teething (and the jury is still out in our household) I think it is a shame these products are no longer considered suitable for those under 36 months.  There are two side effects of the recall and cease of sale of amber jewellery for babies that I think are particularly sad:
  • If people want to buy amber jewellery for their infants they will have to purchase items designed for older children or adults.  These are likely to be too large and wont necessarily be double knotted meaning they pose an increased risk than th eprofuces removed from the market.
  • Companies whose business has been built up around the sale of amber teething jewellery will be badly hit and may not survive.  I was advised by AmberPumpkin that they have thousands of necklaces that they can no longer sell and that Trading Standards ideally want destroyed.
I'm not critical of the recall.  I think it is important that we have strict guidelines to ensure products sold for babies are suitable.  But this recall makes me sad.


  1. Agree, agree, agree. Well written. Valid view point.

  2. Got mine on

    I don't care what critics say, it works like a charm.
    She used to drool tons, 2 days after we put the necklace on she stopped drooling.
    I used to have to change her bib every couple hours, for months.
    Now she doesn't even need a bib no more!
    No more shoving her fist into her mouth either.

    Kate from Lincoln

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