Experts are alarmed at the use of teething necklaces made of Baltic amber beads, saying they present a choking hazard for babies. The resin necklaces have boomed in popularity in recent years, with the hip and ‘natural’ baby product worn by the offspring of celebrities such as model Miranda Kerr and stylist Rachel Zoe.
Manufacturers of the necklaces claim that they work by releasing ‘therapeutic oils’ (succinic acid) into the baby’s skin, which is said to help reduce inflammation and drooling. But sceptics say that it is impossible for a baby’s body heat to generate the warmth needed to release the acid from the amber resin, or that the dose of the succinic acid would be enough to have a therapeutic effect.
The necklaces, available from chemists, small retailers and online, are worn by babies as young as six weeks old.
General practitioner and lecturer Dr James Best this week told the CHOICE Baby and Kids forum that the efficacy of the necklaces is "biologically implausible", while fellow panellist Dr Joanna McMillan added that they are a choking hazard.
Last year, Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, David Bradbury, issued a warning notice to the public in relation to amber jewellery for babies.
Teething won't kill a baby but choking on an amber teething necklace could. Why would you risk it?
The warning notice was issued after ACCC testing of several of these products indicated they could break into small parts and present a choking hazard to children under three years of age.
Investigative journalist Kate Browne at CHOICE backs up the warning.
“From the experts we have spoken to, and the research we have seen, there is no proof of efficacy when it comes to amber teething necklaces,” she said. "But what we do know for sure is that they are a potential choking hazard. Teething won't kill a baby but choking on an amber teething necklace could. Why would you risk it when there are so many safer and more effective options for your child?"
The Australian Consumer Commission has given safety guidelines to parents currently using the necklaces. Consumers using this product are advised to:
• always supervise the infant when wearing the necklace or bracelet
• remove the necklace or bracelet when the infant is unattended, even if it is only for a short period of time
• remove the necklace or bracelet while the infant sleeps at day or night
• not allow the infant to mouth or chew the necklace or bracelet
• consider using alternate forms of pain relief
• seek medical advice if you have concerns about your child’s health and wellbeing.
See our gallery of alternative teething products.