By Jane Luscombe
The latest baby craze is creating concerns among safety experts and scepticism among scientists.
Retailers say amber teething necklaces are best sellers among new parents, but there is no medical proof they even work.
“There’s loads of babies wearing them, so there has to be something in it,” says Clare Cheetham, whose son Henry is proudly sporting his first two teeth.
Ms Cheetham tied on an amber necklace to help him through the troubling times. The necklace was a gift from her sister, who swears by them.
“It carries a lot of different properties for healing and soothing,” says Ms Cheetham’s sister, Anne Walbridge.
“Apparently it can help with depression as well.”
Retails charge up to $90 for the necklaces and claim they work by releasing trace amounts of a natural pain reliever, when the amber is warmed on the baby’s skin.
Chemistry professor at Otago University, Alan Blackman says that is nonsense.
“You have to heat amber to over 200degC in order to be able to get any volatiles out of it, so I find that quite unlikely.”
The Ministry of Consumer Affairs says there is a risk children could be strangled or hang themselves.
- Amber necklaces should be removed from a baby when the baby is unattended, even if this is likely to be for a very short period of time.
- Babies should not be left wearing necklaces while sleeping – whether that is during the day or overnight.
Children’s dentist Nina Vasan says teething rings are a better option.
“My concern would be the safety of the beads and making sure, if they did break, the children are not inhaling or choking on them,” she says.
The beads are a best seller in Louisa Currie’s online baby shop Belly Beyond. Hers break easily to prevent strangulation.
“I don’t know how these work, I simply know myself and from the feedback we get – it’s glowing about them,” she says.
Ms Currie accepts there are poor imitations on sale too.
One sceptic puts it bluntly; you’d never tie a piece of string around a baby’s neck, so should you really put on a necklace?