If you rely on teething necklaces to keep your baby’s pain at bay, the FDA wants you to stop. But they’re not just being big meanies—kids have choked and strangled on teething necklaces, and the amber ones made claims that were always too good to be true.
The FDA’s recent warning applies to most kinds of jewelry meant for teething or chewing. This includes the amber necklaces or bracelets with tiny beads, as well as necklaces or bracelets with larger beads (wood, marble, amber, or silicone) that are meant to be chewed. Some of these products are used by babies, and others by older children with autism or ADHD for sensory stimulation. Their recommendation: just don’t use them.
These types are meant for kids to chew on them. The beads can come off if the kid chews through the cord, and then those beads are a major choking hazard. Also, it’s possible for the necklace to get caught on something and strangle the child. (The FDA received a report of an 18-month-old who strangled to death during their nap.)
These usually aren’t meant to be chewed, but supposedly they release a natural chemical, succinic acid, to be absorbed through the baby’s skin to relieve pain.
There are two issues with this claim. One is that probably nothing is actually being absorbed from the necklaces, in which case you might as well save your money. The other is that maybe a chemical is being leached through your baby’s skin, in which case you should be asking: how much? Is this a safe dose? What are the side effects? Does it supply less over time? Is this chemical even known to be safe and effective on its own?
You probably wouldn’t give your baby a pill containing a mystery drug at a mystery dose, so use the same caution here. The FDA says they have not evaluated succinic acid for safety and effectiveness as a painkiller.
And, they pose the same strangulation risk as other types of necklaces.
The American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics agree that the best ways of dealing with teething pain include:
Liquid-filled teething rings aren’t recommended (the liquid inside can be gross and germy if the kid manages to bite through) and topical anesthetics aren’t recommended either: benzocaine, the most common ingredient, can sometimes cause a fatal condition called methemoglobinemia. And they tend to wash away in a wave of spit within minutes of application. Meanwhile, homeopathic teething medication can contain too-high doses of the poison belladonna, which means it is also potentially deadly.
It’s hard to see your kid suffer, but teething jewelry and medications don’t actually help much (if at all) and they pose serious risks. And yes, we all have stories of how the kid was in pain until we brought out a certain remedy or toy, but remember that we’re really good at telling ourself a stories that turn out not to be true. For example, teething pain comes and goes, so no matter what you do when the pain is at its peak, it will get better. Letting the kid chew on something safe is your best bet.