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Do Amber Teething Necklaces Cause SIDS?
If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably seen someone’s Facebook status (or someone else saw it and told you that they saw it through someone else, who heard it from someone else etc etc – see where I am going here) about amber teething necklaces supposedly causing the SIDS death of a baby in Australia in 2013. Here’s the offending ‘news source’ here:
Looks credible, huh? I’m calling hoax, for the many reasons you’ll read below.
Here are some facts and important information about amber teething necklace safety, from our article on Amber Teething Necklaces – bearing in mind that there are absolutely no details as to how this possible death supposedly happened, for example if it broke or became caught, if it was a poor quality/fake necklace – or even if it really happened at all.
Are Amber Teething Necklaces Safe?
Just like any necklace, there is the possibility that it may break if enough force is used, however makers of teething necklaces do their best to ensure that their products are as safe as possible. It is unlikely your baby will have the strength to break an amber teething necklace themselves.
Most amber teething necklaces are made so that the necklace is knotted or double knotted either side of each bead – so if the necklace does happen to break, only one of the very small beads will fall off. Even then, if the bead is swallowed, amber is non-toxic – Europeans have been using amber in traditional medicine since long ago.
Clasps on amber teething necklaces usually consist of a screw clasp for added safety. Because the beads are supposed to sit on the skin and not be chewed, the necklace length is usually short – so they don’t hang down like long fashion necklaces. So its unlikely that an amber teething necklace will catch on things and most younger babies don’t even realise their necklace is on, or go to grab it.
- Supervise the infant when wearing the necklace
- Remove the necklace from the infant when the infant is unattended even if it’s only for a short period of time
- Remove the necklace from the infant while sleeping during the day or overnight
- Do not allow the infant to chew on the necklace
- Always seek medical advice if you have any concerns about your child’s health and well being.
So if a baby actually died in their sleep wearing the amber beads, the safe guidelines were not being adhered to and depending on what supposedly happened, SIDS safe sleeping guidelines too. There is also no way of knowing if any other factors came into play, when we know many of the biggest SIDS risk factors already – SIDS and Kids have formed 6 safe sleeping guidelines (updated last year to include breastfeeding) which has successfully reduced SIDS in a big way.
Amber Teething Necklaces And SIDS
Quality, genuine amber teething necklaces do not cause SIDS. I am sure the very vast majority of SIDS cases in the past were not even wearing amber beads, so even if the story is true (and again, we don’t even know any details as to how it happened), then this is one single case we’ve ever heard of at a time when SIDS is (thankfully!) dropping significantly. Many cultures around the world use jewellery on children and infants, let alone amber teething necklaces with the highest safety measures in mind possible. Yet many of those cultures haven’t even heard of SIDS.
If a necklace, bracelet or any item has caused a death, it would firstly have to be poorly made, then perhaps a death would be from choking (even though with quality amber teething necklaces this is highly unlikely with double knotted beads, which are tiny) or some other cause of death, just not SIDS. SIDS is an unexplained death. Choking is, well, choking – and this would have been ruled by the coroner as a cause of death.
Think about it – unless it’s very poorly made, how can a baby break or choke on a short necklace – so short that they can’t chew on it – while asleep? Were there any unsafe items in the cot (against SIDS safe sleeping guidelines) that the necklace somehow managed to get caught on?
Since 1979, SIDS and Kids has been largely responsible for a 90% reduction in SIDS, mainly through teaching parents and professionals about back sleeping and safe bedding for baby – clearly this was a significant factor. Together with the most recent addition to their Safe Sleeping Guidelines, ‘breastfeed your baby if you can,’ (see more information including studies published in prestigious journals leading to this SIDS prevention guideline here). Breastfed babies are 50% less likely to be SIDS babies – clearly there are bigger issues at play here.
I’m sure if amber teething necklaces caused SIDS (which we’ve now explained cannot be the case, because SIDS is unexplained causes of death), they would have realised this a very long time ago. BellyBelly Naturopath, Nicole Tracy uses and sells amber teething necklaces. She says that if a death did occur, its unlikely to be the necklace. “Babies all through Eastern Europe have worn them for centuries. People should be aware that the necklaces are individually knotted and have a safety catch that will break under pressure. My son has worn his since he was 3 months old, and will be two years old in May.”
I recommend that you ignore viral spam going around, check your facts and as with any product you buy for baby, read the safety information before you use it. If the news isn’t headline news that you’ve seen away from the internet (because anyone can so very easily start a discredit campaign and everyone is up in mass hysteria over someone’s silly joke), then in cases like this, you need to question its credibility. Even in cases of co-sleeping deaths that do make it to television, you often find that the parent wasn’t safely co-sleeping – for example sleeping with their baby on a couch, sleeping with smoking parents, etc. Its important to look past the hype and look for facts and realities.
- Coroners do not make decisions overnight
- The media would be all over it
- The ACCC would also have been very quick to jump on suppliers of these necklaces, to try and pull them out of stores or to serve warnings
- SIDS is from unexplained causes of death. If an amber teething necklace was to blame, you would think a coroner would rule strangulation (etc.) by a necklace
- SIDS and Kids are aware of this message going around, but have not been informed, nor are aware of any such case going on
- The original source of the post cannot be located, and a Facebook page where the originating post seems to have spawned is not replying to mothers requests seeking a source of the information
- The biggest give away for me happened before I knew about the issue. I was getting a mad rush of traffic to BellyBelly, where people had been searching for things like, ‘amber teething necklace SIDS death 2013’, and they were finding my website, which had nothing about SIDS and amber teething necklaces. They couldn’t find any info and had ended up on BellyBelly, desperate for information. Usually another site – be it a news site or information site – would have this information first or published information on a coroners findings. It’d be pretty major news if it were true.
- All of the above points are typical traits of most hoaxes and it has now found its way onto hoax sites.
The proven biggest increased risk factors for SIDS in a baby are unsafe sleeping conditions, if the baby is not breastfed or where the parents are smokers. For more information check out our article on SIDS and SIDS Risks.
Make sure you get yourself informed and buy a quality teething necklace – if its cheap or doesn’t reassure you of it’s strength and authenticity (genuine amber, not plastics), its probably worth giving a miss.
Kelly Winder is a birth attendant (aka doula), the creator of BellyBelly and mum to three beautiful children. Follow Kelly on Google+ and become a fan of BellyBelly on Facebook. BellyBelly is also on Twitter. Please note that all of my suggestions and advice are of a generalised nature only and are not intended to replace advice from a qualified professional. BellyBelly.com.au – The Thinking Woman’s Website For Conception, Pregnancy, Birth and Baby.
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