Have you ever seen those little strands of orange, irregularly shaped beads at your local baby shop? They’re called amber teething necklaces, and they’re sort of a big deal in some natural parenting communities. No matter where you fall on the hippie spectrum, you might have wondered what the deal is with these supposed magic teething necklaces. How do they work? Are they safe?

These necklaces are made from Baltic amber. Baltic amber is found in a particular region of northern Europe. It’s not a stone. It is actually fossilized tree sap that has been cultivated and polished. Baltic amber naturally contains 3 to 8 percent of a substance called succinic acid. Some people believe that this substance can be used to relieve pain.

Throughout the ages, Baltic amber has been regarded for its supposed medicinal and protective qualities. According to researchers at the University of Glasgow, children in Scotland wore beads to protect them from evil. Others slipped on strands to cure blindness, heal sprains, and treat a host of other ailments.

What you may find interesting is that babies are not supposed to chew these necklaces. Instead, contact with the skin is necessary for the necklaces to work. When warmed by the skin, the amber is believed to release small amounts of succinic acid that then enter the bloodstream.

Unfortunately, we cannot definitively state whether these necklaces are effective. Most of the information relies heavily on anecdotal experience instead of scientific research. In fact, there are no formal studies that back the claims made about amber, Baltic or otherwise.

Still, you’ll find hundreds of positive reviews on necklaces sold at top retailers. Parents all over the world are trying these necklaces in an attempt to calm their fussy infants, and it appears to be working for a large majority. It’s important, though, to assess if the possible benefits outweigh the known risks.

Though amber teething necklaces are regarded as relatively safe for even young babies, anytime you place something around your child’s neck, you should pay special attention. You may find various amber wearables in your search, but make sure you buy a necklace that is made specifically for babies. These necklaces are designed with a special fastener that does not unscrew easily. This prevents your baby from tampering with it. A few necklaces even have a magnetic closure, which will release the loop if it gets caught on anything.

If you do decide to use an amber teething necklace, it’s a good idea to take the necklace off your child before naps and at bedtime. Strangulation is the biggest risk with this type of product, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. In a 2013 article published by The New York Times, the choking risk is also highlighted. In general, doctors don’t recommend that babies wear any form of jewelry.

So, proceed with caution, if at all.

There are many other ways you can help your baby through the teeth-cutting stage. For example, you can knot up a clean washcloth, soak it in some water, and place it in the freezer. Let your baby chew on the cloth to soothe sore gums.

There are also a number of natural rubber and silicone teething toys and necklaces for mothers to wear that give your child something safe to gnaw on. Older babies who are eating solids might do well with a mesh teether. You place frozen mashed food or frozen baby food cubes inside for cooler chewing.

According to a study published by the International Journal of Dental Hygiene, issues like diarrhea, fevers, and even disrupted sleep may not be attributed to teething. Regardless, if your little one is particularly uncomfortable, speak to your pediatrician about other pain-relieving methods. You may give a bit of baby-safe pain medicine, but first check about dosage and frequency. The numbing gels and teething tablets you’ll find at the drugstore may or may not be safe, so it’s best to let your doctor make the final call.

Long ago, it was common for mothers to rub liquor on their babies’ gums to soothe the pain of teething. Due to the known detrimental effects of alcohol for a baby, most mothers have disregarded this practice.

Teething is a process that’s painful for parents and infants alike. It’s hard to see your baby suffering, but rest assured that this stage is one that passes in due time. Before you know it, your child’s teeth will all be out and devoid of pain, and you’ll be onto the next big milestone.