In October 2016, Deacon was placed down for a nap at daycare when the necklace allegedly tightened around his neck and constricted his breathing.
The child was rushed to hospital but he didn’t survive.
Now, Morin has filed a lawsuit against Etsy, the retail website which sold the teething necklace. She argues that Etsy is legally responsible for Deacon’s death.
“No parent should have to grieve a child. No parent should have to bury their child.”
In response, Etsy released a statement which said: “While we understand the desire to take action, Etsy is a platform and did not make or directly sell this item. We believe the allegations should be directed at the criminally-negligent daycare providers or, if appropriate, the seller of the necklace.”
Unfortunately, Deacon’s death was completely avoidable.
In the opinion of Dr. Dan Flanders, the founder of Kindercare Pediatrics, the baby shouldn’t have had the teething necklace in the first place.
“One completely preventable death is one too many. It shouldn’t have happened.”
In Flanders’ opinion, there are two ways teething necklaces could put babies in danger.
“One, it could cause strangulation,” he said. “The other is that… the necklace could break and then [the child] could put those little beads in their mouth — they could be a choking hazard.”
Dr. Catherine Cox, a resident in the Dalhousie University department of family medicine, agrees.
She recently conducted a case study on a baby who suffered from non-fatal infant strangulation caused by a teething necklace.
While no deaths caused by teething necklaces have been reported in Canada, there have been several cases of non-fatal strangulation. This can cause oxygen deprivation to a baby’s brain and result in serious health consequences.
Despite these risks, manufacturers continue to sell these products — and parents continue to buy them.
“The distribution of these products that have warnings have actually increased in the past five years,” said Cox. “So people are using more of these products, despite the dangers.”
According to Cox, manufacturers will try to offset these worries by making erroneous claims about different safety features.
“A lot of manufacturers explicitly counter the intuitive risk of strangulation or aspiration by saying that there’s a knot between each bead that reduces the probability of [them] becoming loose,” she said.
They’ll also claim the necklace has “a clasp break that will break under tension… so the risk of strangulation is minimized, but there’s actually no validity to support that,” Cox said.
“Health Canada has actually issued several warnings around these products in the past.”
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The rise of teething necklace sales in Canada is especially concerning because babies may not even need teething aids at all.
According to Flanders, doctors can’t confirm if babies even feel pain during teething.
“For some babies, teeth come in and it’s as if nothing’s wrong — there’s no irritability, no nothing,” Flanders said.
“Then other baby’s teeth come in and they seem really irritable and upset, but we can never really attribute it to teething.”
Accessories like teething necklaces are supposed to help alleviate pain caused by new teeth penetrating a baby’s gums. The baby is meant to chew on the beads as a way to relieve pressure.
However, in terms of a cost-benefit analysis, Flanders sees very little benefit to this method.
“Putting these necklaces on babies is all risk and no benefit.”
“I don’t think teething necklaces do anything to help teething pains, which is the tragedy of this case,” said Flanders.
If you believe your baby is struggling with teething pain, there are other options you should explore.
Flanders recommends doctor-approved teething rings or even the pads of a parent’s fingers.
“Sometimes, it’s better if they chew on a soft texture,” Flanders said. “Sometimes, chewing on cold objects can give them relief.”
For this, Flanders suggests placing a teething ring in the fridge — not the freezer.
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“We advise against frozen things because those can cause low-temperature burns, like frostbite,” he said.
If your baby appears to be in prolonged discomfort, Flanders recommends a dose of Tylenol or Advil.
If that doesn’t work, you should consult your family doctor.
“If the baby is really irritable and upset and you can’t really seem to get it under control — and you know this is a new-ish behaviour (in other words, it hasn’t been going on for months and months) — then something is obviously wrong,” said Flanders.
“It’s always the right answer to seek help from a medical doctor.”