Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Placebo Necklace: A story of an irrational purchase

Sometimes I research thoroughly before making a purchase. Sometimes my emotions win out and I make a rash decision. 
Which is how I ended up with an amber teething necklace for my son. 
After a string of sleepless nights, I decided anything was worth a try, even if it was something completely irrational.  Like a bit of fossilised resin that gives off some sort of analgesic as it is warmed by your skin.  (Honestly, try a few weeks of sleepless nights with your crying baby before you tell me how ridiculous that is.) 
After three months or so of using it inconsistently I feel confident to say: it doesn’t work.  
Here’s the crazy thing.  It didn’t occur to me that I should find out whether it actually works, rather than taking anecdotal evidence on parenting forums as gospel.   Somehow I got suckered into handing over $30 for one of these things that looks incredibly cute on my baby, but doesn’t do much more.
In reality, I think it is a placebo.  Parenting can be stressful at times, especially when you darling little one can’t tell you what on earth is wrong, and everything seems to be wrong.  When things feel like they are all going to pieces it feels like he is always crying, or she never sleeps.  (Conversely, when life is going swimmingly, sometimes we get shocked by an “out of character” behaviour.)  Then, someone suggests ‘try this’ and we do.  Because we are expecting it to fix the problem we start to look at things more positively and are convinced that it was the magical device that we just shelled out a month’s salary for.  I started out skeptical about the teething necklace, but was willing to try anything.  I thought that maybe it was making a difference, but ultimately I didn’t notice any difference between the days when he wore it and the days that he didn’t. 
The other way it works is that some babies teeth better than others.  When I hear stories like ‘I put one on my baby at 4 months old and I’m not game to take it off in case he gets grumpy’ I get more skeptical.   I have two children.  The first one cut sixteen of his twenty teeth with barely a whimper.  The second one has  just had tooth number twelve break through - his fourth molar - and he has let us know about every single tooth as it has come through.  If I had put the necklace on my older son before his first tooth erupted, and then left it on for the next eighteen months, I might be convinced that the necklace is amazing too.  Some kids just teethe better than others.  
Logic has finally got the better of me. Just because it is natural doesn’t mean it is good for my baby, and just because it has a ‘long’ history of being used in folk medicine doesn’t mean that it really does work.  I sold the necklace to another desperate mother on Ebay for $12.50. 

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