Do you ever wonder why the tradition of giving silver baby spoons, silver baby rattles and silver teething rings exists? Because mouthing silver helped babies survive. These are treasured heirlooms passed down through the generations.
There is a factual reason why the wealthy gifted babies with silver to promote their health. Silver disrupts bacteria cells permanently.
Silver has been used to preserve food and water and silver spoons became popular in the middle ages to protect against the plague. The wealthy could afford silver and escaped the worst ravages. In England, not more than 25% of the rich died during the plague of the 14th century while for peasants the death rate was 40 - 50%, according to Norman F. Cantor, writing in his book, In the Wake of the Plague. He wrote that "the cataclysm" of the late 1340s in England had a severity unique in human history. He did not mention the role of silverware in the health of the wealthy, nor does the current exhibit, Feeding Desire, at the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt Museum in NYC (but it only covers the development of flatware as social commentary - not the health benefit -- and only from the Renaissance to the present).
Settlers in the American West used silver dollars in jugs of milk to keep the milk from spoiling. Silver nitrate drops have been used in newborn babies' eyes to prevent infection after birth. With the growth in popularity of antibiotics, silver has seemed to be less necessary for health. Pacifiers have replaced silver teething rings and plastic toys are used instead of silver rattles.
A debate several years ago surfaced about the use and benefits/health risks of colloidal silver. However, the Silver Institute cites information from studies over decades at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons on the health benefits of silver and they say that silver even heals wounds. Other silver-based products are on the market.
There might be a reason to think twice about using those old heirlooms and not letting old traditions die. Silver keepsakes still make good baby gifts.