My 4 Year Old Won't Stop Sucking on His Clothes/hands

Updated on November 22, 2006
H.M. asks from Cincinnati, OH
7 answers

My son is 4 1/2 and has recently started sucking on his shirts, jackets, and hands constantly. Today he went through 3 shirts before finally making him go bareback for the evening. I've tried giving him other things, like sugarless gum as his teacher suggested, to keep his mouth occupied, but he swallows it. Other than redirection and partial nudity, any suggestions on how to get this to stop, and ideas on why he's doing it? He's always been a thumb sucker, but not a constant sucker, and this has gotten way out of control.

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answers from Cleveland on

Has he had a major stressor lately? New child, move, starting school, problems in the family, problems at school? It sounds like something is going on that is making him feel a need for comfort. I would find out what the stress is and try to work on that. Good Luck.



answers from Columbus on

Have you tried giving him a wet washcloth to suck on?



answers from Cleveland on

hello H.
my daughter would chew on her shirts too. the doctor told me that that was a sign of low iron. see when you wash your clothes the stach that is in the detergent has iron in it so they chew on it.and it seems to taste good to. so get his iron checked.



answers from Dayton on

Has anything changed recently? Did he just start preschool? Sounds like he might be nervous about something. When my daughter is faced with any new situation (even fun) her hands go right to her mouth. I have also noticed kids do this when their hands aren't busy enough, like when watching TV. Try a small squishy ball or other small hand toy to keep his fingers busy. Also, I have found that if I want information from my 4 year old about anything that might be bothering him, I ask at night when he is in bed with the lights out. He wants me to stay and doesn't want to go to sleep yet. That's when he tells me the most about his day.....good or bad'
Good luck!!



answers from Columbus on

Honestly, my 3 1/2 year old just started this and we have so far chosen to ignore it. Some of his shirt sleeves are ruined and it does look gross, but we've chosen not to make this issue a battle. We're hoping he'll grow out of it. So far, the only time I ask him to take his sleeve out of his mouth is when he's going to the bathroom. Otherwise, I don't say a word. We'll see how this plays out??? I'm also going to talk to his doctor about the low iron thing...that could be interesting too. But, if we say anything I'm just afraid it's going to turn into a war of the wills when it's really not hurting anything or anybody.

Hang in there.




answers from Youngstown on

When I read this I had to laugh. I thought my daughter was the only child that ever went through that stage.
She sucked on the sleeves of her shirt, coat, sweater, etc..all the time. It got to the point that she started to develop cold sores near her mouth because the area was always damp from chewing. I took her to a dermetologist finally because it got that bad. He suggested at the time to put Aquaphor on her face in the cold seasons to try to prevent her from getting the sores. However..there was nothing I could do to keep her from chewing. I just had to always tell her to stop when I saw her. She is now going on 11 yrs old and has finally stopped sucking on the clothes, blankets and any other piece of clothing she could get in her mouth, but she constantly is putting things in her mouth to chew on..plastic store tags, buttons, toys, etc..When I catch her chewing I always ask what she is chewing on and she immediatly spits it out. It is very frustrating, I understand completely. I wish there was some advice I could give you but all I can really say is to wait it out and constantly remind the child to get the items out of his mouth.Good Luck!!



answers from Cincinnati on

Hello, I have an 8 yr old that has always sucked and chewed on his shirts....I have learned to notice he does this only when embarrased or he feels like he is put on the spot...I have really just let it go because its kinda like a security thing for him, so if that works for him..Ok and it also helps me to know when something is making him feel those ways and then I can learn how to prevent him from feeling that way which in turn keeps him from chewing on his clothes, hope this helps a bit. A.

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