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eight y/o chewing on shirt

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
My son has been chewing on his shirts for probably three years now. It goes off and on but it's been about a year now that he's been doing it continuously. It's very annoying because he ruins his shirts. We had a baby in Nov. and it's been nice because he's using the baby's teethers instead but I'm wondering if this is a nervous habit or if there is something going on physiologically with his teeth. My five y/o doesn't do it and I've got to say that my older one is definately the more nervous and high strung of the two. He had a really traumatic birth experience whereas my younger one had a beautiful homebirth. I wonder if this could be due to birth trauma? Or just stress in general. Anyone else have a shirt chewer?

mama to Sylvester(8), Loki(5) and Forrest(6 mos.)
post #2 of 24
I was one, and I've had 2 so far. I was a fairly anxious child, and my son who is currently chewing holes in all his clothes is also anxious (I had a traumatic birth-twilight and forceps, but ds was born at home, so no correlation there). My 9yo did the same at about 6 and 7. I bought her a teether at her request, and it helped. I've been looking for one for my 7yo ds, which he has also request.

I don't think it's about anxiety, but a sensory seeking behavior. I, and my kids, have some sensory integration stuff-pretty minor and nothing that really impacts our lives badly, but there nonetheless. You might look into Sensory Integration Disorder and see if it raises any flags. Some kids use OT to overcome it. None of us needed therapy, but I've made adjustments to help them deal with it, as my mom did for me (cut tags out of clothes, buy the "right" brand of socks, etc.).
post #3 of 24
My 8 y/o had been doing the same thing for at least 3 years. As a toddler, he never put anything in his mouth. I thought, "Wow, no problems here!" Once he hit pre-school, he started ruining his shirts. His first grade teacher suggested allowing him to chew gum as a substitute. My DH will be glad to hear that our 8 y/o in not the only one eating his clothes. It drives us crazy!
post #4 of 24
Have you looked into Sensory Processing Dysfunction? There are many sub-types, but shirt-chewing is a common indicator in some of the tactile-types. The kids just need that physical stimulus and sensation.

DS10 is a shirt-chewer. We only learned about SPD about a year ago and have made a few adjustments to help with his, um, oddities. What we learned about for the shirt thing is "chewelry" -- necklaces designed to be chewed on. That satisfies their need in a way that doesn't ruin their clothes!

You can order them from online specialty shops, I'm not sure what they're usually made of. I'm getting into making hemp jewelry recently, so I just made him a hemp necklace... I made it a little longer than choker length, and kept it simple, with several knotted "bumps" in it for texture stimulation.

He loved it. Within a month or so it was bleached almost white from his constant saliva, the strands had kind of molded together from the constant wet and pressure lol... and we got used to him talking with a strand of hemp in his mouth...

But the neat thing was, ever since he stopped using it, he hasn't been chewing his shirts nearly as much. Maybe he was about to 'grow out' of it anyway, maybe it's just a phase and he'll need another one eventually. Whatever -- it was great and if he needs one later I'll make him another one!
post #5 of 24
Thread Starter 
Great idea about the necklace! Thanks. I'm so glad to hear that we're not the only ones.
post #6 of 24
I'm so glad I read this thread. My almost 4 year old also never put anything in her mouth as a baby/toddler and we were so pleased. In the last year she has started the shirt chewing and has chewed holes in several tops. She'll also chew her comfort blankie when she is in bed and sometimes just munches on her fingers! She is a highly sensitive kid w/ an emotional level that is far beyond the capacity of a 4 year old's brain and often struggles with how to handle the emotions. I also struggled with these issues as a kid and have some sensory "issues" as well. I am going to try out the chewable necklace idea with her. I think she'd really get into it and it might save her wardrobe a bit! Thanks.
post #7 of 24
glad to read this thread too! same with DS. Not a chewer at all through the toddler years and . .. bam . .. at 4.5 or 5 it has started. Now that I realize it's more than just an irritating habit, i'll look into chewing rings.
post #8 of 24
My daughter has border-line sensory issues. Chewing started at about age 5. Normal birth, but sensory issue were evident within the first 24 hours (in retrospect).
Originally Posted by tankgirl73 View Post
DS10 is a shirt-chewer. We only learned about SPD about a year ago and have made a few adjustments to help with his, um, oddities. What we learned about for the shirt thing is "chewelry" -- necklaces designed to be chewed on. That satisfies their need in a way that doesn't ruin their clothes!
I made one for my daughter. Here's a description of the experience.

The amazing thing for us was that the chew necklace made DD aware of her chewing, which she wasn't previously. We still have bouts of chewing occasionally, but a lot less now.
post #9 of 24
I've got one kid with sensory needs who is a chewer.
I've got another though who chews holes in his clothes when his ferritin (iron) is low. Zinc is another.

So I would say it can be and usually is sensory related (I'm like that too actually) but it can also be a nutritional deficiency or tooth issue. So for kids who start up suddenly as opposed to having always been oral seekers I would make sure iron levels are ok and there is enough zinc in the diet. I'd also make sure I had a dentist visit to check teeth.
post #10 of 24
A woman I know who worked in a gifted school said an easy "tell" for highly gifted kids was a soaking wet shirt from chewing.
post #11 of 24
Echoing to check for zinc and iron deficiencies. If those come back normal, I would give him an alternative place to chew if his shirts are getting ruined. For what it is worth we found this behavior peaked around age 8 and pretty much went away after that.
post #12 of 24
Thread Starter 
I like that idea about shirt chewers being gifted. Why do highly intelligent people also have to be so neurotic?
I made him a necklace and it's really helped. His shirts are no longer getting destroyed. I started him on some really good multi vitamins. He goes to the dentist regularly and his teeth are great. I have wondered, though, if this has anything to do with losing the permanent teeth. I saw his x-ray and it's amazing how those adult teeth and baby teeth all fit into that little mouth.
post #13 of 24
My almost 6 y/o is an off and on shirt chewer. He has two missing teeth and three very loose ones, and clearly is bothered by them. But I also think it works as a sensory input behavior, and sooths during anxiety. Interestingly, he self regulates--for instance when visiting older children where his wet shirt might be noticed he will tell me he won't chew his shirt because he doesn't want to be wet in front of big kids. And he won't! It also goes in spurts --a month or two on, then months off.
post #14 of 24
I've got a chewer, too. What are some of the things that you've made necklaces out of? I see hemp, and I've seen elsewhere silicone tubing. Do pices of the hemp ever come off and get stuck in the throat? Is silicone safe to chew? I'd like to make a necklace for DS!
post #15 of 24
Thread Starter 
I highly recommend hemp. It's very safe, obviously, since it's made from a plant. And I had never made a necklace before, I just looked online on how to make a hemp necklace and found a really simple way by just tying knots. Hemp is also really strong. No, no pieces have come off. For the design that I made you're going to need four pieces, two a little longer then the necklace you want and two five to six times as long. Then it's just a matter of tying the knots over and over. You can add beads if you want, just make sure they're not in the front where he'll be chewing. I had alot of fun with it. I think my son is going to make the next one himself.
post #16 of 24
I am excited to find the idea of a necklace as opposed to always asking my son to stop creating holes in his shirts. How smart. My child has been chewing on his shirts for about three years as well. Thanks forestguy for asking the question that I never thought to ask.
I will teach him how to make his necklace. Good afternoon project on a potential rainy day.
post #17 of 24
OK, I made DS a necklace, but um...why does it smell like cow poop?
post #18 of 24
What a great idea about the necklace! I also have a three year old who chews his shirts until they are soaking wet. But, he also still breastfeeds and uses a pacifier. So, I feel like he gets lots of oral stimulation so I don't know why he might be shirt chewing too.

Anyway, do any of you know where I can purchase one of these hemp necklaces? I would love to make one but I have no idea how.

Thanks so much,

Mom to Rebecca (13) and David (3)
post #19 of 24
That's so weird about the iron thing...I was anemic when I was pg with my son. I literally chewed the neck out of every T-shirt I had! It drove DH crazy, but I couldn't stop doing it. It was just kind of like a nervous habit. After I delivered, my iron levels returned to normal and I've never had the desire to do it since. I just figured it was a bizarre pregnancy thing. How strange!
post #20 of 24
I'll put my votes in for oral sensory seeker, teething, and nutrient deficiency. My didn't put much in his mouth compared to his sister....until recently. He's used her wooden teething ring more than her. When he was low on calcium, he'd grind his teeth. We'd give him the liquid calcium, and he'd stop within 10 minutes. He didn't make the correlation but we did. He also has some sensory issues.

If his chewing continues, I think we'll look in to a necklace. I'm wondering if organic cotton yarn with knots would work.
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