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My Child Chews on Everything

Since infancy, my son has chewed on everything from his sleeper to his blanket. Is something wrong?

Nope. Zack loved to chew on fabric when he was little -- the worst was his sleeves. I'd try reminding him and reprimanding him, but it was as if he simply couldn't help it.

Some kids just like to have stuff in their mouths; it's comforting, like a pacifier is to a baby. It's not usually harmful, unless they could choke on what they're chewing (say, if pieces of the blanket are coming off) or they're getting enough of the object into their mouths to put pressure on the teeth. This is more of an issue when permanent teeth begin to come in, around age 6, but you should let your dentist know about your kid's habit now so he can watch for trouble.

In the meantime, help your child break it over time by gently reminding him not to do it, distracting him from chewing, and simply trying to keep that blanket away from his mouth -- especially as those permanent teeth begin to come in.

Also remember: Wet blankets, and any other fabric he's putting in his mouth, are more likely to grow germs, so make sure you wash them frequently.

Claire McCarthy, M.D., director of pediatrics at the Martha Eliot Health Center, in Jamaica Plain, MA, and a faculty member at Harvard Medical School. She's also busy raising five children.