oral fixation - Boston Moms

I remember the day my son figured out how to get his tiny thumb into his mouth. He was 4 months old, and when I went to check on him during a nap he was sucking away. I snapped a picture and texted it to my husband. We celebrated this milestone, because once he found his thumb he started sleeping through the night! It was life-changing and amazing!

He was a very colicky and difficult baby. It was tough times. He was later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, which meant his thumb-sucking was a real blessing. He did not like to be soothed in a typical way. If he was upset as a baby or toddler, my mere presence could make it worse. So his thumb was his way to self-soothe, and I was very grateful for it.

We did not realize that eight years later we would still have a thumb sucker.

Yup, he still sucks his thumb. And now he is also chewing on everything. He chews on his clothes, straws, zippers, and, once, a magnet. If there is any random item near him, he puts it in his mouth. But the worst part of this oral fixation is the toys — he has destroyed some of his toddler brother’s toy dinosaurs by chewing them so hard!

I have gotten specific chew toys for him. He chews right through them and destroys them. I have gotten the chew necklaces. He chewed through every style of those as well. These chew toys are not cheap, and he could go through a necklace a day. Plus, then he has a slimy wet necklace around his neck. Gross.

I constantly ask him to take his thumb out of his mouth or stop chewing on that toy. Or I simply say “dry,” and he stops. But the thumb or the toy literally goes back into his mouth within seconds.

I now offer him sugarless gum. He chews gum at school as well. This is a great solution, but, unfortunately, constant gum chewing can lead to headaches, and we have been advised not to overdo it.

I am at my wits end with this oral fixation! I know it is a habit, and habits are hard to break — especially for a child with special needs. But I cannot take it anymore. I feel like my house is covered in saliva, and I am having serious anxiety over the constant “take it out of your mouth” comments.

I recently found these selfies on his iPad.

Please tell me I am not alone in this? How do you deal with oral fixation in older kids? I’ll gladly take anyone’s advice!


Leah Lynch
Leah was raised in Greater Boston, where she met her husband in 2006. They moved to North Carolina for a few years before deciding their hearts were still in Massachusetts. Leah is a stay-at-home mom and has three children — boy, girl, boy — born in 2011, 2014, and 2017. Her oldest son in autistic. Children with disabilities — and the families raising them — have a special place in Leah's heart. She loves "The Office," date nights, tacos, U.S. history, and the beach. She enjoys sharing her experiences of motherhood, the good and the difficult, to encourage other moms that they are not alone. Loves: Great food (mostly made by her talented husband), playing with the kids, the beach, date nights, The Pats, The Sox, The B’s, new socks and bras, and American history, and movies. Can’t stand: Cotton balls, weeds, broken crayons, and country music


  1. I hear you!!! My son is four (ASD) and doesn’t suck his thumb but does all the other things. I mean chews anything! I am constantly saying “no mouth”.
    Now we have a one year old and his toys/binki’s are being destroyed. He has a constant rash around his mouth from chewing on things. I feel all of your blog! If I find anything effective I will send it your way. Stay strong Momma!!!!!

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