Why is my baby spitting out the dummy?

Emmy Samtani

Emmy Samtani

Emmy is the founder of Kiindred and mother to 3 little ones. Over the last 4 years, she has worked with some of the most credible experts in the parenting space and is a keen contributor on all things parenthood.
Updated on Jul 12, 2024 · 8 mins read
Why is my baby spitting out the dummy?

A dummy or pacifier can be a really useful tool for parents to use w  hen settling and soothing their baby for sleep. However, it can also become extremely frustrating when all your baby seems to want to do is spit it back out!

Most children are natural-born suckers; they will take to dummies immediately and find great comfort in the sucking motion. Dummies soothe them to sleep in no time. But other babies may take a little more help and guidance to get used to using one.

A baby dummy or a pacifier can become a useful way to encourage a baby to sleep for longer stretches (down the line). Baby dummies are the perfect addition to any baby bag and are suitable for use from birth through all the stages of early childhood. At a certain point, some babies wake for an unessential additional feed. This feed may be referred to as a ‘comfort feed’. If the baby is accustomed to their dummy, instead of putting them on the breast or making up a bottle for a comfort feed, the baby dummy can provide your baby with the comfort of sucking as the tool is designed to resemble teats on bottles. So, it will soothe bub while sending them back to sleep. It’s a win-win.

If your baby keeps spitting dummies out of their mouth, don’t give up just yet. We’re going to get you clued in on why it happens, plus some handy tips for dummy use.

The short answer on dummy spitting

Rest assured, there’s no need for alarm bells if your baby keeps spitting out dummies. There are a few different kinds of dummies, so maybe your little one is a bit pickier and needs some trial and error. For instance, the dummy might not suit the baby’s age. And whilst some babies take the dummy easily, many babies just aren’t that interested. You could have a self-soothing little one who might not even need a pacifier and go straight to bed. It’s important you don’t force it, as that’ll upset little ones more.

How to keep little ones from spitting out dummies

1. Introduce the soother when your baby is calm

Some babies may be instantly soothed by a dummy when upset, but others become more agitated and upset. Avoid introducing or replacing the soother in a moment of desperation when your child is crying or unsettled. When they feel like that, chances are nothing, and no one except you will cut it!

Try introducing the dummy after feeding – rather than as a substitute for feeding or when they feel calm and happy. Let them look at it, hold it (if they’re able) and explore it a little, and chances are they will happily let you put it in their mouth and start sucking away. That way, they will learn to associate the soother with feeling relaxed and calm (and keep the dummy in their mouth longer.)

2. Take cues from your baby

Dr Harvey Kapp, pediatrician and author of Happiest Baby on the Block, considers ‘sucking’ as one of the five calming reflexes for babies. In other words, babies are programmed to suck as a way of regulating.

If your tiny human is opening their mouth or sucking their hand, it means they’re looking for something to suck on. Gently place the soother on their lower lip or tongue, and wait until their natural sucking reflex should kick in. If they are closing their mouth or turning away, they tell you they’re not interested.

3. Trial and error

Sometimes, it may take trying a few different types of dummies before you find the one your baby likes best. They come in different shapes and sizes; one dummy can be very different from the next, so as long as you are still opting for one that is suitable for their age, it is fine to try a few different variations before you find the one that’s the right size, that they’ll love. Investing in a dummy chain might help if your baby’s dummy falls out all the time. Dummy chains are useful tools that are sold by our favourite trusted brands. They come in all different sizes, designs, and colours to keep the dummy attached to baby clothing and make dummy use more convenient, meaning there are no more missing dummies in the cot or under the table.

What not to do when introducing bub to a dummy

Never put anything on the soother

If your bub is not showing interest, never put anything on the soother, such as honey or sugary drinks, to entice them, as this can be dangerous for their body to digest. Honey may cause infant botulism and cannot be given to babies under 12 months. Don’t just dip your newborn’s dummy in sweet condiments to try to get your baby to use it. It’s crucial to prioritise your little one’s safety and well-being above all else. If your baby isn’t showing interest in the soother or is finding using a dummy difficult, there are other ways to help them settle and soothe.

Don’t force it

Sometimes, the stress of getting the little one to use the soother can be worse than if you weren’t using one! Don’t force the baby to keep using one if they aren’t interested. We recommend leaving it for a day or two and then trying again.

Some babies will take a dummy right from the newborn stage, especially if they’re bottle-fed, and others might take longer to warm up to one. They might not be interested until three or even six months of age. However, the rule of thumb tends to be to start them earlier than later, as introducing a new habit like a dummy to a six-month-old child can be an even bigger challenge.

If you are breastfeeding, Mothercraft nurse Chris Monroe recommends waiting until your baby is around 4-6 weeks old. This is generally when any nipple confusion fades, and a good latch and breastfeeding rhythm is established.

Always follow your baby’s cues when it comes to soothers, and remember that every baby is different. Using a soother is a skill that will take time for your bub to master. Always keep it a happy, positive experience; eventually, they will find lots of comfort in their soother. That way, your baby is much less likely to spit it out.

How to introduce bub to a baby dummy correctly

Gentle tap

If your little one accepts the dummy but it repeatedly falls out of your baby’s mouth, a good trick is to place the dummy in the baby’s mouth and gently press it down toward their bottom lip. Normally this simple tap/press will activate the baby’s sucking reflex – they will begin to more actively suck on the dummy to prevent it from falling out.

Reverse psychology

Just like so many things in life, a little reverse psychology, in the same way, might help motivate your little human. Once the baby’s dummy is in their mouth, give it a gentle tug as if you’re going to take it out. This might kick in some resistance from the baby and encourage them to keep the dummy in.

Benefits of dummies: Are dummies good for babies?

The pros

Dummies help soothe baby cries, and sucking on pacifiers can help distract and comfort your bub. So, resorting to the dummy regularly isn’t a bad thing. It can also soothe fussy sleepers into night-long sleep (yes, please!). By using a pacifier on flights, your baby’s ears might be able to pop more easily. An ear pop means less pain and, thus, less crying.

Many studies show that a dummy helps prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). By using baby dummies during naps or when they fall asleep, your newborn baby won’t sleep as deeply, so they can wake up if they have trouble breathing. Baby dummies also help keep their tongue at the front of your baby’s mouth so it can’t block the airway while they sleep. But not using a pacifier doesn’t necessarily increase infants’ risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) either.

The cons

It’s important that if you choose to go with a dummy, you make sure you’re confident about dummy safety. To avoid them being a choking hazard, purchase dummies that can’t possibly fall apart. You should keep replacing them after wear and tear and follow the recommended age range. Invest in the good stuff, and dummies are totally safe. Never tie dummies around your baby’s neck or crib, as this could be super dangerous. Crib safety at night is hugely important in preventing SIDS.

Dummy use might disrupt breastfeeding, so it’s worth waiting until your baby is around 4 weeks old and a good latch and breastfeeding routine has been established. But after that, you can keep breastfeeding and introduce a pacifier to your little one.

There’s some evidence that babies who use dummies regularly are at higher risk of ear infections due to the change in pressure in their throats and ears. Some studies say ear infections are three times more likely with pacifier use.

And if you’re wondering what’s better between thumb-sucking and baby dummies, it’s pretty even territory. Neither is perfect, but it’s important to wean your little one (whether they’re addicted to fingers in the mouth or dummy-obsessed) off the habit of sucking as they grow up. Long-term sucking habits could lead to jaw misalignment and dental issues.

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