Dummy troubleshooting: Why is my baby spitting it out?


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

Some babies are natural-born suckers, they will take to the soother immediately and find great comfort in the sucking motion. But other babies may take a little more help and guidance to get used to using one.

Dummies can can become a useful way to encourage baby to sleep for longer stretches (down the line). 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 for a comfort feed, the dummy can provide your baby with the comfort of sucking while sending them back to sleep. It’s a win, win.

So, if you have a baby who likes to spit the dummy (see what we did there?!), don’t give up just yet. Here are some tips that might help.

1. Introduce the soother when your baby is calm

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

Try introducing the dummy after a feed – rather than as a substitute for a feed, or at a time when they are feeling 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.

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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 baby 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 their natural sucking reflex should kick in. If they are closing their mouth or turning away they are telling 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 that your baby likes best. They come in different shapes and sizes, 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 they love.

4. Never put anything on the soother

If your baby 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.

5. Don’t force it

Sometimes the stress of trying to get the baby 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 just 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 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 can be an even bigger challenge.

If you are breastfeeding, Mothercraft nurse Chris Monroe recommends introducing a dummy once a good latch and breastfeeding rhythm is established. Generally, this is when baby is around 4-6 weeks old.

When it comes to soothers, always follow your baby’s cues and remember that every baby is different. Using a soother is a skill that will take time for your baby to master. Always keep it a happy positive experience and eventually they will come to find lots of comfort in their soother.

6. Gentle Tap

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

This is a paid partnership between Kiindred x Medela.

Related Articles
How to make sure you’re using a soother effectively
8 reasons your little one may be throwing a dummy spit at bedtime…
5 tips for creating a soothing sleeping environment

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