Baby Gags on Pacifier: Top 5 Causes and How to Address It

Written by Daisy
Last updated:
Reviewed by Margaret

The article has been reviewed by medical expert Margaret Dogwood, BSN, RN

Do you ever notice when a baby gags on pacifier? Can’t you wrap your head around why they do so? Pacifiers have been around for more than a century, and most babies even consider it their best friend! But what if your baby gags on it?

In this article, we will be walking you through why some babies gag or choke when using the pacifier. Furthermore, you will also learn the secrets on how to prevent this, too!

Before we jump to it, though, let us first attempt understanding the gag reflex of babies!

A Baby’s Gag Reflex

Like us adults, babies have gag reflexes, too! In case you weren’t aware, a gag reflex is a reflexing action that is hardwired to us humans to prevent choking and other dangerous activities via our mouths. It is when you do a certain action like how you would when you puke, but you don’t continue to puke!

In babies, the gag reflex is simply a reinforcing trait to keep them from choking or from swallowing something that’s not right for their age.

Diane Bahr, Nobody Ever Told Me (or My Mother) author, says that gagging has been a gift of nature, especially for babies who have no control of their airways.

             Your baby’s airway is protected by the natural response of gagging when encountering new tastes, temperatures, or textures. This gag reflex is actually a good thing as it helps your little one, learn and adapt. Be grateful for nature’s way of looking out for your baby.”

Why My Baby Gags on Pacifier: Top 5 Causes

In order to properly solve the issue, it is just right to know and understand the primary causes of it. Without further ado, here’s the top 5 causes of why your baby would gag on pacifiers – even if you know they’re used to it already!

Reason 1: The Nipple is Long (Longer Than the Usual)

Our adorable cute little munchkins have gag reflexes that are oh so sensitive. I mean, what do you expect? They’re still babies!

That being said, if the pacifier’s nipple is overlong and is too much for them, it can set that reflex into overdrive! Can you imagine?

It’s actually crucial to opt for a pacifier with a nipple that’s just the right size for your little one’s age, not too lengthy nor too petite! To help you, here’s a general rule of how or what the nipple size should be according to their age.

–          0 Months – Preemie

–          Level 1 or Newborn – (0 to 3 months)

–          Level 2 or Little Babies – (3 to 6 months)

–          Level 3 – (6 months and older)

–          Level 4 – (9 months and older)

That’s about it for the nipple size!

Reason 2: They Sense a Different Taste and/or Smell

Other than the size of the nipple, another factor would be the smell or the taste of the nipple or the pacifier – and yes, that is something you’d want to talk about, too!

Let’s delve into the topic of the senses of taste and smell.

Like adults, babies hold their own individual tastes – remember, one man’s favorite might be another man’s most-hated taste or smell!

In the sense of these pacifiers, it means that some pacifiers may carry an atypical flavor or aroma due to the substances utilized or included tastes. If your child isn’t a fan of the distinguishing taste or scent, it can result in some noteworthy retching behavior.

Honestly, who could blame them for reacting in this manner? Therefore, ensure that you consider their inclinations while selecting a pacifier, and opt for one that is unlikely to cause any major taste bud upheavals.

Babies can’t be vocal about it, so, they’ll just let their own bodies do the talking.

Reason 3: The Shape and/or Texture is Not What They Want

Another potential offender is the pacifier’s form and feel. You know, babies can be very particular little beings.

Others may have their hearts set on a certain form, while others may prefer a softer or firmer nipple. If the pacifier’s texture or shape don’t appeal to your baby, gagging episodes are certain to occur. So, it’s time to be creative and experiment with several possibilities until you find the one that makes your child grin.

Following reason #2, our babies would have different tastes – and it’s something that develops within them, although it can be influenced. Nevertheless, if your baby neither likes nor appreciates the texture and shape of their pacifier, then it can be a reason why they reject it!

Reason 4: They Have a Strong Gag Reflex

Think again if you thought that babies don’t have gag reflexes, because they certainly do! I mean, it’s a bodily form of protection against something that can put them in danger, right?

Let’s talk about that severe gag reflex. Babies are no different than everyone else in having specific sensitivities. Bless their little souls, some infants have more sensitive gag reflexes than others – and you can’t blame them as they can be built that way!

Basically, It implies that when using a pacifier, individuals are more liable to gag at the slightest provocation. Consider your baby’s sensitivity and choose a pacifier that takes into account their delicate reactivity to prevent those unexpected gag attacks.

As Cleveland Clinic said, some babies are born with a hyper-sensitive gag reflex, meaning, they gag easier and faster than others.

Reason 5: They Don’t Want the Pacifier

Why complicate it? It could be because they simply do not like the pacifier! Whether they already outgrew it, they grew tired of it, or even they don’t understand the essence of pacifiers, it might simply be because they don’t like it any longer.

Dr. Richard Dowell, Ph.D., and Evangelical Community Hospital pediatric neuropsychologist says that when a baby turns two, they usually develop better stress management skills.

Children eventually learn higher level coping mechanisms to deal with their distress, usually starting around age 2. Most babies would rule their pacifiers out as they develop skills to replace them.” 

So, if your baby is about to turn a year old and they’re showing signs that they’re not very fond of their pacifiers any longer, don’t blame them! They might just be maturing quickly to the extent that they want to rely on their own senses!

How to Prevent Baby Gagging on Pacifiers? 7 Methods Explained

Now that you know some of the common reasons why your little munchkin is subtly rejecting their pacifier, it’s now time to go to the solution – and that is to learn preventative measures in gagging. I mean, equipping yourself with the skills and the knowledge is everything you need!

Fortunately, it’s not rocket science – and neither do you need experience nor medical care skills to pull this off!

Method #1: Proper Introduction and Positioning

First impressions last – the same applies for your baby’s pacifying behavior! What you teach lil’ bud will be what they will follow for the entire time they’ll be using their pacifier! It’s basically what and how you teach them!

Ensure that your baby’s pacifier is placed correctly (but comfortably) in their mouth. The nipple should not stick out too far down the throat and should rest gently on the tongue, mid-way through their mouth.

When it comes to introduction, gradually make them want and need it. Let your babies familiarize themselves with it at their own speed so they can do their own adjustments with the sensation of it.

Method #2: Correct and Gradual Weaning

When it’s time to stop, don’t have them stop immediately! Like how you introduced pacifiers to their lives, that would be the best way to wean them from it, too.

As your child grows and their oral development continues, consider removing them from the pacifier over time.

Dr. Jason Sherman, DO, says that keeping your babies on the pacifier can negatively affect their developing mouths and jaws.

             The lower teeth of your child will be erupted and the top teeth will be missing. In order for children’s teeth to develop as they should, they shouldn’t use pacifiers all day. Additionally, the condition might worsen over time and result in a number of dental problems.”

Encourage other soothing methods, such as cuddling, singing, or giving them a soft blanket, to help them transition out of pacifier dependency.

Method #3: Use the Right Shape and the Right Size

Choose a pacifier that is suitable for your baby’s age and developmental stage. Older babies may benefit from larger nipples for a more comfortable fit, while newborns and younger infants may need smaller, narrower nipples.

Think about the pacifier’s shape as well. Babies have varied preferences, so watch how your little one reacts to different shapes to determine which one is best for them.

You can choose from different shapes, like cherryshaped, cylindrical-shaped, and orthodontic.

Method #4: Consider the Material and Texture of the Pacifier

Another thing to note to save your baby from gagging from their pacifying tool would be by considering both the texture and material of it.

Remember, not all babies are born equally! There are some infants that prefer different degrees of softness or firmness to their nipples, while there are those that want either a smooth or a rubbery texture.

Experiment with different options in order to find the one that your infant prefers the most.

If you need help, parents and doctors recommend getting medical-grade silicone pacifiers! They’re orthodontic friendly and could greatly help in the development of your baby’s teeth and gums! Pacifiers are meant to destress babies, not stress them more!

Moreover, babies may have sensitivities or allergies to certain substances. You don’t want to sacrifice their reactions just for the sake of price and benefit, right? Choose pacifiers made from materials that are hypoallergenic and baby-safe.

Method #5: Check and Assess the Pacifier

Check the pacifier occasionally for any symptoms of wear and tear, such as cracks, tears, or missing pieces. The reason why your baby is gagging might be because of a rippled or a damaged pacifier inside their throat!

Don’t hesitate to buy a new pacifier if the old one is broken or damaged! Save yourself some trouble!

Method #6: Thoroughly Clean and Sterilize the Pacifier

It never hurt to be extra clean and careful! Sterilize those pacifiers frequently to keep them squeaky clean. I mean, your baby will put it inside its mouth, and you don’t want any trouble with that.

To ensure a hygienic pacifier for your infant, follow guidelines in cleaning and sterilizing pacifiers according to the manufacturer’s instructions! The Canadian Pediatric Society (CAS) made guidelines, too!

Method #7: Avoid Pacifier During Sleep

And last but most definitely not least is actually the least-concerning, but could be the most impacting factor of all. If your infant frequently gags on the pacifier while sleeping, of course, you’d want to stop using it during these times.

This does not only lessen the possibility of gagging occurrences when your child is more vulnerable, but also ensures that they don’t develop any type of unwanted condition on their mouths, too as it is open and is extremely fragile.

These are the best and most common methods of preventing gagging on your baby’s pacifiers!

Considerations and Safety Tips on Using Pacifiers For Parents

You might view pacifiers as a simple machine, but it is actually complex! In using pacifiers and ensuring the well-being of babies, there are a few points and considerations parents need to have:

·         Check pacifiers thoroughly for signs of wear and tear. These include cracks, tears, or missing pieces. Immediately replace pacifier if damaged!

·         Invest in a high-quality pacifier – it will pay its own price along the way and you will see it!

·         Pacifiers should be REGULARLY cleaned and sterilized to maintain exemplary health and hygiene.

·         Follow the correct way of cleaning and sterilizing pacifiers before letting your little munchkin use them.

·         Since they increase the risk of choking or strangulation, cables, ribbons, and other items shouldn’t be attached to pacifiers. Pacifier clips should be brief, strong, and made exclusively for attaching pacifiers.

FAQs

If you still have questions and you want them all clarified, here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the topic!

The Best Pacifiers For Babies With Gag Reflex

There’s actually not a “best” pacifier for sensitive babies. However, the best option to go for would be orthodontic pacifiers. They are engineered to mimic the shape of a baby’s mouth naturally! This will not only be more comfortable, but it also has a decreased risk of gagging, too!

Why Does My Baby Gag So Easily?

Some babies have stronger and more sensitive gag reflexes than others. Don’t worry! It’s not actually a big deal because when they grow older, it will develop more!

Why Do Babies Reject Pacifiers?

It varies. Some babies prefer breastfeeding, some don’t appreciate the fact that pacifiers don’t have flow, some could just dislike the idea of it! Observe your little one during feeding time and you will definitely find the answers to your questions!

Final Verdict

Don’t panic when you find that your baby gags on pacifier – it’s actually a bit normal! They might not find the pacifier suited for their wants and needs, or it could be that they’re tired of it already!

With these tips, you are armed with relevant information in making sure that your baby is using pacifiers correctly! Without a doubt, this worry will be out of your hair! 

Photo of author
Daisy Martinez, a Certified Financial Planner and mother of two, blends finance expertise from Ohio State and Anderson School of Management with hands-on parenting insights. Founder of "mamallove.com" and "cashsavvytips.com", she's passionate about guiding parents in financial and parenting realms.

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