Hey mommy-to-be! Congratulations on coming all the way toward the end of your pregnancy period. I can imagine how excited you must be to see your bundle of joy. Now that you‘re nearing the last few weeks of gestation, or if you have already touched the 40-week mark, you may be interested in trying out natural ways to get you into labor. Of all the other ways of inducing labor naturally, nipple stimulation is frequently used by many to-be moms around the world to get things rolling. If you, too, want to know how to stimulate the nipples to induce labor, stay with me until the end, as I share everything you need to know about this natural technique of labor induction.
Can Nipple Stimulation Induce Labor?
Before talking about whether nipple stimulation can induce labor, let’s try to understand what inducing labor actually means for pregnant women. Many women go into labor on their own when it’s time for their baby’s arrival. Then there are others who do not experience the onset of labor even after they have completed their 40 weeks of gestation. In these cases, doctors and midwives suggest other ways to trigger labor.
Usually, doctors follow safe and proven ways to induce labor, such as the use of medicines or devices. But before the doctor uses labor-inducing medications, some women are inclined to try natural remedies for themselves so they can avert the risks of medical induction like infection or fetal heart rate variations.
That’s when techniques like nipple stimulation come into play. Whether nipple stimulation can actually induce labor is not completely established. However, there is some scientific and anecdotal evidence that supports its effectiveness.
The Science Behind The Induction of Labor Through Nipple Stimulation
Doctors often use Pitocin to induce labor in pregnant women. Pitocin is nothing but the synthetic form of the hormone Oxytocin. This hormone is responsible for many things happening in our bodies. Feeling aroused when you’re close to your partner or the inseparable bond you feel between you and your child are all results of oxytocin doing its job well. Another role of oxytocin in a woman’s body is to initiate labor when it’s time for delivery.
This suggests that if, by any means, we are able to increase the levels of oxytocin in the body, it can help in the induction of labor. With this in mind, you can use nipple stimulation to bring on labor or make the contractions stronger, as gently massaging or rolling the nipples is known to release oxytocin in the body.
Scientific Evidence on How to Stimulate Nipples To Induce Labor
Although more clinical studies are necessary to ascertain if stimulating the nipples actually induces labor, some initial studies do point toward its effectiveness.
For instance, a quasi-experimental study was conducted to analyze oxytocin levels in low-risk pregnancies (1). For three consecutive days, pregnant women participating in the study performed breast stimulation with the aim of inducing labor.
Results revealed that oxytocin levels in their saliva were significantly higher on the third day of stimulation. So, researchers inferred that repeated nipple or breast stimulations could further raise oxytocin levels in the body, which can increase uterine contractions and induce labor.
Another study involved 390 pregnant women who were divided into three groups – the first group practiced nipple stimulation, the second practiced uterine stimulation, and the third was the control group (2).
Results showed that women who practiced nipple stimulation had the shortest phases of birth – the first phase lasting 3.8 hours, the second phase lasting 16 minutes, and the third phase lasting only 5 minutes.
What’s more? None of the women practicing nipple stimulation needed a c-section for their baby’s delivery! So, researchers concluded that nipple stimulation does support vaginal birth through endogenous labor induction.
Nipple Stimulation: A Closer Look At The Right Techniques
How To Stimulate Nipples To Induce Labor With Hands Or Fingers
Here are the steps you can follow to stimulate your nipples with your hands and fingers:
👉 Find yourself a private and comfortable spot where you can relax and ease yourself into the process.
👉 You could either wear a shirt made out of thin fabric or remove your shirt so there’s no hindrance.
👉 Apply a little coconut oil or nipple moisturizer to your breasts for lubrication.
👉 Start by stimulating one breast at a time. Massaging both breasts together can cause overstimulation, which may negatively impact the fetal heart rate.
👉 Use your hand to form a cup around the dark area surrounding your nipples. This is the areola. Babies suck on both the nipple and areola during breastfeeding. So you need to mimic the sucking motion as closely as possible.
👉 Gently massage and press the areola and pull toward the nipple. As you reach the end of the nipple, give it a slight twist before you let it go completely.
👉 Continue this for five minutes, alternating between both breasts, followed by a 15-minute break if you want to repeat it again.
While this technique is quite simple, you may watch one of those “how to stimulate nipples to induce labor” videos available online to get a better idea.
How To Stimulate Nipples To Induce Labor Naturally Using A Breast Pump
A less laborious way to stimulate your nipples is to use a breast pump instead of your fingers. As the time for your baby’s arrival is almost here, you might have gotten yourself a breast pump to support breastfeeding. Here’s how it can double up as a means to stimulate your nipples:
👉 Assemble your breast pump (electric or manual) before you start pumping and stimulating your nipples.
👉 Sit comfortably in a low-noise and peaceful environment to facilitate oxytocin release. Connect with your baby and visualize the moment when you will finally meet each other.
👉 Switch on the breast pump and continue pumping one breast for 10–15 minutes. You may now switch to the other side and continue for another 10–15 minutes. Remember to pause whenever you feel a contraction and resume after it settles.
👉 You can continue switching sides every 15 minutes for close to an hour to stimulate your nipples and facilitate labor induction.
How To Stimulate Nipples To Induce Labor At Home With Your Partner’s Help
If you’re at home and your partner is by your side, why not take his help to elevate your levels of oxytocin? Yes, your partner can very well help to kickstart your baby’s birth. His gentle touch can not only make you feel good and loved, but it will also get things going.
Your partner can help you with nipple stimulation while you sit back and relax. He can do so manually or via oral stimulation, whichever you are comfortable with. Though most women who participated in the studies practiced self-stimulation, there is no harm in involving your partner. His tender touch will relieve you of stress and assist in oxytocin release, which will trigger labor to progress naturally.
The only thing you need to pay attention to is knowing your limitations. So keep communication open while you’re at it. Let him know if you’re uncomfortable at any point. And do remember to take breaks when you feel a contraction. Halt stimulation altogether if your contractions are occurring three or fewer minutes apart or lasting for a minute or longer.
How To Stimulate Nipples To Induce Labor At 37 Or 38 Weeks
Earlier, babies born anywhere between 37 and 42 weeks of gestation were considered to have completed the term. If you’re not aware of the latest updates announced by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, together with the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine, you may think at 37–38 weeks that it’s time for your baby’s arrival. And even consider trying natural ways to speed up the birthing process.
But if that’s what you’ve been thinking, it’s time to correct yourself. According to the updates issued by the two entities, pregnancy is now considered full-term only when it has completed 39 weeks. Any time before 39 weeks is considered early term, and it is noted that babies born before completing full term may have issues with feeding and breathing properly and regulating their body temperature. They also have a higher chance of having a learning disability.
Waiting until 39 weeks gives your baby all the time they need to grow well. At full term, a baby has a well-developed brain, lungs, and liver and is ready to start their life’s journey on a healthy note. So, unless you hit the 39–40-week mark, it’s better not to think about how to stimulate nipples to induce labor.
Other Techniques To Induce Labor Naturally
You might have heard from your mommy friends or female family members about other ways that helped them bring on labor. Yes, there are some things women try to prompt labor onset, but these techniques are less researched and are not supported by scientific evidence. So, talk to your provider before trying them out. And don’t feel disheartened if you don’t get any results.
Some common methods, other than nipple stimulation, that women use to induce labor are:
When you have sex, oxytocin levels rise in the body. This can help jump-start uterine contractions and take you into labor.
Squatting, walking, or stretching on a birthing ball are good exercises that may induce labor. It is best to exercise regularly during pregnancy so the time you spend in labor is shorter and you deliver quickly and comfortably.
For some, eating spicy foods does the trick. Though science is yet to confirm how, you may give this a try unless you are already dealing with heartburn and other stomach issues.
This is a commonly used method to trigger labor. However, its use is highly controversial. So, unless you have your doctor’s nod, it’s better to skip this technique. But if they give you a green signal, make sure you learn from them how to use it correctly, as incorrect use can lead to dehydration and other unwanted side effects.
Nothing is more relaxing than getting a nice massage. While we’re not sure if massage can help you go into labor, it sure will relieve your stress during the last phase of pregnancy. So, there’s no harm in getting a massage. You never know what will work for you!
Knowing how to stimulate your nipples to induce labor can make you feel empowered and nudge you to take things into your own hands without letting things happen naturally. Although it may seem enticing to trigger uterine contractions for delivery, especially when you’re tired of waiting all these months to see your bundle of joy, it is always better to leave these crucial decisions to your doctor.
As I told you earlier, there’s a need for more research to establish the effectiveness of nipple stimulation to start labor. So, relying completely on a few early studies is not a good idea. Another thing to note here is that these studies have been conducted on women with low-risk pregnancies. There’s no evidence on how this practice will affect women with high-risk pregnancies. So, if you fall into this category and have been dealing with gestational diabetes (3), preeclampsia, etc., nipple stimulation is a big ‘NO’ for you.
Finally, if you think you want to give nipple stimulation a try, discuss it with your doctor or midwife and let them decide if it’s safe for you and your baby. If their response is a ‘yes,’ only then go ahead and harness the power of nipple stimulation for a safe and natural onset of labor.
Here’s wishing you a joyous and happy birthing experience. You’ve got this, mama!
Yes, you can stimulate your nipples to induce labor if your doctor or midwife has given you the go-ahead.
Try not to stimulate your nipples at 37 weeks of gestation because there is an increased risk of stillbirth and the baby developing other neurological problems. This technique is best used after you have completed at least 39 weeks of gestation and you have your doctor’s approval.
Acupuncture, sexual intercourse, hot baths, nipple stimulation, herbal remedies, and foods like dates and pineapple can all help open the cervix naturally.