Using Nipple Stimulation to Induce Labor

Using nipple stimulation to induce labor has been practiced by women for centuries. This stimulation brings about the release of oxytocin, which is the natural form of pitocin. Oxytocin causes contractions, which can lead into true labor. It's important to note that this will only happen if your body is already close to labor. As with all natural labor induction techniques, don't attempt this until you are over 40 weeks.

It is a practice often recommended by midwives when a woman is long past due or when labor is stalled. It causes the release of oxytocin, the same hormone that causes uterine contractions. This can be done manually or with an electric breast pump.

When this is performed, the uterus sometimes becomes hyperstimulated, meaning that it gets too little rest between contractions, so use caution and consult your practitioner first.

The Process

  • Only massage one breast at a time.
  • Grasping the areola, rub in a circular motion until a contraction begins. It's important to mimic the suckling action of a baby.
  • Stop after the contraction begins.
  • Wait 15 minutes, then repeat.

Stop using nipple stimulation  if the contractions are 3 minutes apart or lasting 1 minute or longer.


Kavanagh J, Kelly AJ, Thomas J. Breast stimulation for cervical ripening and induction of labour. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2005, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD003392. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003392.pub2.

Cervical ripening by breast stimulation. Salmon YM, Kee WH, Tan SL, Jen SW. Obstet Gynecol 1986 Jan;67(1):21-4 .

Changes in the Bishop score induced by manual nipple stimulation. A cross-over randomized study. Di Lieto A, Miranda L, Ardito P, Favale P, Albano G Clin Exp Obstet Gynecol 1989;16(1):26-9.

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Page Last Modified by Catherine Beier, MS, CBE

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