Can I Start My Labor with Nipple Stimulation?
The answer is both yes and no! Depending on how many weeks along you are in your pregnancy, nipple stimulation can have an effect on your cervix and your uterus. this is one effective natural induction of labor technique. If you are past your due date by a few days up to almost two weeks, it can cause labor to begin. Nipple stimulation causes your body to produce oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone that causes contractions. Those contractions will help your cervix to ripen. A ripening cervix will become more elastic, thin out and shorten, and begin to open or dilate.
Do not do nipple stimulation until you are 37-38 weeks.
If you’re not quite at the 40 week mark in your pregnancy, nipple stimulation can help prepare your cervix for labor. If you do it right, it can really affect your labor by making it shorter and probably a bit easier. If you don’t stick with it, and do it for a long period of time, it will do nothing much.
Most Women Do Not Do Nipple Stimulation Long Enough to be Effective!
Over the 24 years of teaching childbirth classes, I have found that most people give up easily and quickly. Then they tell me it didn’t do anything. Then I ask, “Did you do it for an hour at a time?” The answer I get is usually, “NO.”
If you want it to work, you have to make a commitment and keep at it for an hour at a time. Doing nipple stimulation for a few minutes is not going to have any effect.
How Nipple Stimulation Can Change Your Cervix:
1. The first job of your uterus is to efface or thin out and shorten your cervix. Think of the cervix like a long turtleneck. In order for it to truly begin to dilate, it must become shorter, and thinner. This shortening of the cervix and thinning out is called EFFACEMENT of the cervix. It is measured in percentages when ever you have a cervical check. Picture pulling a turtle neck over your head. The neck becomes shorter first and then wider as it pulls over your head. That is how the cervix works. Picture your baby’s head coming through the cervix just like your head coming through a turtleneck – except upside down. Nipple stimulation helps thin and shorten the cervix.
2. To efface the cervix, the baby must descend, the cervix must thin out, and shorten. Nipple stimulation causes oxytocin to cause contractions. This causes the uterus to help the cervix thin out and help to push your baby down. When you have a contraction during labor and even before labor begins, the muscle of the uterus has to go somewhere. It goes to the top of the uterus. the top of the uterus becomes thicker and thicker and helps to push the baby down toward the cervix.
9 Ways to Do Nipple Stimulation:
Prep Your Cervix for Natural Induction of Labor
1. Consult your care provider first. Have you had a healthy pregnancy? Is your pregnancy low risk? Find out if it’s safe for you to do natural induction of labor at home. Remember that if your body and baby are not ready for labor, it won’t cause a natural induction of labor, but it will prepare your cervix for opening when the time comes.
2. The most effective way to do this is to rub, roll, or massage the areola. The areola is the dark circle surrounding the nipple. The areola is stimulated when a baby sucks to transfer milk from mom to baby. This also causes uterine contractions. So focus on your areola. those contractions can cause a natural induction of labor or just help the cervix to ripen.
3. You can stimulate your nipples in the shower or the bath and use a moisturizing or gentle soap. Rubbing, rolling, massaging for 5 minutes at a time. Stimulate one breast at a time.
4. Or you can use a light oil or lotion to massage the breasts and stimulate the nipples. Evening Primrose oil has natural prostaglandins in it. Prostaglandins help cause cervical effacement and dilation. Use this oil and massage it over the entire breast including the areola.
5. Or you can rub or massage the areola and the skin around it through thin clothing.
6. Or massage the entire breast making sure to include the areola.
7. Have your partner suck on your breasts. Warning: this is not so pleasant because it causes contractions. So you may forever associate this with possibly unpleasant sensations.
8. Breastfeed another baby (good luck finding a mom who will let you nurse her baby – but it is possible) or your own toddler if they are still nursing.
9. You can also use a breast pump. You can use a manual or an electric breast pump to stimulate the nipples and cause natural induction of labor. You will most likely get colostrum and you can save it and store it in the freezer. You can spoon feed it to your baby. You don’t necessarily need to give the baby a bottle.
Guidelines for Safe Nipple Stimulation
• Only stimulate one breast at a time.
• Do it for 5-10 minutes at a time with 10-15 minute breaks between nipple stimulation.
• After the break begin again on the other nipple.
• If you begin having contractions during the nipple stimulation, stop until the contraction is over. Then begin again.
• You must do this consistently, daily, and several times throughout the day for an hour or more for it to have an effect on your cervix. It works!
Don’t begin until you have checked with your care provider and you are at least 37-38 weeks pregnant.
Watch Rebecca Dekker’s video, below, (one of the BEST resources for all things evidence based re:pregnancy) if you’d like to know what the research tells us about the effectiveness of nipple stimulation to induce labor.
I wish you a safe and healthy birth!
See related content:
Understanding Labor Induction – How to Know if You Really Need It.
11 Natural Induction Techniques