Many women report that nipple stimulation can cause you to go into labor. It is often seen as a natural induction technique or as a way to augment or speed up labor. Supposedly this works by releasing the body's natural oxytocin and causing contractions. It works better with a ripe cervix and is not a guarantee of labor.
You can do nipple stimulation with:
- breast pump
- hands (yours or your partner's)
- orally (baby or partner)
- warm shower stream directed at nipples
Some practitioners warn about using this technique for labor stimulation or induction because they fear long contractions from the oxytocin release. Others believe this is one of the safest methods of induction. One study showed that while this wasn't a promise of labor, it reduces the number of women still pregnant after 72 hours. Though, they recommended that this not be used in a high risk population and consultation with your practitioner.
Moms who have used this say that breast pumps are probably the easiest and gentlest forms of nipple or breast stimulation. Others recommend that if you do manual stimulation that you use a bit of lubricant to help ease soreness.
Kavanagh J, Kelly AJ, Thomas J. Breast stimulation for cervical ripening and induction of labour. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Jul 20;(3):CD003392.