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What Is Nipple Play?

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 29, 2021

Nipple play is the practice of touching, rubbing, or sucking on nipples during sex. This can excite some people during sex. Usually, people use their hands for this, but there are sex toys called nipple clamps that some feel heightens the erotic sensation. For some people, nipple play can lead to orgasm.

Other Names for Nipple Play

Nipple play can also be called nipple stimulation, breast play, or breast stimulation. But nipple play is a sexual term and nipple stimulation is not always sexual.

Nipple play may include biting, sucking, touching (roughly or gently), and rubbing the nipples and areola, the area around the nipple. It may include erotic pain and can be a regular part of a bondage and discipline (BDSM) relationship. The amount of stimulation that’s comfortable varies from person to person.

Nipple stimulation isn’t just about sex and it doesn’t usually involve pain. It refers to touching your nipples or your partner's nipples in a gentle, soothing way. Nipple stimulation can help pregnant women. It can also: 

  • Start their milk flow
  • Induce labor
  • Calm themselves during the early stages of labor      

You can explore nipple play and nipple stimulation alone or with a partner.             

Nipple Play and Sex

Nipple play can be used as foreplay or as the main sexual activity. While many people believe that orgasms always come from genital stimulation (touching the reproductive organs outside the body), it's possible for people to have orgasms from nipple play alone.

Pain does not have to be a part of nipple play, but for many people it is. If you are in a bondage and discipline (BDSM) relationship, you may give or receive pain as part of sex. People who identify as dominant, submissive, or switch may enjoy nipple play, even if it is painful.

How to Explore Nipple Play (Solo or With a Partner)

To explore nipple play alone, start by touching or rubbing your nipples during masturbation. You may want to use a lubricant to avoid irritating your nipples during a long nipple play session.

If you would like your partner to stimulate your nipples during sex, talk to them about your needs and expectations before you begin. Make sure everyone feels comfortable using nipple play during sex.

If you are exploring nipple play as part of a BDSM relationship, make sure your partner knows your safe word -- a word said to stop activities -- and has your full consent (approval). If you’re using nipple clamps, make sure that you and your partner can remove them quickly if the pain is too much.

Safety Advice and Special Considerations

Discharge from your nipples might be a sign of a more serious health problem. A common issue concerning nipple discharge is cancer.

If you’re pregnant, you should avoid vigorous nipple stimulation. Touching your nipples or massaging them releases the hormone oxytocin, which is often given to start or speed up contractions. Light nipple play should be safe, but having your partner suck on your nipples could cause contractions.

Some common signs of labor are:

●Feeling your baby drop down into your pelvis (also called lightening)

●Passing a mucus plug that may be bloody

●Clear discharge from your vagina

●Feeling tightness or pain in your uterus or midsection (contractions)

If you have any of these symptoms during or after nipple play, call your doctor or go to the emergency room.
 

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Annals: “Nipple Discharge: A Sign of Breast Cancer?”

Cochrane Library: “Breast stimulation for cervical ripening and induction of labour.”

Journal of Sexual Medicine: “Nipple/Breast stimulation and sexual arousal in young men and women.”

MedlinePlus: “Inducing labor.”

Psychology Today: “10 Signs That You’re In a Healthy Relationship.”

Shape: “How To Have A Nipple Orgasm You’ll Never Forget.”

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