Using a TENS Unit to Stimulate Lactation

It can be a daunting process to begin inducing lactation, especially if you have never been pregnant, or it has been a long time since your last pregnancy. To get started you need to stimulate your breasts to encourage milk production. Stimulating and “expressing” needs to be done on a regular schedule to be effective. The trouble is, you don’t always have the time to stimulate your breasts for 15-20 mins. every 3-4 hours during the day. Without regular and constant stimulation your breasts will take longer to respond with milk – this is where a TENS unit can come in handy.

TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, and is most commonly used to stimulate nerves and muscles to alleviate pain. The TENS unit is a device that produces a very low electric current that flows from one electrode to the other electrode of the same channel. Most TENS Units are either single channel (two electrodes) or they have two channels (two pairs of electrodes).

For lactation purposes, you can use a TENS unit to stimulate the nerves in your breasts. When you stimulate the nerves in and around your nipple and breast it promotes the release of prolactin, which, in turn, stimulates growth and development of the milk-producing tissues in your breasts, leading to lactation.

Using the TENS Unit

Using A TENS Unit To Stimulate Lactation - Dreams of Milk ANRTo use the TENS for stimulating your breasts, use one channel (two wires that branch from the same wire) on one breast. Each channel of a TENS unit connects to two pads. The current travels between these pads. The electrodes (pads) should be placed on each side of the nipple, about ½ inch to an inch from the areola. The wires should be marked + and – for each channel, but if they are not marked just be certain that each breast is using wires from the same channel.

The image to the right shows proper placement of the electrodes.


  • You should never cross channels across your heart.
  • TENS units have an extremely small micro amperage current and it would be very unlikely for one to trigger an arrhythmia, but if you are wearing a pacemaker, you should not use a TENS Unit without discussing it with your doctor first.

When Should I Use a TENS?

The TENS unit is not intended to replace nursing, pumping, or manual expression of your breasts. You will still need to continue your regular schedule, it is only meant to stimulate when you are not able to.

While Inducing

For maximum benefit, turn on the TENS for 15-20 minutes every two hours. Most units now are preprogrammed to shut off automatically after 20 minutes. Prolactin is released from the pituitary in about 4-5 discrete pulses over 15 to 20 minutes with suckling. After this more release does not occur for a while so stimulating the breast for more than 15-20 minutes does not cause more Prolactin release.

After You have Milk

Once you start getting milk in the breasts, don’t use the TENS to replace your regular sessions, you must add pumping to remove it because milk staying in the alveoli is a powerful influence to turn the alveoli back off. You can also use it to supplement stimulation with pumping later when you want to pump only 2 or 3 times a day. You can also use it to stimulate during the night while you sleep to accelerate the changes.

Buying a TENS Unit

Today’s TENS units are small and discreet and can be worn under your clothing without anyone knowing that you are stimulating your breasts as you go about your daily routine! When choosing a TENS, if possible, choose one with at least 2 channels so you can apply stimulation to both breasts simultaneously.


Famidoc TENS and EMS Combo - Dreams of Milk ANR

Best TENS for Stimulating Lactation

Have you used a TENS for stimulating or supporting your lactation efforts? Leave a comment below!

42 thoughts on “Using a TENS Unit to Stimulate Lactation”

  1. I used a tens unit to quickly induce lactation upon our adoption. It was so successful because I found a few mods to make the stimulation feel absolutely heavenly when applied directly on my nipples. I felt an exquisite and compelling let-down reflex almost every time I used the tens. I will be happy to supply more details.

    • Using a TENS is a great way to stimulate milk production, and to give you relief when you are unable to pump. I have used a TENS successfully for several years and I can’t say enough good things about it!

      ~Tish ~

      • Hi Virginia. There is no one ‘right’ setting for using a TENS to stimulate your breasts. To use the TENS, just select a setting that feels good to you, the important part is that you are stimulating.

        ~ Tish ~

    • Hello, could you please provide somewhat of a timeline as to how long you started using the unit to the time you noticed results. PLEASE REPLY ASAP 05/06/18

    • Hey Tish, I was just curious how often you used it and how long before your milk came in? Thanks for sharing your knowledge 😊

      • The TENS can be used every 2-3 hours, depending on if you are also suckling, or pumping. You only need to stimulate your breasts either one of these ways on a 2-3 hour schedule.

        There is no real answer to how long it takes, as every body is different, and responds to stimulation in different ways. Some people see results within a few weeks, where others may take several months.

      • You can really just set the TENS unit to whatever feels the most comfortable for you. There is no one correct setting – the important aspect to using the TENS is that there is stimulation to the breast. Pick a setting that you like/can tolerate and go with that.

      • You apply the TENS pads on either side of the nipple (as shown in the diagram). This will allow for stimulation of the breast, and nipple area.

      • Hi Sabrina. Adjusting your TENS settings is as simple as choosing something that feels good – there is no one correct setting. The goal with the TENS is stimulation so any setting is fine 🙂

      • I’m currently using the NURSAL brand one, but any one will work – it doesn’t have to be fancy. I prefer the smaller units however, because they are easier to conceal if you want/need to wear the TENS in public (ie – wearing it to work so you can stimulate on schedule)

    • Thank you for sharing. I am trying to induce myself and I would like to find a way to produce a little faster. How quickly did you see results ?

  2. This question is for anyone who used the tens unit and had results. How long did you use the unit before you noticed results? Thank you in advance for replies. I’m currently in process of adopting and would love to nurse as I had done my 2 previous birthed children.

    • Hi Samantha. There’s no set timeline for results as everyone is different. The more often you are able to stimulate/pump your breasts the better it is though. If you are unable to pump on a 2 hour schedule, I would suggest you incorporate a TENS unit into your routine.


  3. I am currently using a tens to stimulate lactation. I do not understand how it can be used after my milk comes in…will it cause let down?

    • It’s possible that the stimulation could cause letdown. The main advantage of using the TENS even after your milk comes in is that you can use it to stimulate your breasts on a regular schedule even if you can’t suckle/pump. While it’s not ideal because it’s not removing milk, it does still provide that cue to your breasts in the form of stimulation.

  4. Hey everyone! I’ve been pumping for about 3 weeks now. I work part time so on the days I don’t work I get around 7 pumping sessions in a day; until about 11ish at night. I don’t pump during the night yet, I’ve tried a couple of times but my husband is a away for a while and I don’t see the point of waking up cranky every morning for nothing lol
    Anyways, my breasts have responded by my milk ducts swelling up (they feel like pebbles in my boobies if I don’t pump for a while) and for about the past week I’ve been getting tiny spots (I wont say drops because they don’t drop off my nipples..yet) on my nipples; one side spots clear and the other spots white. I’m not taking any drugs to help induce, although I am taking some herbs.

    I purchased a TENS unit and tried it a couple of times at work. It felt great and I can tell it was doing it’s job. I’m just so scared that it will somehow hurt my heart. (I’m a worry wart) I don’t have any heart issues but that doesn’t mean it’s still not scary. I’m hoping someone can help me get through that fear. And we all know how difficult it is to tell friends, family or even my dr. (I haven’t told anyone except for now).

    I’m also hoping someone can tell me how great it is that I’m showing some results without drugs haha I need a little motivation since this is taking so long. I knew it would and I’m in it for the long haul, I just hope there’s someone else out there like me who could help <3

    • Drops are the first step. Congratulations! Using the TENS is safe, as long as you don’t cross the wires across your body (heart) – the article talks about this. Using a TENS is a great way to stimulate when you can’t suckle and you want to maintain your schedule. While it doesn’t get milk out of your breasts, it at least gives the signal of activity 🙂

      Keep up the good work!

  5. I agree Tish, i used mine for a similar time and got pretty good results after around 20+ days. I had to adjust the electrodes a few times but i got them to a point where it felt really good lol. its patience imo, just stick with the machine and also using your fingers too! I eventually found my saving grace which was the shaped electrodes.

    • Yes, you wouldn’t be putting the electrodes directly on the piercing/nipple anyway. On the off-chance that there is some current flowing through the piercing (not likely to happen), listen to your body and adjust the settings until it’s comfortable.

    • There are 2 leads for each electrode pad. You need to be careful the leads do not cross your heart – make sure you keep the leads for each electrode on one side of your body. For example, keep the leads for the first electrode pad on your left breast, and the second pad on your right breast.

  6. I’ve got a tens unit that has all sorts of settings and don’t know which is best. It has tens ems IF and Russian therapy modes, what frequencies are best? So many settings and not sure what sort of sensation I’m looking for.

    • Hi Maryah. The goal with using the TENS is regular stimulation, so you just need to choose a setting that feels good to you.

    • Hi Red. Adjusting your TENS settings is as simple as choosing something that feels good – there is no one correct setting. The goal with the TENS is regular stimulation.

  7. Today was my first day using a TENS unit, and WOW! It felt great, and I could tell it was doing what it needed to. ANR has intrigued me for a while, and I finally made the jump to start the process.

    I’m very happy that the TENS unit is small and discreet so I can still use it while at work, but my concern is what to do when my milk comes in. I’d like to pump while I’m at work so I’m not in pain from not releasing any milk, but I feel like I won’t be able to be discreet about that piece of it. How do I explain why I need to pump when my youngest is no where near an infant lol. Has anybody has any success keeping pumping to themselves?

    • Hand expressing is always an option. When you induce, the typical milk supply is not as great as when you have given birth. When I worked in an office, I used to slip to the bathroom with my handy travel coffee mug. No one really paid much attention to me wandering around the office with a “coffee”.


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