Fact: Men Can Breastfeed | The Thinking Blog ~ Knowledge Grows When Shared
Futurist Educator

06 August 2007

Fact: Men Can Breastfeed

Lactating ManAre you really a committed father? Though boys and men have nipples, many are unaware that they also have mammary glands. Usually there is so little mammary tissue that it is unnoticeable. However, if a man develops abnormally large mammary glands (a condition called gynecomastia), it can cause secretion of milk as well. The phenomenon of male lactation in humans has become more common in recent years due to the use of medications that stimulate a man's mammary glands.

Man Who Can BreastfeedUnder the appropriate hormonal stimulus, that nature provides to human females when they become pregnant and give birth, the mammary glands of human males can also produce milk. The volume of milk produced is low relative to that of a lactating female. Male lactation is most commonly caused by hormonal treatments given to men suffering from prostate cancer. Female hormones are used to slow the production of cancerous prostate tissue, but the same hormones also stimulate the mammary glands. Male-to-female transsexuals may also produce milk due to the hormones they take to reshape their bodies. It can occasionally be a side effect of antipsychotic medication. Marijuana use is also thought by some to be a possible cause; however, published data is contradictory.

Male lactation has, in some cases, commenced without hormonal treatments as well. Extreme stress combined with demanding physical activity and a shortage of food has also been known to cause male lactation. The phenomenon was first studied in survivors of the liberated Nazi concentration camps after World War II. Some American POWs returning from the Korean and Vietnam Wars also experienced male lactation. What's more, this article was published in The Mercury newspaper on October 30, 2002:

Sri Lankan widower breastfeeds his babies

Man Breastfeeding BabyCOLOMBO: A 38-year-old Sri Lankan man, whose wife had died three months ago, appears to have the ability to breastfeed his two infant daughters, doctors said on Wednesday. The man, from the central town of Walapone, lost his wife during childbirth.

"My eldest daughter refused to be fed with powdered milk liquid in the feeding bottle. I was so moved one evening and to stop her crying I offered my breast. I then realised that I was capable of breastfeeding her," the man admitted.

Dr Kamal Jayasinghe, deputy director of a Sri Lankan government hospital, was quoted as saying it was possible for men to produce milk if the prolactine hormone became hyperactive.


It's definitely worth taking look at the following cinematic statement on male breastfeeding, a short documentary film entitled "Milk Men" directed by Peter Templeman, who was nominated for this year's Academy Awards (not exactly NSFW, but it might be weird to watch it at work).

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.

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