The phenomenon of
male lactation in humans has become more common in
recent years due to the use of medications that
stimulate a human male's mammary glands. Though
human males have nipples, it is not so often
understood that they also have mammary glands.
Ordinarily the mammary tissue is low in volume and
cannot be noticed. Under the appropriate hormonal
stimulus -- the 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
Male lactation is
most commonly caused by hormonal treatments given
to men suffering from prostate cancer. Female
hormones are used to retard 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.
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.
It is also
possible for males (and females) to induce
lactation through constant massage and simulated
'sucking' of the nipple over a long period of time
The phenomenon of
male lactation occurs in some non-human species,
and the lactating males may assist in the nursing
of their infants. One species of fruit bat, the
Dayak fruit bat (Dyacopterus spadiceus), is
notable for this reason. According to several
sources, male lactation and even nursing have
occasionally been observed in humans.
Natalie; New York Times, February 24, 1994.
Cr. J. Covey.
Charles M., et al; "Lactation in Male
Fruit Bats," Nature, 367:691, 1994.
K.A.; Science News, 145:148, 1994.
- Anomalies and
Curiosities of Medicine G.M. Gould and W.L.
Question: Can men breastfeed?
Answer: Yes, in theory, men can breastfeed. Male breasts have milk ducts, and some
mammary tissue. They also have oxytocin and prolactin, the hormones responsible
for milk production. There have been reports of men who were able to
produce milk through extensive breast and nipple stimulation, but no one knows
whether the milk was of the same composition or quality as the kind women
produce. Using a pump, or a feeding tube (a small silicone tube attached to a
plastic bottle filled with formula) at his breast, he might be able to get a
baby to latch on and suckle, but how long it would take to produce even drops of
milk is anyone's guess.
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