Can Men Actually Breastfeed?

Here's a weird fact you may not be aware of: men can breastfeed!

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Can Men Actually Breastfeed?
Can Men Actually Breastfeed?
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Some may find this alarming, others may find this enlightening. But the biological facts are that men have mammary glands.

 

It’s Why Men Have Nipples!

If you happen to be a mammal, it means you have the biological toolkit within your body to make milk. There are even recorded instances in history of men lactating. It also happens within the animal kingdom.

Obviously, it is quite rare for a man to produce milk. And if you were ever wondering why men have nipples, know you know why.

 

 

It is possible that once upon a time, men contributed to nursing their offspring. However, evolution may have gradually realized that it was more realistic for the parent who gave birth to feed the offspring with their milk.

 

The Evolution Of Breastfeeding

The evolution of milk making animals began before the entry of mammals into the evolutionary scene. There is even evidence of the rudimentary idea of an animal feeding it’s young from its own body, in amphibians called the caecilians.

 

The caecilians look like a cross between a snake and a worm, and range in size between those too. To feed their young, many sub-species of caecilians will create a nutritious layer of skin that their babies bite off, and eat from their mother.

The mother replaces this skin daily. Just as mammal mothers replace the milk in their breasts as and when their offspring require nutrition.

 

How We Make Milk

Inside both male and female mammals are mammary glands. These contain alveoli which are filled with milk-secreting cells. When they are not triggered by the hormone prolactin, they lay dormant.

Both men and women produce prolactin and both experience a reduced sex drive when they produce large quantities of the hormone. However, both can also develop heath problems when they don’t produce enough.

When larger quantities of prolactin are produced in men and women, it stimulates the milk secreting cells to create milk. Men are rarely in a situation where they produce a lot of prolactin.

When women are in late pregnancy, they start to produce more prolactin, and after the birth, they hit peak production of it. The hormone oxytocin is required to release the milk from the breast and into the milk ducts.

Immediately after birth oxytocin levels are very high, and when the baby suckles immediately, milk production can begin in earnest. It begins with a super nutritious early “milk” called colostrum. Many will women produce it even before they give birth.

 

Can Men Actually Breastfeed - Men Make Milk Too
Can Men Actually Breastfeed – Men Make Milk Too

Male Lactation: Equal Opportunity!

Clearly, this shows that the opportunity for men to produce milk is extremely rare. But with devoted stimulation and the correct hormones, it can and does happen occasionally.

One of the misconceptions about nipples is that they are only for transferring milk. But they are also crucial for pacifying a baby. The production of oxytocin in mother and baby while nursing relaxes them both.

 

 

In reported instances where it is culturally acceptable for a man to breastfeed, it is used primarily to pacify the baby whilst the mother is not available. The men of the African Aka tribe have no qualms with offering their nipple to their children if the mother is busy elsewhere.

Also, in the animal kingdom, the male Dayak Fruit Bats will share the breastfeeding load with the females. Scientists discovered a group of these bats which mammary glands filled with milk.

 

YOUTUBE ( by The Infographics Show) :

 

Holy ancient texts

There is another reason why it is possible that men may have played a greater part in breastfeeding in ancient history. There are allusions to it in ancient texts like the Bible:

Have I conceived all these people? have I brought them forth, that Thou shouldest say unto me: Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing-father carrieth the sucking child, unto the land which Thou didst swear unto their fathers?

– Numbers 11:12

There is also a discussion in the Talmud about a father who spontaneously began lactating after his wife died in childbirth. Some argued it was a miracle that he was able to keep his young child alive by producing milk.

 

Can Men Actually Breastfeed - Men produce a lot of prolactin
Can Men Actually Breastfeed – Men produce a lot of prolactin

Men Make Milk Too

In more recent history, there were recorded cases in the 1896 “Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine“. A male missionary and another male native began breastfeeding their babies after their wives were found to be incapable.

And even this century, Mr. B Wijeratne, a Sri Lankan man began breastfeeding his toddler daughter when his wife died in childbirth with their second child. He fed his new baby with formula milk, but his older child was only pacified by nursing at his nipple.

 

Women who adopt babies can take hormones and stimulate their breasts, in order to nurse their new child

It is possible that a gay couple could follow a similar procedure when they decide to have a child with a surrogate or adopt.

There are also instances where men will produce milk due to illness or extreme stress. Some men develop a condition called galactorrhea where a hormone imbalance causes them to develop breasts. These men occasionally leak milk.

 

Also, POWs during WWII started to produce milk when recovering from starvation. Because their livers took longer to heal, it interfered with their regular male hormone production. They had developed large quantities of prolactin in their bodies.

 

The Science of Male Milk

Male milk has also been studied by scientists. There was a study done in 1981 examining the milk that one man had produced. It was shown to have equal nutritional value to a mother’s milk.

The human body is an incredibly complex organism. There are likely many more things your body is capable of, that you don’t yet realize.

And it is unlikely that equality of the sexes will lead to mass populations of men breastfeeding their offspring. However, it is good to know that the sexes are equal in more ways than we have previously suspected.

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