Some Men Can Nurse Babies

Really. It's generally kept quiet, but the truth is men have all the necessary equipment to produce milk—and on occasion actually do.

In Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, a baby suckles an Englishman aboard a ship. Russian newspaper Pravda reported in 2002 on a 38-year-old man in Sri Lanka who nursed his two daughters through their infancy after his wife died during the birth of her second child.



Medical disruptions involving prolactin, the hormone necessary to produce milk, have resulted in spontaneous lactation in men. Thorazine can cause the overproduction of prolactin, and milk could follow. Lactation is listed as a possible side effect of the heart medication digoxin. A pituitary tumor can also induce milk production.

In a 1995 article for Discover titled "Father's Milk," Pulitzer Prize-winning author and one-time physiologist Jared Diamond notes that nipple stimulation can release prolactin and produce milk.

Males of many different mammalian species have the potential to lactate, although only one, the Dayak fruit bat of Southeast Asia, does it spontaneously.

Up until a certain point in fetal development, boys and girls are indistinguishable. In fact, women retain some remnants of the vas deferens (the canal that sperm follows), and some boys around the age of puberty do develop breasts, but they regress.

In short, men may not have full-fledged breasts, but they certainly can lactate under some circumstances.

TH

2 comments:

aardvark said...

Gross. Wish you hadn't told me.

Anonymous said...

?why is that gross? It's really cool!