Weird Fact of Life: Men Can Lactate, Too!

May 27, 2015

Take it from Scientific American: the countless literary references to men miraculously breastfeeding or giving sustenance to a baby can actually happen for real. What little anthropological evidence of male lactation suggests that it is, after all, a possibility.

According to an excerpt from the publication:

“In the 1896 compendium Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, George Gould and Walter Pyle catalogue several instances of male nursing being observed. Among them was a South American man, observed by Prussian naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, who subbed as wet nurse after his wife fell ill as well as male missionaries in Brazil that were the sole milk supply for their children because their wives had shriveled breasts.”Weird Fact of Life Men Can Lactate

In recent times, Agence France-Presse reported a 38-year-old Sri Lankan man who nursed his two daughters through their infancy. The children lost their mother, his wife, during her second childbirth.

Here are other evidence of and associations made between men and lactation:

  • Medical anthropologist Dana Raphael, in her 1978 book The Tender Gift: Breastfeeding, claimed that lactation in men could happen through simple nipple stimulation.
  • Toronto-based doctor and breastfeeding expert, on the other hand, argues that a hormone spike must occur in order for men to produce milk. He said, for instance, that it could be a man with pituitary tumor whose baby has started suckling.
  • Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jared Diamond points to spontaneous lactation from nipple stimulation and hormone spike, based on an observation of Nazi concentration camps and Japanese prisoners-of-war in World War II.
  • The Dayak fruit bat of Southeast Asia, among males of many different mammalian species with lactation potential, is the only one that does so spontaneously.

Among the prevailing final words on the matter is that while men may not have full-grown breasts, they can lactate under extreme circumstances. What’s your take on this?

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