In A Nutshell
Breastfeeding is the quintessential image of motherhood: a symbol of everything that’s unique and special about a child’s bond with its mother. Except breastfeeding isn’t the exclusive preserve of women. In the right circumstances, men are capable of producing milk and nursing their children.
The Whole Bushel
If you’re male, do you ever stop and wonder why you have nipples? No, seriously: There’s literally no reason for them to be there. You don’t produce milk, you don’t lactate or breastfeed your young . . . or do you? According to science, it’s not only theoretically possible for a man to breastfeed but something that has been done several times in practice.
See, our hormones are capable of doing some pretty weird things. And prolactin—the hormone responsible for milk production—doesn’t exist exclusively in women. Get enough of it flowing round your (male) body and you too will start to lactate. And the scary part is it’s not even difficult to reach this motherly level. Scientific American lists at least four possible causes: a pituitary gland tumor, long-term disruption to the liver (possibly via starvation), the taking of certain medications, and even nipple stimulation.
Yes, nipple stimulation. If you honestly want to experience what it’s like to produce milk, all you have to do is consistently play with your nipples for long enough—bingo! Such stimulation naturally releases prolactin, and once you’ve got enough in your system, your nipples will become viable milk projectors. In 2002, a Sri Lankan man was reported to have done exactly that after his wife died giving birth to their second child. Other cases abound in the annals of medical literature. For all we men tend to think of breastfeeding as the mother’s job, the truth is that we could do it too—if we really wanted to.