Sunday, March 20, 2011

Milk Men

Turns out men have the exact same mammary glands and organ as women do and can breastfeed and the taboo against male lactation is only cultural and social, it has no biological foundation. For as long as men's nipples are frequently stimulated by suckling, they are perfectly able to produce milk.

Men in the Akan tribe in Africa breastfeed just as often as the women of their tribe do, and there have been notorious documented cases of breastfeeding fathers in Sri Lanka, Britain and the US including the case of a man who produced the full supply of milk for his baby for several months. Male breastfeeding is an ancient practice, in fact, and is even mentioned in the Bible.

Another fact that turned up as I researched male lactation is that when men spend long periods of time fasting, the body produces the hormone that starts the process of milk production. My theory is that this means that if there's a major famine and the community has scarce resources, male lactation is supposed to be the back up for female lactation to ensure that children get enough nutrients. This may be the evolutionary purpose of male lactation, which occurs in most mammal species to some degree or another: communities that embrace this practice may increase their survival rates in the future if there's a major global famine crisis.

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