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Male lactation in zoology means production of milk from mammary glands in the presence of physiological stimuli connected with nursing infants. It is well documented in the Dayak fruit bat.

The term male lactation is not used in human medicine. It has been used in popular literature, such as Louise Erdrich's The Antelope Wife, to describe the phenomenon of male galactorrhea which is a well documented condition in humans.

Newborn babies of both sexes can occasionally produce milk, this is called neonatal milk (also known as "Witch's milk") and not considered male lactation.

Male lactation was of some interest to Alexander von Humboldt, who reports in Voyage aux régions équinoxiales du Nouveau Continent of a citizen of the village Arenas (close to Cumana) who allegedly nurtured his son for three months when his wife was ill,[1] as well as Charles Darwin, who commented on it in The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871):

"It is well known that in the males of all mammals, including man, rudimentary mammae exist. These in several instances have become well developed, and have yielded a copious supply of milk. Their essential identity in the two sexes is likewise shown by their occasional sympathetic enlargement in both during an attack of the measles."[2]

Darwin later considered the nearly perfect function of male nipples in contrast to greatly reduced structures such as the vesicula prostatica, speculating that both sexes may have nursed young in early mammalian ancestors, and subsequently mammals evolved to inactivate them in males at an early age.[3]

Evolution and biology[edit]

Male mammals of many species have been observed to lactate under unusual or pathogenic conditions such as extreme stress, feeding castrated animals with phytoestrogens, or animals with pituitary tumors. Hence it was hypothesized that while most mammals could easily develop the ability to lactate this does not provide the males, or the species with any evolutionary advantage. While the males could in theory improve the chance to pass on their genes by improving the feeding their offspring by male lactation, most of them have developed other strategies such as mating with additional partners. Presently only very few species are known where male lactation occurs and it is not well understood what evolutionary factors control the development of this trait.[4]

Nonhuman animal male lactation[edit]

The phenomenon of male lactation occurs in some other species, notably the Dayak fruit bat (Dyacopterus spadiceus), and the lactating males may assist in the nursing of their infants. In addition, male goats are known to lactate on occasion.[5] In rare cases male cats have been known to lactate in response to stimulation by a kitten, especially if the male has been neutered.[6]

Human male lactation[edit]

The phenomenon of successful human male breastfeeding has been credibly observed in several cases.[7] However, the cases are not sufficiently documented to allow distinguishing of possible pathologic galactorrhea.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Voyage de Humboldt et Bonpland ; 1-3. Voyage aux régions équinoxiales du Nouveau Continent : fait en 1799, 1800, 1801, 1803 et 1804. Tome 1 / par Al. de Humboldt et A. Bonpland ; rédigé par Al. de Humboldt; J. Smith (Paris), 1814-1825, p. 376, (Online at gallica)
  2. ^ Descent of Man, Chapter I
  3. ^ Descent of Man, Chapter VI
  4. ^ Kunz, T; Hosken, D (2009). "Male lactation: why, why not and is it care?". Trends in Ecology & Evolution 24 (2): 80–85. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2008.09.009. PMID 19100649.  edit
  5. ^ Gómez MA, Garcés-Abadías B, Muñoz A, Vásquez F, Serrano J, Bernabé A (1999). "Structural and Ultrastructural Study of GH, PRL and SMT Cells in Male Goat by Immunocytochemical Methods". Cells Tissues Organs 165 (1): 22–29. doi:10.1159/000016670. PMID 10460970. 
  6. ^ "'Kitten Nurses on Male Cat - AllExperts.com". Retrieved February 26, 2012. 
  7. ^ Nikhil Swaminathan (2007-09-06). "Strange but True: Males Can Lactate". Scientific American. Retrieved 2008-05-27. 

General references[edit]

  • Angier, Natalie (February 24, 1994). "Some Male Bats May Double as Wet Nurses". The New York Times. Retrieved December 3, 2013.  open access publication - free to read
  • Cr. J. Covey, Francis, Charles M., et al.; "Lactation in Male Fruit Bats," Nature, 367:691, 1994.
  • Fackelmann, K.A.; Science News, 145:148, 1994.
  • Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine G.M. Gould and W.L. Pyles

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Male_lactation — Please support Wikipedia.
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36 news items


Sat, 31 May 2014 06:35:03 -0700

To start, male lactation has been observed in a few domesticated animals, including cats, goats and guinea pigs, on rare occasions. However, male lactation seems to be common only in dayak fruit bats, though it's not yet clear why males of this species ...
Yahoo News (blog)
Tue, 06 Jan 2015 06:54:22 -0800

Dr. Stern notes that cases of male lactation are often a result of a brain tumor or hormonal imbalance. He says it has also been observed as a side effect of drugs and from men recovering from extreme starvation. In addition, the Memorial Sloan ...
Tue, 28 Sep 2010 23:01:46 -0700

See clearer footage here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Robgf9... My brother has been lactating since childhood. We finally have video evidence. Does he have excessive levels of prolactin? Some sort of chromosomal disorder? He does have weird finger ...
Religion News Service
Tue, 29 Jan 2013 10:19:05 -0800

More important, the Archbishop may have provided further evidence of the limits of the Natural Law that is often invoked by Catholics and opponents of same-sex marriage (or male lactation) — limits that my colleague Mark Silk has explored here and here.
Catholic Culture
Tue, 29 Jan 2013 13:45:00 -0800

“Legislating for the right for people of the same sex to marry is like legalizing male breastfeeding,” Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco said in an interview with the Catholic Herald of London. With all due respect to the archbishop ...
New York Observer
Wed, 07 May 2014 11:58:39 -0700

For the most part, however, the movie takes pains not to sensationalize a subject usually discussed only at the polarizing and squirm-inducing ends of the spectrum: Breast milk cheese! Nursing second-graders! Toxic breast milk! Male lactation! While ...


Wed, 10 Dec 2014 09:49:41 -0800

Health care can be very expensive. Sadly, some people must choose between going to the doctor and food, or between getting medicine and heating their homes. It is a tragedy really, that in a country like the USA, health care is not universally ...


Wed, 10 Dec 2014 14:56:57 -0800

Other men are using breast pumps to induce lactation (yes, male lactation ​is a thing). As it turns out, when stimulated by a sucking device, nipples can activate the pituitary gland, a fetish made possible by consuming the same kind of hormones that ...

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