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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, castration and exposure to phytoestrogens, or pituitary tumors. Therefore, it is hypothesized that, while most male mammals could easily develop the ability to lactate, there is no selective advantage to male lactation. While male mammals could, in theory, improve offspring's survival rate through the additional nourishment provided by lactation, most have developed other strategies to increase the number of surviving offspring, such as mating with additional partners. Presently, 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.[citation needed]

Human male lactation[edit]

The phenomenon of successful human male breastfeeding has been credibly observed in several cases.[6] 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. 
  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. ^ 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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42 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 ...


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 ...

Independent Women's Forum

Independent Women's Forum
Thu, 12 Feb 2015 10:33:45 -0800

Um, turns out that the case wasn't about male lactation at all. Snopes.com took the trouble of actually reading both the opinion of Des Moines, Iowa U.S. District Judge Robert W. Pratt (a Bill Clinton appointee, by the way), and that of the 8th U.S ...
Yahoo News (blog)
Tue, 06 Jan 2015 06:48:45 -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 ...

RH Reality Check

RH Reality Check
Wed, 11 Feb 2015 08:09:52 -0800

In its recent ruling, the high court did leave in place significant hurdles for employees making claims they were forced off the job. (Shutterstock). The Roberts Court has issued some ridiculous decisions, particularly on issues pertaining to civil ...


Wed, 17 Jun 2015 11:18:58 -0700

On the one hand, it's great that the nutritional value of breast milk has become recognized. It's the superest of super foods with a long history of being shunned. But that it's become sought-after by male athletes as a bodybuilding supplement feels ...

What's on Xiamen

What's on Xiamen
Tue, 11 Mar 2014 09:49:00 -0700

Unexpectedly, a 50-year-old resident in Xiamen, surnamed Zhang, registered for the training courses of lactation consultant recently, vowing to become the first male lactation consultant in Xiamen and in all of Fujian. Zhang became deeply interested in ...

American Civil Liberties Union News and Information (blog)

American Civil Liberties Union News and Information (blog)
Tue, 10 Feb 2015 12:08:21 -0800

There's been a great deal of interest in the case I blogged about last week, in which Angela Ames, a Nationwide Insurance worker alleged that she was denied a place to pump breast milk when she returned to work from maternity leave, and then was forced ...

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