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Male Lactation

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Who said men can’t multi-task? Another weird Wikipedia article, trawled from the depths of the web’s favourite knowledge repository by the Wikiworm.

Male lactation in zoology means production of milk from mammary glands in the presence of physiological stimuli connected with nursing infants. The term male lactation is not used in human medicine.

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.

The phenomenon of successful human male breastfeeding has been credibly observed in several cases. Male lactation was of some interest to Alexander von Humboldt, who reports in Voyage aux régions équinoxiales du Nouveau Continent of a citizen of Venuzuela who allegedly nurtured his son for three months when his wife was ill, 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.”

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.

Male mammals of many species have been observed to lactate under unusual or pathogenic conditions such as extreme stress. 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.
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About Author Profile: Worm

In between dealing with all things technological in the Dabbler engine room, Worm writes the weekly Wikiworm column every Saturday and our monthly Book Club newsletters.

9 thoughts on “Male Lactation

  1. finalcurtain@gmail.com'
    November 8, 2014 at 08:36

    Pam Byrnes: I had no idea you could milk a cat!
    Greg Focker: Oh, you can milk just about anything with nipples.
    Jack Byrnes: I have nipples Greg – could you milk me?

    • Worm
      November 8, 2014 at 13:15

      …and now we know the answer to that question! Yes, you theoretically could milk Robert De Niro

  2. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    November 8, 2014 at 08:50

    The BBC’s Jeremy Vine, using the above thesis, could be Tesco’s sole supplier, him being the biggest tit in the universe, if you will pardon the expression.

    • Worm
      November 8, 2014 at 13:21

      apparently Russell Brand is in talks to start supplying Asda, Morrisons, Aldi and Lidl

    • Worm
      November 8, 2014 at 13:23

      nature’s show offs

  3. peter.burnet@hotmail.com'
    November 8, 2014 at 12:47

    Worm, nobody appreciates the range of The Dabbler’s eclectic interests more than I, but I must say that was one jarring picture and post to be confronted with first thing in the morning with a sore head.

    • Worm
      November 8, 2014 at 13:24

      sorry! I was pretty freaked out by it too when I found it!

      • peter.burnet@hotmail.com'
        Peter
        November 8, 2014 at 13:54

        That’s ok, but maybe you can make it up to us with a nice post on pink clouds and bunny rabbits.

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