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Can Men Really Lactate?





Men can lactate. No really, male lactation is a thing and it can happen naturally.

Lactation refers to the secretion of milk from the mammary glands and the period of time that a mother lactates to feed a baby or at least that is the way most definitions of lactation go now. Men can totally lactate if they want the job and have the right tools.

Right now, we call the process of feeding a baby milk breastfeeding or nursing and it is a job for the mother. It has, however, been shown that men can lactate so the question that is probably left to answer is; why don’t they begin producing milk in the appropriate circumstances like women do?

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In the first place, genetics are the major reason why women and not men lactate routinely in appropriate circumstances. Physiologist jared diamond wrote in a 1995 article that “The genes on chromosome 23, acting in concert with genes on other chromosomes, ultimately determine all differences between our sexes. Those differences, of course, include not only the possession of ovaries as opposed to testes but also the post-adolescent differences in beards, pitch of voice, and breast development.”

Both the male and female mammals possess mammary glands which is the organ that produces milk. during puberty, the mammary glands in females develop to a point where a hormonal spike—most notably of prolactin—can easily induce lactation.

Male lactation

In males, however,  the mammary gland often does not mature to that level. This means that the reason that men do not lactate naturally is basically a hormonal one. When the right hormones are provided, male lactation is absolutely possible.

The circumstances to induce male lactation are quite rare but they exist. Check them out;

Medical Intervention

In this case, you generally, need to introduce both estrogen and prolactin into the system, often by injection. Some drugs, like Thorazine—an antipsychotic popular in the mid-20th century—and the heart medication digoxin have induced milk from men as a side effect.

Starvation

It has been said that during World War II, thousands of men reported lactation while held as prisoners either in Japanese POW camps or Nazi concentration camps.

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When a person is malnourished, the hormone-producing glands—like the pituitary gland, which generates prolactin—are impeded, but so too is the hormone-destroying liver. If proper nourishment is later provided, the glands recover much more quickly than the liver, causing hormone levels to skyrocket.

When the Pituitary gland is targeted

Something could target the pituitary gland and cause it to produce more prolactin. Breastfeeding expert Jack Newman notes that a tumor on the pituitary gland could have this effect.


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