Can men lactate? Asked by Louise via Facebook
Yes, there are reported instances of breastfeeding men which, although very bizarre, brings a whole new meaning to “sharing the parenting duties”. Male breast milk production is called male galactorrhoea. There are a variety of reasons for this to happen, but it is most commonly caused by raised levels of the hormone prolactin. This hormone is produced from a tiny gland at the bottom of the brain called the pituitary gland. Prolactin stimulates breast tissue to grow and milk-producing glands to develop. Without prolactin, a woman would not be able to breastfeed (it PROmotes LACtation) and it is produced aplenty in women who are nearing the end of pregnancy or who are breastfeeding. Men, understandably, don’t have much circulating in their blood. Should something cause increased prolactin levels in a man, he will ultimately develop milk-producing breasts, just like a breastfeeding woman – albeit in a smaller and less dramatic form. The most common reason for high prolactin levels (hyperprolactinaemia) in men is a small tumour (non-cancerous) on the pituitary gland. This is usually treatable and can often be cured. It is always abnormal in men (in case you were in doubt) and a milky nipple is always a reason for a man to visit the doc. So good news, you fathers: your nipples are safe. You just have to get used to cleaning up the poop.