Inducing Lactation: Men can breastfeed too!
Why do men have nipples? Even my 8-year-old son has already asked what the point of his nipples are if men can’t breastfeed. Well, the answer to that is, men actually CAN breastfeed!
There’s anthropological evidence documented of male breastfeeding, especially after the mother fell ill or died. In these documented cases, before there was the option of formula and, in some cases, no access to wet-nurses, the father would hold the baby to his breast and after enough nipple stimulation he would produce milk. The Agence France-Presse reported in 2002 that a 38-year-old Sri Lankafather nursed his two daughters after his wife died during the birth of their second child. Some modern-day doctors argue that this isn’t possible with most men and these documented cases must have been men with pituitary tumors causing them to have a spike in hormones after the baby starts suckling and therefore inducing lactation.
I have a tumor on my pituitary gland that has caused me to lactate since I was 10 years old. Now that I have had children and breastfed for several years, I have seen how drastically a pituitary tumor can affect lactation. I produce enough milk each day to feed 3-4 babies and that’s without hardly trying. It’s crazy what a little benign tumor can do! Lactation has fascinated me ever since I was young! I have even gone so far as to get certified as a lactation educator. The irony is, I never received a drop of breastmilk, I was exclusively formula fed.
Modern day doctors tend to suggest a combo of hormone therapy or medication and nipple stimulation to induce lactation in men and women becoming mothers via surrogacy or adoption…and quite honestly, most doctors will look at you like you are crazy when you ask about inducing lactation in men. When you look at how much breastfeeding education doctors, even pediatricians, receive during medical school in the United States, you’ll find the answer is often 0 hours. I used to volunteer at a breastfeeding support group in Denver once a week. Med students would sit in during the group because they were seeking breastfeeding education that they weren’t receiving in medical school. I asked every single one of them how many hours of breastfeeding education they were required to do in med school, I never got any other answer besides: 0. I hope things have changed since then.
If you are looking to induce lactation, you’ll have to do some research into which doctors are trained in inducing lactation. I went through 6 pediatricians after my son was born before I found one trained in lactation. This pediatrician was from Europe and had breastfeeding training in medical school there. He was ultimately diagnosed with a tongue tie. Once the tongue tie was revised, all of our breastfeeding issues were solved, and he continued to be exclusively breastfed for another 3 years...but it took 3 months and many doctor visits (the other 5 pediatricians suggested switching to formula). I do not give up easily!
My favorite product to mimic breastfeeding, or help with inducing lactation, and increasing milk supply is the supplemental nursing system. The baby’s suckling will provide nipple stimulation and the pouch and tube will deliver formula or breastmilk to the baby if the mother or father isn’t producing milk or enough milk. This is a way men and women can “breastfeed” without producing milk or while not producing a full supply. It’s a great bonding tool!
There isn’t a lot of breastmilk/breastfeeding research being done. All of the breastfeeding conferences I have attended always joke about how more research is being put into erectile dysfunction than into breastfeeding. That needs to change. I hope to see more research being done in the future and more talk of men inducing lactation!