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There are some stories circling around about man breast feeding. Humboldt wrote about it.

What is know about this? Is this really lactation?

  • We have a rule that only widely-held beliefs are in scope for this site (or at least, claims made by notable people and organisations that are widely seen). Please provide some references to places where this claim is being made. – Oddthinking Jun 1 '17 at 16:25
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    @Oddthinking I provided a reference, which mentions "Prussian naturalist Alexander von Humboldt" that OP cites. – DavePhD Jun 1 '17 at 16:25
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    @DavePhD: Thanks. I didn't recognise the question was about a 200 year old claim. – Oddthinking Jun 1 '17 at 16:39
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    Most human males breast feed when they are young. ;-) – matt_black Jun 2 '17 at 10:15
10

Yes it is possible. See Father's Milk Discover February 1995.

We’ve known for some time that many male mammals, including some men, can undergo breast development and lactate under special conditions.

...

Breast development occurs commonly, and spontaneous lactation occasionally, in men under conditions of starvation. Thousands of cases were recorded among prisoners of war released from concentration camps after World War II; one observer noted 500 cases among survivors of one Japanese POW camp alone.

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    "under conditions of starvation". Strange. Any other conditions, such as provocation like using a breast pump? – fredsbend Jun 1 '17 at 19:22
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    @fredsbend Other conditions involve tumors or medications. I haven't found solid evidence that stimulation alone is enough. – DavePhD Jun 1 '17 at 19:41
  • You would think during starvation, when you need to conserve as much energy as possible, that converting some of your limited energy resources into milk and then letting it leak would be...less then evolutionary optimal. It makes me curious what the cause is here? I'd guess some aspect of starvation results in extra estrogen, or possibly insufficient testosterone to counteract the estrogen? – dsollen Jun 5 '17 at 17:27
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    @dsollen it really occurs during recovery from starvation. "During the period of limited food supply, the prisoners suffered liver, testicular and pituitary atrophy. After postrelease increases in nourishment, the testes and pituitary gland rapidly regained their function and began producing estrogens and androgens. However, the liver was slower to recover from the stress of starvation and could not metabolise these products [24]. The result was an imbalance of hormones that led to male lactation." sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0169534708003467 – DavePhD Jun 5 '17 at 17:35
  • ah, that explains why it wasn't evolutionarily selected against as thoroughly if it's not happening at the time of starvation, that was the part that really confused me. Thank you. – dsollen Jun 5 '17 at 17:38

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