Can human males lactate (produce milk) in the manner females can?

According to Wikipedia:

Spontaneous lactation occasionally occurs in starving men; after World War II, for example, thousands of cases were observed among POWs released from concentration camps. The phenomenon of successful human male breastfeeding has been credibly observed in several cases. However, the cases are not sufficiently documented to allow distinguishing of possible pathologic galactorrhea.

Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Male_lactation#Human_male_lactation http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=strange-but-true-males-can-lactate&sc=rss

If true, under what conditions can males lactate?

  • 4
    What makes you skeptical of the existence of galactorrhea in man? For the causes see: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galactorrhea
    – nico
    May 2 '12 at 6:15
  • "You can milk just about anything with nipples"
    – zetetic
    May 10 '12 at 2:58


The medical term for lactation outside of pregnancy and childbirth is galactorrhea. It has been observed in males(1)(2). In newborns, it is relativity common in both sexes, and is called "witch's milk."(3) Prolactin is the hormone associated with lactation and it is secreted by the anterior pituitary gland.(4)

The causes are varied. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians some causes are:

  • Medicines, like hormones, antidepressants and blood pressure medicines
  • Herbs, such as nettle, fennel, blessed thistle, anise and fenugreek seed
  • Street drugs, like marijuana and opiates
  • Hormone imbalance
  • Tumors (usually benign), especially tumors of the pituitary gland (say: pit-too-it-tarry), which is in the brain
  • Pregnancy
  • Clothing that irritates the breasts (like scratchy wool shirts or bras that don't fit well)
  • Doing very frequent breast self-exams (daily exams)
  • Stimulation of the breast during sexual activity

Sometimes the cause can't be found.

(1)Kleinberg, David L., Gordon L. Noel, and Andrew G. Frantz. "Galactorrhea: A Study of 235 Cases, Including 48 with Pituitary Tumors." New England Journal of Medicine (1977).

(2)Finn, James E., and Lester A. Mount. "Galactorrhea in Males with Tumors in the Region of the Pituitary Gland." Journal of Neurosurgery 35.6 (1971): 723-27.

(3)Madlon-Kay, DJ. "'Witch's Milk'. Galactorrhea in the Newborn." American Journal of Diseases of Children (1986).

(4)PEÑA, KRISTIN S., and JO ANN ROSENFELD. "Evaluation and Treatment of Galactorrhea." American Family Physicians (2001).

  • 4
    The list in the answer is for women, not men, according to its source. Listing "pregnancy" as a reason for a man to produce milk just doesn't make sense.
    – DavePhD
    Jun 30 '15 at 12:16

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .