The chronicle of a lonely do-gooder family doctor who survived.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Milk Man

I mentioned in a previous post that breast feeding is extremely difficult. Well, after watching my baby-mama torture herself over the past two weeks, I can no longer stand idly by:

That's right, male breastfeeding. Not only is it possible, but it's healthy, and it's my paternal right.

Discover magazine
did a fairly serious take on this in 1995:

There are numerous conditions under which injected or topically applied hormones have produced inappropriate breast development and milk secretion in humans, both in men and in nonpregnant or non-nursing women. In one study, male and female cancer patients who were being treated with estrogen proceeded to secrete milk when injected with prolactin. Lactation has likewise been observed in people taking tranquilizers that influence the hypothalamus (which controls the pituitary gland, the source of prolactin), in people recovering from surgery that somehow stimulated the nerves related to the suckling reflex, and in women on prolonged courses of estrogen and progesterone birth-control pills.

All these cases involved medical intervention, but it is not always necessary. Mere repeated mechanical stimulation of the nipples suffices in some cases, since mechanical stimulation is a natural way of releasing hormones. For instance, sexually mature but virgin female marsupials can regularly be stimulated to lactate just by placing another mother’s young on their teats. Milking of virgin female goats similarly triggers them to lactate. That principle might be transferable to men, since manual stimulation of the nipples causes a prolactin surge in men as well as in women.

According to this home birth website:
I knew these two wonderful guys, very dear friends of mine for years. A mutual acquaintance of ours was pregnant, unplanned, and did not want to do the whole "adoption thing" so when the guys approached her about taking the baby, they just proceeded as if it had been a planned surrogate pregnancy. The guys were adamant that the baby should get breastmilk. So when she was in her 7th month we bought a really good quality breastpump and Ian started pumping, every 2 hours during the day and once during the night. He was wonderful about it! He used an SNS (supplimental nursing system) after she was born, with donated milk from several friends who were nursing. He was making milk but not a full supply. By the time the baby was 12 weeks old he was making a full milk supply! He stayed at home with the baby (he was a massage therapist) and nursed her exclusively until she was 8 months old!! I don't think many people outside their intimate circle knew about it, I'm sure folks would have had a fit if they'd known...but I thought it was wonderful! has an interesting article about male lactation as well:

It is important to realize that you may not be able to produce enough milk to sustain your child on breast milk alone. Don’t be upset - there are special supplements that are delivered externally, by a tube near the nipple. They were invented for women, but work equally well for men...

There are three herbs that are effective at helping breast-feeding: blessed thistle, alfalfa, and
fenugreek. Of these, fenugreek is considered the most effective. There are also herbs that can slow down your milk supply and make successful breastfeeding difficult: herb Robert, lemon balm, oregano, large amounts of parsley, peppermint, periwinkle herb, sage, sorrel, and spearmint. Some drugs have a side effect of causing lactation and it seems like the best one may be Domperidone (Motilium™). Raglan has also been used to induce lactation, but it can't be used for extended periods of time without serious side effects.
Finally, there is this inspiring story about a Sri Lankan widow who found he had the ability to breast feed his children after his wife's untimely death:

Colombo - A 38-year-old Sri Lankan man, whose wife had died three months ago, appears to have the ability to breastfeed his two infant daughters, doctors said on Wednesday.

The man, from the central town of
Walapone, lost his wife during childbirth.

"My eldest daughter refused to be fed with powdered milk liquid in the feeding bottle.

"I was so moved one evening and to stop her crying I offered my breast. I then realised that I was capable of breastfeeding her," the man admitted.

Kamal Jayasinghe, deputy director of a Sri Lankan government hospital, was quoted as saying it was possible for men to produce milk if the prolactine hormone became hyperactive. - Sapa-AFP

So yeah. As concerned parents, we are committed to breast feeding our little Babu; it is the healthiest thing for him and only natural. What better Mother's Day gift could I give my beloved wife than to inject myself with hormones, take a bunch of supplements, and stimulate my nipples all day long to produce the milk I need to relieve her of the burden of the 2am feed? I think both her and the baby would appreciate the effort.

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