Can men produce breast milk?

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Main topic: Health
Other topics: Breast milk
Short answer: Yes. Men have all the organs to produce milk like women, and given the right amount of milk-producing hormone in the body, they can lactate.

Male lactation is a known medical condition and may require treating the underlying cause. It is possible for men to lactate as they have similar milk-producing organs as women. There are recorded instances of male breastfeeding as well.[1]

Men have all the organs to lactate, but they usually lack the prolactin hormone[edit]

Milk is made in small, hollow spaces in the breast tissue called alveoli. The linings of the alveoli have cells that produce milk when the right signals are received. Several reasons can make a person lactate, but the main thing that makes milk is the prolactin hormone. The pituitary gland primarily produces this hormone, but the prostate can also make it in men and a layer of the uterine wall called the myometrium in women, among other places.

Lactating Breast Structure
Lactating Breast Structure CC BY: Wikimedia

Men and women have alveoli, but their prolactin levels are usually very different. An average woman who isn't pregnant has around one-third to twice as much hormone as an average man. Late in pregnancy and after giving birth, these women can have prolactin levels that are ten times higher than what most men have. [2]

Male lactation and galactorrhea is a known medical condition[edit]

Lactation in men is not considered normal in medical terms and usually indicates any underlying medical issue. Galactorrhea is milk secretion from the nipples of a person of any gender and age. In men, it may happen due to several reasons:

  • Stress
  • Underactive thyroid
  • Opioid use
  • Testosterone deficiency
  • Pituitary, kidney, or liver issues

Most medical conditions that may cause male lactation are due to the buildup of prolactin in the body due to abnormal production or excretion.

The liver breaks down prolactin. Breakdown by the liver and the mechanisms in the hypothalamus help control its levels in the human body. When the liver isn't working right, certain hormones can build up to too high levels.[3]

Some transgender men choose to breastfeed their children[edit]

Female-to-male transgender individuals retain the milk-producing organs even after mastectomy. However, their milk production capacity remains limited. Some trans-men choose to breastfeed their children because natural milk is good for the immunity of infants.[4]

There are historical records of male lactation and breastfeeding[edit]

One of the earliest examples is a man who cared for his baby after his wife died during childbirth. In the 1800s, a 32-year-old South American man breastfed his child for five months after his wife got sick, and Brazilian missionaries did the same when their wives couldn't.

A 55-year-old man in Baltimore is said to have fed his mistress's children with his breast milk. In 2002, a Sri Lankan man took care of his two young children after his wife died while giving birth.[5] 


  1. published, Joseph Castro (2014-05-31). "Can Men Lactate?". Live Science. Retrieved 2022-11-02.
  2. "Lactation | Anatomy and Physiology II". Retrieved 2022-11-02.
  3. "Can Men Lactate?". GoodRx. Retrieved 2022-11-02.
  4. MacDonald, Trevor; Noel-Weiss, Joy; West, Diana; Walks, Michelle; Biener, MaryLynne; Kibbe, Alanna; Myler, Elizabeth (2016-05-16). "Transmasculine individuals' experiences with lactation, chestfeeding, and gender identity: a qualitative study". BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 16 (1): 106. doi:10.1186/s12884-016-0907-y. ISSN 1471-2393. PMC 4867534. PMID 27183978.CS1 maint: PMC format (link)
  5. Swaminathan, Nikhil. "Strange but True: Males Can Lactate". Scientific American. Retrieved 2022-11-02.