Australia Science

The reasons behind female nipples are pretty obvious. Female nipples are nature’s perfect delivery system for getting milk to newborns and plays a role in sexual stimulation and satisfaction. But what about nipples in men?  Are they just a piece of unneeded human biology that natural selection forgot to eliminate or is there a broader purpose for them? And how did they develop in the first place? We’ve got some of the answers.

Remnants Of Human Fetal Development

The biological process for male nipple development begins in utero. In the earliest stages, the bodies of both male and female humans begin without much sexual differentiation. They look very similar and, yes, both have nipples. In addition, humans of both genders have milk lines and other components of what will eventually become fully developed mammary glands in women. However, at a certain point the 23rd chromosome, either XX or XY, will kick in and begin to do the work of differentiating the male bodies from their female counterparts. Eventually, during puberty, males and females differentiation will continue further. That’s when, in females, mammary glands will completely develop and become functional for breastfeeding.

As the effect of chromosomes takes place in Utero and bodies change, some mammals, including male mice and male gorillas, lose their nipples. That’s not the case for humans, however. This may be because nipples just were a neutral factor in the development of the species and just didn’t affect a humans’ survival chance enough for natural selection to eliminate. Or maybe they serve enough of a positive purpose that they stuck around?

Are They Necessary Or Just For Fun?

Ok. So nipples on men aren’t, by anyone’s definition, a necessity. If someone happened to be born without them, they’d not be likely to die from that situation. But, to be honest, they have been known to be lots of fun. That’s because nipples in both men and women are known to contain dense bundles of nerves. Touching them is typically pleasurable, and sexually stimulating, for both genders. It has even been known to lead to orgasm. So, even though they’re not needed, it turns out men’s nipples can be pretty fun to have around.

So, Is Male Breastfeeding Possible?

Nope, it is not just a myth, males have been known to lactate. This is famously true for newborns, who in both genders, are stimulated by the lactation hormone prolactin, which is produced by their pregnant mother to a large degree, to begin milk production. If it happens, this situation takes place for just a short time and typically ends after just a few weeks at most.

Surprisingly (we use this word loosely, here) adult men can also begin to lactate. Typically this function is connected to a lowered presence of testosterone. In some situations, men who have been spending close time with their female partners who are new mothers, snuggling, bonding and watching the infant suckle, have seen their testosterone levels lowered while receiving a boost of the same pregnancy hormone that stimulated milk production in the new mother. This hasn’t been widely observed, but it has happened. Men in the African Pigmy tribe the Aka have been seen to breastfeed their children and a Sri Lankan man was documented doing the same in 2002 after his wife died.

Can Men Get Breast Cancer Too?

Just as men have the milk-producing equipment for lactation, it is also possible for them to develop breast cancer and the disease can be deadly. Expectedly, it is much less prevalent in men than it is in women, but it still exists. It is important for men to be aware of this and about any pain, shifts in presentation, or other changes in that region. If they notice that anything is out of the ordinary, a visit to their doctor is a good idea. Regular checkups and body awareness is a good idea for everyone and the best way to live as long and rich a life as possible.