Surprise! I'm Lactating

"My wife began laughing and rushed over with the baby. There I am sitting at my computer, working, as she sticks my (newborn) son in my face and points to a white dot on his nipple," Andrew Jones, author of the blog Thingamababy.com, told ABCNews.com.

Jones' newborn son was producing "witch's milk" and luckily for Jones, his wife Susan is a labor and delivery nurse and could explain what was happening.

"She wiped it away and squeezed his nipple, and another droplet appeared," he said. "She was all fits and giggles. My first reaction was, 'Stop that!' because who wants to see a baby nipple squeezed?"

High levels of hormones in the mother's body can sometimes transfer through the placenta to the baby in the womb. As a result, both boys and girls can then develop mini "breast nodules" that mimic lactation.

"I was shocked, surprised and amused. I had previously blogged tongue-in-cheek about the potential for fathers to breast-feed babies, and here was proof that males can produce milk," said Jones. "It was an 'I'm going to blog about this' moment. ... It shocked a few people. Mostly it was another parenting curiosity, one of those things they don't tell you in baby books."

About 4 percent of infants produce witch's milk in the first two weeks after birth, according to a study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

The Joneses knew not to worry because the extra hormones clear out of the baby's body within weeks and, as Jones discovered, the witch's milk goes away.

Lactation Not Just for Mom

Witch's milk, man milk, adolescent milk: According to a reproductive endocrinologist, technically, anyone can lactate under the right conditions.

"Lactation is basically a process that is not just reserved to pregnant patients," said Dr. Sami Jabara, director of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Texas Tech University Health Science Center in Lubbock.

On Friday's episode of "20/20", Nancy Beatie, the wife of the "pregnant man" Thomas Beatie, told Barbara Walters that she is nursing the Beaties' daughter.

Experts say the reasons a woman like Beatie, who has not recently been pregnant, can nurse a baby also explains how non-mothers can potentially breast-feed.

Inducing Lactation, Without Pregnancy

As most people could guess, hormones during pregnancy prepare the breasts for nursing. Jabara said that mothers who adopt babies and wish to breast-feed can mimic this process by taking hormones, particularly prolactin.

Experts explain that a woman in Nancy Beattie's position, who gave birth to children years ago, could potentially breast-feed simply by using a breast pump and simulating the motion of nursing.

"It's easier to turn on the faucet, so to speak, after having a child," said Dr. Jane Morton, a clinical professor of pediatrics at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.

Morton explained that the hormones in pregnancy permanently change the breast tissue to prepare it for breast feeding. After a pregnancy, the breasts stay "mature" forever.

If a woman isn't pregnant, Morton said, "it's a slow process to gradually increase your production," but it is possible. The key to getting milk to flow from mature breast tissue, either moments after childbirth or years later, is to stimulate the nipple.

"You have a nerve connection from the nipple that goes all the way to another part of the brain that produces oxytocin," said Jabara.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: Left, Sabrina Allen, 4, is shown in this photo provided by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children; right, Sabrina Allen, 17, is seen in this undated handout photo.
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children|Courtesy of PI Phillip Klein
Kelly Ripa
Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library
PHOTO: Earths moon is pictured as observed in visible light, left, topography, center, and the GRAIL gravity gradients, right.
NASA/GSFC/JPL/Colorado School of Mines/MIT