Men Can Also Offer Their Babies a Nipple

June 16, 2005 -- -- It's Father's Day and daddy has taken the baby for a walk. A few steps from the house the baby starts to fuss, so daddy picks her up and offers her … his nipple?

Strange as it may sound, an article published in the The Times of London suggests that when mom is not around, a man's nipple may be just as comforting to a crying baby.

Most experts are not surprised by this report, since babies regularly suck on plastic pacifiers. A father's nipple is just a fleshy substitute.

"This story is not about producing milk, but strictly calming the baby with the father's breast," said Dr. Jack Newman, a breast-feeding specialist, pediatrician and author of "Ultimate Breast Feeding Book of Answers."

Newman even tried it with his own baby, "though he didn't like it."

When infants are in the "sucking" phase of their development, "they will be just as content sucking on their mother's breast as sucking on a pacifier, someone's finger or a bottle nipple as they would their father's nipple," said Dr. David Kaufman, a neonatologist with the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

The article points out that in the Aka Pygmy tribe from the northern Congo, fathers commonly offer their babies a nipple when mom is not available.

Anthropologists agree that the men in this tribe deserve the "Fathers of the Year" award for spending 47 percent of their time with their infants. Swedish fathers rank first in the developed world, taking part in 45 percent of the childcare duties, according to FatherWorld report, published by Fathers Direct, a British charity.

Dr. Ruth Lawrence of the University of Rochester in New York, is a strong advocate of so-called "kangaroo care" -- bonding time when fathers provide skin-to-skin care for their babies, just as mothers do.

Whether with a finger or a nipple, the important thing is for fathers to spend time cuddling and comforting their babies, Lawrence said.