Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Is your dad the milkman!

Its' baffled me since childhood. Why do men have nipples?It's a question I've always wanted to put to Charles Darwin. So Mr Survival-of-the-fittest, how come I can give you a nipple tweak?
An ape falls out of a tree, and the rest of the apes all say: "Let's go for a walk". Primitive man invents the wheel and his mates suddenly want to go for a drive. And yet nowhere along the line did Mother Nature say: "let's lop these useless things off and see what happens".
The question of nipples was brought to mind when I read a recent newspaper article about breastfeeding in Burma.
Now, let me be the first to defend breastfeeding. Do it in the park. Do it in the dark. Do it in the rain. Do it on a train.
I do! I like it, Sam-I-am! I would like it in a boat. I would like it with a goat. You can have your green eggs-and-ham, because I'm a breastfeeding fan.
Actually, scrap the goat. Because I'm old-fashioned, and perhaps First-World enough, to think that breastfeeding is a perfectly natural act. Until it involves livestock. Or men.
Which brings us back to why men have nipples. But first, the livestock.
An understanding lactating woman in Burma has volunteered her services to the Yangon zoo which was juggling two hungry tiger cubs that had been rejected by their mother.
Hla Htay, the mother of a seven-month-old boy, told the Myanmar Times weekly that she was happy to step in with feeds four times a day.
"I felt sorry for them, so I decided to feed them before their teeth grow," she said.
It leads to numerous thoughts climbing over themselves to get out of my head first, but "what the . . .?" seems to be the winner.
"She must really like animals", is another. Along with, "what does her seven-month-old son think?" and "who's going to pay his therapy bill?"
At least she is sensible enough to stop before their teeth grow. My experiences of breastfeeding have been, well in the past 36 years at least, as an observer, but I think I know enough to say you don't want a hungry tiger chewing on your delicate bits.
The strange thing about breastfeeding a tiger is that it's not that strange. There was a woman in New Zealand last year who decided the best way to get her staffordshire bull terrier pup to bond with her baby girl was to stop breastfeeding the girl and start breastfeeding the pup. "It doesn't hurt but it's a little bit ticklish," she said, just in case you've ever wondered.
There was another woman in Norway who breastfed a litter of 10 pups for a week when their mother died. That's not just weird but also an interesting example of how two really can be divided by 10.
It's freaking you out, isn't it?
But as unusual as it might be to pick up your pet pooch, tilt his head so that his mouth makes that Special K shape to ensure a good attachment, and whack him on, it's not as strange as the reason I've discovered men have nipples.
Because men can breastfeed too. Or at least some men, because as eager as I am to be an involved father, the idea of popping out a nipple had never crossed my mind.
Which means I'm not the sort of man the British TV production company Be Good Films is looking for. They're looking for milkmen, a new breed of sensitive new-age guys who laugh at blokes who think they're good fathers just because they change nappies. These are real men. What's more, these are real men with real breasts.
A few years ago, a professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto asked the question many mothers have. Is your dad the milkman?
The study revealed incidences of male lactation have been recorded since the 1850s, included the case of a 55-year-old Baltimore man who was wet nurse for the children of his mistress. In his case, you wonder which part would have been the hardest to tell his wife.
A modern case detailed at a website dedicated to childbirth without medical intervention involves two men who raised a baby from a surrogate mother.
One bloke, Ian, began using a breast pump to stimulate matters from the time the mother was seven months pregnant. By the time the child was 12 months old, Ian had a full milk supply. And presumably freaked out everyone who caught his bus.
And Ian is clearly not alone, or so the folk at Be Good Films must be thinking.
"We are looking only for men who are willing to give the experiment a try," a researcher at the film says.
"Previous experience would be great, but is absolutely not essential."
So, if you are a modern man with a caring side and are happy to be a freak on a reality TV show, put your nipples to good use.
Or, on the flipside, if you're a chauvinistic bastard who thinks men do everything better than woman, put your nipples where your mouth is, or at least someone else's mouth.
And once you've fed the kid, you can grab the pooch. After all, dog is man's best friend.
Just ask Charles Darwin. He never left home without his beagle.


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