United By Nipples

A while back there were a series of ads about dads and their various ineptitudes in child rearing. This got some of my papa peeps all riled up. There was more righteous indignation in the dad blogs than a closing argument by Jack McCoy.

I never actually saw these ads, and even if I had, well, I’ve never claimed to be a master at this. I know my baby-mama thought a lot more than I did about being a parent before the fact. And though there are many and articulate exceptions, there is a niblet of truth to the stereotype that dads have to work a little harder at this whole “having-a-child-thing” we do. But this is strictly cultural, not biological.

And I can prove it.

With science.

There’s a podcast I listen to in the wee hours while I’m doing dishes, wiping down hi-chairs, and supporting craft breweries both local and regional. It’s called Stuff You Should Know  and if you’re the type to listen to podcasts, then it’s definitely worth your time. The hosts, Josh and Chuck, investigate the history and workings of everything from Narco-States to Autism, to Crime Scene Photography, in little 20-40 minute discussions. They’re light, goofy, and prone to tangents, basically guys I’d want to get empanadas with.

They recently did a show entitled “Why Do Men Have Nipples.” After some discussion, giggling and Simpsons references, they established the thesis that men have nipples basically because there’s been no reason – evolutionarily speaking – to select them out.

Then they went on to explain that before the onset of puberty, boys and girls have, more or less, the same upper body plumbing and only the onset of estrogen makes the mammaries jamm-ary. And here’s the big thing, even after puberty, under the right estrogen-rich, testosterone-lite conditions, men can breastfeed.

That’s right. Men can breastfeed. Can and do.

There’s a dude in Sri Lanka who nursed his two daughters after their mother died.  There’s an entire tribe in Africa called the Aka, in which men regularly nurse the kids.

This is weird, yes. But only because we live in a culture that has largely removed men from primary childcare for centuries. Once you get past that, this wild fact becomes something else.

Once you get past the cultural bias, you see as I do that dad’s are f*#!ing awesome.


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