A design student in the U.K. claims to have developed a prototype kit that could be available to the public in as soon as five years that would enable men to breastfeed with the help of a drug that's not approved for sale in the United States.
Earlier this month, Marie-Claire Springham, inventor of the "chestfeeding kit," told "Good Morning Britain" about her prototype that earned her the Meaning-Centered Design Award. She won the award last October despite the fact that her kit has not yet been tested on a man.
Springham explained that the kit is for couples who are expecting. She was inspired to create the kit, she said, after finding out that some men experience what's called post-natal depression and feel left out of the mother-child bond.
The kit includes supplies of drugs that men are supposed to take in order to help them build breast tissue and lactate. The kit also includes a pump and compression vest.
Each kit comes with a nine-month supply of the drug progestin, an alternative to the female sex hormone progesterone. Springham explained that the drug changes the breast tissue so that milk can be stored.
"Six weeks before the birth, they start taking a drug called domperidone, which sounds very scary," she said. "It was originally used to treat [gastrointestinal] conditions and realized it has a side effect which is lactation and now it is used by a lot of women who are struggling to lactate."
Springham was asked by host Richard Madeley how the product works if men do not have breasts.
"The tissue is actually there. It is just dormant," she replied. "There are several cases where lactation does occur naturally in men. ... It affects 60 percent of men and most people don't realize they even have it. The estrogen gets a little higher than testosterone and in extreme cases, men can grow up to the size of a B-cup and produce milk," she claimed.
Springham said that she first designed the kit as an "empathy tool." When asked, she said the process could be used as an alternative to breastfeeding.
Quentin Wilson, a father of three, doesn't think men should breastfeed. He was on the GMB panel to debate such a technology.
"This is not an urge I have ever had," he explained. "I don't think there is a demand for this. It goes against the natural order. The more we blur these distinctions between gender, the more messed up we become. Is this going to make us better, healthier, wiser?"
Madeley weighed in, stating that many women on Twitter were pushing back against the idea of men breastfeeding.
"A lot of women have tweeted us to say, basically, 'excuse me. That is my job,'" he said. "They feel gender threatened [by] this increasing tendency to make our gender neutral. We are not gender neutral. We are very different."
Madeley and Springham then debated the idea of gender norms, which Springham argued are artificial.
"This has nothing to do with any kind of natural development in human species," Madeley contended.
Springham responded by saying that the process develops naturally in women
"And the changes that occur in a man when they take these are very similar to ones that occur in a woman when they take these," she argued. "It is a tiny change compared to the change that goes through a woman's body when she becomes pregnant."
Co-host Kate Garroway contended, however, that the concern is about the damage that these drugs can have on men.
"[W]omen's bodies have adapted to that and actually some of those hormone changes can be very damaging, what would it do to a man?" she asked.
While the Springham's product might seem like a unique idea, last year it was reported that a biologically male trans-identified woman "induced lactation." This was made possible by the drugs that will be included in Springham's chestfeeding kit.
Although some have cheered male breastfeeding as a medical advancement, others have warned against the harmful side effects associated with taking the drugs needed to accomplish the feat.
In fact, domperidone, the drug needed to help men lactate, is not approved for sale in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration. It can only be made available to patients with severe gastrointestinal disorders.
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