Signs of Mammary Hypoplasia + What to do if You’re Diagnosed

April 4, 2014
Signs of Mammary Hypoplasia + What to do if You’re Diagnosed

You’ve probably heard about how breastfeeding is normal and natural – and it is, in most cases. Most women are capable of making enough milk for their babies to be healthy and happy, but some women are simply physically unable to produce milk despite their best efforts.

Mammary hypoplasia, also known as insufficient glandular tissue or IGT, is a very uncommon condition that can cause low or no milk production. Women with mammary hypoplasia simply did not develop proper mammary tissue during adolescence, but their breasts may be small or large. Signs of mammary hypoplasia include:

  • Narrow, widely spaced breasts
  • Areolas appear swollen or puffy
  • Asymmetrical breasts, where one is much larger than the other
  • Breasts do not grow or change during pregnancy, and milk never “comes in” around 3 days after giving birth

When it appears that a mom’s body doesn’t make enough milk to feed her baby, it’s important to first explore all the possible causes, such as latch and positioning, breastfeeding habits (such as supplementing with formula), and the possibility of baby having tongue tie or other oral issues. If you think you may have mammary hypoplasia, reach out to a lactation consultant or your healthcare provider. They can help rule out other factors that could be causing low supply and suggest options such as supplementing feedings at the breast with Medela’s Supplemental Nursing System (SNS), finding a milk donor, or pumping and bottle-feeding as much milk as you’re able to make.

Above all else, know that it’s okay – don’t be too hard on yourself because you have trouble making as much milk as your baby needs. Enjoy your breastfeeding experience – you’re making a big difference in your little one’s health and well-being.

Were you diagnosed with mammary hypoplasia? Share your experience in the comments below.

50 thoughts on “Signs of Mammary Hypoplasia + What to do if You’re Diagnosed

  1. Hi there, I was diagnosed with insufficient glandular tissue at 1 week and was told to supplement.. Was placed on meds and noticed that my breast were beginning to get engorged by week 3. By that point I had been supplementing each feed. Is it possible to get a misdiagnosis .. I’m 6 weeks pp now but feel that since I have been supplementing so much my milk supply has dropped .

    • Hi Sarah,

      If you have questions about your diagnosis or whether or not you have IGT, we recommend following up with a health care professional. They would be best suited to address any questions you have.

  2. I’d like to share my experience with hypoplasia in hopes that some new mom who is reading this in the middle of the night struggling might find hope.

    I knew I had something “wrong” with my breasts since puberty. One simply didn’t grow. I was embarrassed, ashamed and confused. At 18 years old I gained the courage to approach my family doctor about it. I was referred to a plastic surgeon and made the decision to undergo corrective surgery. While not for everyone, it was one of the best decisions of my life.

    Fast forward 15 years. My new husband and I were thrilled to start a family. After trying to conceive for more than a year it was determined I had unnaturally high levels of the hormone prolactin. This hormone is made naturally when a mother breast feeds and can suppress pregnancy. I had a MRI and found that I don’t have a tumour on my pituitary gland which is the leading cause of high prolactin. I assume it has something to do with the hypoplasia. After being referred to an endocrinologist, I started a drug to suppress the prolactin. I became pregnant, but suffered two miscarriages. The third pregnant went full term and I had a beautiful, healthy baby boy. I had attended a breast feeding seminar prior to delivery and chatted with the lactation consultant and thought, ” great! I make extra prolactin, I’ll have no troubles breastfeeding.”

    Not the case. My milk came in, but I wasn’t making enough. I was seeing the LC three times a week. We decided to start on the drug Domperadone to INCREASE prolactin and I supplemented with formula using a catheder at the breast. Gradually I was able to stop supplementing, but continued to take Dom. I’m happy to say that I am still breast feeding more than a year later, off of Dom. It is possible, the key is to find a LC that is familiar with hypoplasia.

    Don’t give up if this is what you want. It isn’t easy at the beginning, but totally possible.

    Jackie.

    • Hi Jackie – Thank you for sharing your story with us! It’s mamas like you that inspire us everyday. Keep up the good work, mama!

  3. My baby is 6 weeks old and I’m still only able to produce 30 ml tops in total per 10minute pumping. I’ve tried everything, Domperidone, fennel greek, lactate tea, alfalfa, power pumping, pumping after each feed, blessed thistle, right now im taking mothers love tincture for breasts that didn’t grow during pregnancy like mine. Has anyone had any luck on goats rue for growing IGT? My blood work says I should be producing enough milk my thyroid is fine, I’m not anemic etc etc. Have I missed something? The only thing I have not tested for is pcos that I know of, im praying I don’t have igt but it’s starting to look that way… Has anyone heard of any other treatment that grows igt after pregnancy besides goats rue and or natural progesterone during pregnancy?

    • Hi Hannah – Don’t worry, you’re doing a great job and there are several measures that moms can take to increase breastmilk supply. First off, know that the average breastfeeding mom can pump between one and three oz. per pumping session (not per breast, per session). Here’s a link to our blog with various tips to help increase supply: http://bit.ly/187ZXnw. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact our Lactation Consultant: http://bit.ly/ask_lc. Keep up the good work!

  4. I have always had extremely lopsided breasts and was told (by my gynecologist when I was a teenager) not to worry because my breasts would even out while I was pregnant. It had caused me huge psychological distress – being called “mono-tit” by a (now) ex-boyfriend, being repeatedly invalidated by those who told me that everyone has lopsided breasts…right now I have one B cup and one D cup. The D cup is tubular and I wish I could post a photo to show how extremely different they are. The cherry on the sundae was when the bigger breast didn’t produce any milk at all after having had my son. I had a very small amount of milk coming from the smaller breast. I was in a terrible place financially, but went to a lactation consultant who recommended I have my son’s frenulum clipper for $200, until she eventually looked at my breasts and realized they were hypoplastic. I am eternally grateful to this woman. However, I was also part of the WIC program in NYC and because I was so dead set on nursing I had put that I was supplementing. This made me eligible for half the amount of formula that I would have been eligible for if I hadn’t been nursing at all. When I told them about the difficulties I was having, an Indian woman sat me down in her office and insisted that I just keep on trying. I was there for hours with no luck. I eventually told them about my diagnosis and asked for more formula – instead they denied my request and kept calling and harassing me to breastfeed. I couldn’t believe it – it was as if my own disappointment and being a new (single) mother wasn’t enough to deal with! It was unbelievable how persistent they were, and I felt a sense of shame and failure because of it.

    Anyway, today – 3 years later – I am now 40 and am trying to find a plastic surgeon. The difference is just too extreme, and even though it is only a cosmetic thing, it saddens me and makes me feel bad about myself and self-conscious because it is even noticeable under clothing. At this point I cannot figure out how to have the surgery covered by insurance. I could not afford it any other way, but I wonder if it is unreasonable to ask for insurance to cover such a thing when it has caused so much stress thus far?

    Because it is such an uncommon deformity, there is very little research on it. I wish that a company like Medela would look into it and consider sponsoring some research since it is directly related to breastfeeding, and can cause a woman so much grief and psychological distress on many different levels.

  5. My baby boy is only two weeks old, and I had a difficult and medically intensive birth, so everyone assumed that’s why I was having so much difficulty breastfeeding. We have been supplementing since day 1 because even my colostrum took 2 days to come through. However today I saw an LC and she has diagnosed me with hypoplasia, but still encouraged me to continue trying to boost my supply with pumping, lactation cookies, Tigers milk, fenugreek tablets etc.

    While I am sad and am mourning not being able to fully breastfeed my child, I can still give him some milk and it also means that my husband gets time to bond with DS while feeding him any breast milk I’ve expressed or formula. This also means that it is possible for me to sleep a bit more because I don’t have to be the sole person responsible for feeding our son.

    I know it’s a hard place to be at, and it’s definitely ok to mourn the inability to fully feed your child (I am definitely mourning as this was my ideal parenting scenario) but please remember to keep your spirits up and try and see the upsides to supplementing your feeding, as well as all the benefits you’re giving your child from the breastfeeding that you can give them. It’s also about bonding with your child, and getting their jaw muscles to develop.

    • Hi Jo – We’re so proud of you! You are doing your best, and that is what matters most. Keep up the good work, mama!

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