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

April 4, 2014

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.

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

  1. I was 17 when I had my first child, I tried to breast feed for two days and my baby’s weight dropped drastically, they realized she was getting any milk from my breasts, they immediately went to formula, my breasts never got bigger and I barely produced anything. My second pregnancy was twins, my breasts never grew at all during or after pregnancy, they were premature and couldn’t latch so I pumped for three months. I took every supply booster I could find. I would get at the most an ounce combined between both breasts. My third pregnancy, a lactation lady came in my room at the hospital when I was battling kidney stones and she was talking to me Bout breast feeding and I told her my history of breast feeding, she asked to look at my breasts, she put her hand up and said, don’t bother trying again, you have hypo plastic breast syndrome. I did some research and you I match all symptoms. I’ve been made fun of my entire life, my friends still make comments about my flat chest. I can honestly say it has affected my entire life, dating, buying clothing, mental health, body image/shaming, feeding my babies, swimming and much much more. I wish I knew more about it or could figure out if there’s something I could take or do to grow that needed breast tissue or maybe if insurance would cover surgery, it’s too late to feed my babies but maybe implants will help me feel like an actual woman and self confidence and more…

    • Yes to everything you said Amanda!! I have three children. All of them lost a lot of weight after birth. My oldest was born 8 lb 4 oz and dropped down to 7 lb 1 oz. I had to start supplementing, and bf stopped quickly after. I managed the longest work my third, just due to sheer motivation and I was home longer in order to pump and breastfeed more. At my top, I was able to produce about 4 oz a day. He weaned himself from bf at 4 months and at 5 months, I wasn’t even pumping an ounce a day and I decided it was time for my sanity level. It was devastating to me. I wanted it to work so badly, and I am a huge bf advocate. I am forever grateful to the amazing mothers who donated their precious liaison gold to my little boy, but their the definitely a hint of jealousy on my part in not being able to have that kind of a supply, and feeling like a daily for not being able to provide for my babies. I’ve also had give self confidence issues my whole life because of my non existent breasts and that they never grew with puberty or pregnancy. I’ve also always hated shopping because everything looks and fits so awkward. I’d love to get implants at some point in my life just to feel like a woman.

      • Jamie, I could have written exactly what you wrote.

        My first pregnancy, I met my sons pedi for an interview. She is also an IBCLC, and asked about BFing and how I felt about it. I explained how excited I was to BF FOREVER and i couldnt wait yada yada. she asked if my breast have grown since pregnancy or i felt any milk come in or engorgement, and i said “no, not yet” then said “would you mind taking off your blouse and letting me check you”… I thought nothing of it.. stripped and she broke it down… “I want you to know that you may have a hard time breastfeeding… or may not be able to at all. I know this is important to you, and I am going to help you do EVERYTHING possible to succeed, but I wanted to tell you this now, so it’s not a shock or upsetting right after delivery”

        Clearly she noticed my hypoplasia as soon as she met me. I was like “ok weird” and went on.. until my baby lost almost 2lbs by 2weeks old, after having weekly meets with her, and weighted feeds, and doing literally everything… We had to go to formula, and i nursed with a SNS for 11months until he self weaned. It was not ideal, but worth it.

        Now with my 2nd, I had to go back to work after 12 weeks.. so I’ve been pumping. I’ve been back to work about 3 weeks, and i’ve gone from pumping 3 oz a day to not even half. My son is 5 months old, and takes donor milk at daycare. I am guessing my pumping days are ending.. and I’m still in denial/sad and not ready.. but I dont know what i’d do without the wonderful women who donate their excess to us who can not produce. It makes me feel a sense of pride in the “tribe” of women we mothers are.

        I still advocate and support everyone breastfeeding. Ive gone in and helped new moms and give all the advice and support and help they need… even though i cant do it myself. and I wont stop. Rock on mamas.

  2. I’m going through this now. I had a warning from a previous gynecologist in my 20s who saw my breasts and made a comment that I’m not likely to breastfeed or that I would have difficulty. I was sad to hear then news then, but fast forward to my current situation with my first child born 7 days ago. I don’t care that I came into this pregnancy with the knowledge that it would be difficult, I wasn’t prepared for the failure aspect and sheer disgust I have for my breasts. The one thing I am designed to do as a women, I can’t. It’s devastating and embarrassing. I started seeing a lactation consultant prior to giving birth and openly discussed my concerns with her and the staff at the hospital. I feel like I received false encouragement because they aren’t familiar with my condition. I wish I could say I’m reaching the point of acceptance but it doesn’t make me feel any better. I have the best husband who has been so helpful and encouraging, but the worst experiences in my life has been hold my precious daughter in my arms, pleading with God for my milk to come in, and the tears fall off my face, landing on my baby. My husband is standing there trying to encourage me but I just can’t help the way I feel. Supplementing isn’t the enemy here and I obviously have to do this for my daughter, but I do feel robbed of this experience. I am jealous of other women who can breastfeed. And yes, like all the women above, I too have never liked my breasts. Not because they aren’t big, but because they have bulbous nipples. Padded bras and swimsuits are a way of life not to make them appear bigger but to hide my deformity. It’s hard to love your body when it’s failing you, but it’s really hard to love your body because it’s failing your child and you cannot do anything about it.

    • Natasha Olson says:

      I am in this situation too. My 6 month old has had the most dedication to breast feeding then my two older children when they were babies. I feel such shame and i am so mad at my body for betraying me. I hate it most when my baby girl is screaming and crying and looking at me because she wants to nurse. With tears in my eyes i tell her ” mommy has no milk” and it breaks my heart to hear her cry especially because it’s my fault and i can not do anything about. She hates formula and would starve and try to sustain off the ounce or less she gets from nursing. I have spent month researching and trying so many different things. I’ve exhausted them all only to finally realize it is nothing i can fix and i have to accept that, but i am having a hard time with that so i just torture myself and her by letting her nurse to get the little bit of milk i produce because something is better then nothing but she doesn’t understand that, all she knows is there is no more milk and it gets herbso frustrated then even more when i have to give her a bottle with formula. I guess i am in such denial because every day i think “ok tomorrow i will be able to make enough milk for her but that day hasnt come and it just gets more and more frustrating for both of us. If anyone has any info on treatment if there is a such thing for this kind of issue.

  3. I just had my son in september. He still breast feeds and takes a bottle of donor milk I had to get Quick since he lost 11 oz from his day of birth within several days and weeks. He is now a healthy weight at 7 weeks but I can absolutely relate and have cried at Reading all these stories because I relate SO much that I I wish it wasn’t so. Every time a woman says she had “boo coos of milk” she didn’t know what to do with it, I feel so angry! I prayed to God, “God you allowed me to have this baby and now I can’t feed him?!” I, like you all, have ALWAYS been self conscious about my breasts because they are small and stopped growing during puberty at around age 14. I have always been envious of larger breasted women and wondered why mine never grew larger or why they couldn’t look like hers! This is extremely devastating especially because no one seems to have answers for it. I feel for you mommas out there. I feel your pain because I am walking in this too. I have just about given up on pumping altogether too.

  4. I delivered my first child in 2001. My breast size never changed durung pregnancy. I tried breast feeding the first 3 days and nothing came out. On day three, i buy formula and mt son’s urine was bright orange! Dehydration!!! I went to the first check-up and the nurse had the audacity to tell me to keep trying, even after i told her what happened!! I didn’t have any engorgement and my bra size never changed. I had my 2nd child 18 months later. I didnt bother to try to breastfeed because once again, no engorgement and no change in breast size during ot after pregnancy. Wish i had known about mammory hypoplasia back then! No physician could tell me what was wrong. Now i wonder what the effects could be later in life. Am at at risk for other healrh issues??

  5. One of my breasts is a C cup the other is an E. My breasts have the typical higher fold, stretch marks and empty sack appearance. I hate them. They disgust me and I am ashamed of them. Like so many other people have commented her – I wish my breasts were normal so I could feel like a real woman. I hate my body.

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