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.

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

  1. I only nursed for 5 weeks with my first daughter. I was determined to exclusively breastfeed with my next. Everything was going smoothly. She had enough wet and dirty diapers, she latched right away, and was a good baby. But, after a few weeks, her weight was only increasing by ounces. I tried fenugreek. I tried power pumping, pumping after I fed her, pumping AS I fed her, and even pumped every hour and a half for 48 hours to try and increase my supply. I drank 3 cups of Mother’s Milk Tea a day for 5 weeks. After reading somewhere that Red Gatorade and Root Beer increases your supply, I sent my husband out for some and drank those for a few weeks. I found a delicious recipe for lactation cookies, but no luck there either. After seeing that my daughter was still not up to her birth weight at 4 weeks, I called my OB to see about getting a prescription to increase my milk supply. Domperidone was what she prescribed. After a week on this, and no increase, I contacted a lactation consultant. She weighed my daughter, and after feeding her twice on both breasts, we discovered that she had gotten just a little over an ounce. I was basically starving my poor girl. When the lactation told me that I have IGT, and explained what it was, I cried. I felt defeated. I can’t do what every woman was put on earth to do. That night, I purchased the formula….I felt like less of a woman, and less of a mom. People told me, “it’s ok, you’re still a great mom!”, but I didn’t care. I cried. For a week straight. When my husband bottle fed our daughter, I had to walk out of the room because it broke my heart….

    Here we are, and she’s 3 1/2 months old, and I still cry over it. I understand that formula fed babies grow up to be healthy too, but I wanted the choice! I wanted the choice to be able to breast feed or formula feed exclusively, and that was taken from me with no explanation. I try to put it in perspective that things could be worse. I could not be able to have children. The grass is always greener.

    We still have a breastfeeding relationship. I nurse her as much as I can, but we are at the point that she gets 90 % formula, 10 % breastmilk. I will not give up my breastfeeding anytime soon. I enjoy the time with her. The bond there is when I’m holding her. The way her hand rests on me. She’s only getting about 1 oz, we are getting so much more than that in the long run…..

    • Hi Katie,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience. It’s simply wonderful that you have found a way to have a breastfeeding relationship with your little one despite the obstacles you’ve faced. Breastfeeding is so much more than just ounces of milk, and we hope that more women can understand that it’s not a black-and-white thing (and every drop counts!).

      Thanks again for sharing your story. Keep up the great work!

  2. I have mammary hypoplasia, and in our culture of breast is best it just about killed me. I was so embarrased to formula feed in public. Two babies later I am finally coming to terms with the fact that I cannot make enough milk for my children and it’s okay. Articles acknowledging that this is a real issue help. I have had many people give me the every mother can breast feed speech and assume that I just didn’t want to bad enough. I wanted to breastfeed my babies so badly, I was heart broken when I found out it was utterly impossible for me.

  3. Thank you for posting this and bringing awareness to this issue. I was diagnosed with IGT and it was heartbreaking to have my dreams of exclusive breastfeeding shattered. It took a long time for me to realize that breastfeeding didn’t have to be all or nothing and once I did our nursing relationship became so much better. I never came close to producing the milk my daughter needed but we’ve made it to 13m combo feeding and still at it.
    I hope this can encourage other moms to keep if they still desire to breastfeed but are faced with challenges that cannot be solved.

    • Hi Renee,

      Congratulations on 13 months of combination feeding! It’s absolutely true that breastfeeding doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing, and you should feel so proud of yourself for providing as much breastmilk as you can. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.


  4. I definitely think there is a lack of education about mammary hypoplasia. It wasn’t until I’d had 3 of my 5 babies that I found out this was why I couldn’t breastfeed. Nurses, lactation specialists and family members all told me to “keep trying” and that it would work if I just didn’t give up, all while my babies were not getting what they needed. This created an enormous amount of stress and made me feel like a failure as a mother. I am glad that you are spreading awareness with this article.

    • Hi Jill,

      It’s so good to hear that you finally received the proper diagnosis. Please know that it’s not your fault and you’re absolutely not a failure! Be gentle with yourself – there are so many other ways to nurture and bond with your little ones.

      Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us.


  5. Hi

    My son is 3 and a half months old and I have IGT. When I found this out at about 5 weeks postpartum, I was devastated and still am! I felt so alone. Everyone I knew breast fed. It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be one of those mothers to. It destroyed my confidence as a mom. I still to this day struggle with it. I’m so happy to see other women have experienced the same situation (bitter sweet). It’s relieving, honestly! Thank you to all the mothers for posting their experiences too!

    • Hi Rebecca,

      Thank you for sharing your story. You’re definitely not alone! Know that you are an incredible mother, and no matter how you feed your baby, the love you share is all that matters.

      We’re so glad you found our blog and that the comments here are of comfort to you. Hope you have a wonderful day.

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