Insufficient Glandular Tissue

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Glandular tissue is necessary for breast milk production.  The size of a woman’s breasts does not determine how much milk the breasts can make; it is the glandular tissue within.

Though a woman with small breasts will most likely need to feed her baby more times each day to produce a sufficient quantity of breast milk, both large-breasted and small-breasted mothers can produce enough milk for their babies over a 24-hour period.

How many mothers have IGT?

An extremely small number of women will have a clinical diagnosis of insufficient glandular tissue (IGT). Research shows that approximately 1 out of every 1000 lactating mothers have IGT.1  Also known as breast hypoplasia, these are breasts that are underdeveloped and do not have sufficient glandular tissue to meet the complete milk supply her baby requires.  There are certain characteristics that mark hypoplastic breasts.

What are they symptoms of hypoplastic breasts?

Breasts come in all different shapes and sizes.  In fact, breasts on the same woman are usually different from each other!  There are some common characteristics of hypoplastic breasts, though a woman does not need to have all of these traits:

  • Extremely small breasts
  • Tubular shaped breasts
  • Unevenly shaped and widely spaced breasts
  • Very large areola

Does a diagnosis of IGT mean I cannot breastfeed?

A mother with hypoplastic breasts will usually still be able to breastfeed, though the amount of milk each woman is able to produce will vary.  While there is no way to know how much milk a mother will produce until she has her baby and tries to breastfeed, there are many things a mother can do to optimize her breast milk production.  The more the breasts are stimulated and milk is removed the more milk a body will make.  Excellent lactation support following birth is essential in maximizing supply.

The early days and weeks following birth are when a mother’s body is laying down the prolactin receptors that will dictate how much milk she is able to produce daily over the course of lactation.  Optimum milk removal during this time will help her body maximize what it is able to make.  Breastfeeding often and effectively is critical.  Your baby will need to be watched closely for weight loss, and supplements (whether donor milk or formula) should only be given if necessary.  If supplements are required, giving them with an at-breast tube feeding device is ideal as your baby will continue to suckle the milk in your breasts, stimulate your supply, as well as take in extra calories.

If you are concerned about your breasts having insufficient glandular tissue, it is best to meet with a lactation consultant (IBCLC) while you are pregnant.  Together you can develop a breastfeeding plan for your specific situation.

Show 1 footnote

  1. Riordan, J. & Wambach, K. (2010) Breastfeeding and Human Lactation 4th ed. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, p. 348.
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