Breastfeeding and Hypoplastic Breasts

Definition and Tips

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If you have any questions about your breasts, see your doctor. David Jakle/Getty Images

What Are Hypoplastic Breasts?

Hypoplastic breasts, also called underdeveloped breasts, tubular breasts, or breasts with insufficient glandular tissue, may contain very little breast tissue that can produce breast milk. Hypoplastic breasts can be small, thin, shaped like tubes, or very uneven. They may be spaced far apart, and the areola may appear very large.

Breast hypoplasia is something that you're born with, and as you grow the breast tissue does not fully develop.

You might not even know your breasts are underdeveloped until you become pregnant and have a child. During pregnancy, hypoplastic breasts may not change very much. Then, after the birth of your baby, they may not fill with breast milk.

Some women with hypoplastic breasts decide to have breast augmentation. If you've had breast surgery, be sure to tell your doctor. If you haven't had breast surgery but you're considering it, and you think you may want to breastfeed, it's better to hold off until you have completed your family and weaned your last child before going forward. Breast surgery could further interfere with your ability to make breast milk.

Can You Breastfeed If You Have Underdeveloped Breasts?

Yes, it is still possible to breastfeed even if you have hypoplastic breasts. Depending on the actual amount of developed breast tissue that you have, you may be able to make enough breast milk for your child, but it could be a challenge.

Hypoplastic breasts can cause a true low milk supply or even full lactation failure. While most women can usually increase a low milk supply by correcting the latch on technique or breastfeeding more often, if you have hypoplastic breasts you may not respond to these remedies. So, there is a good possibility that you will need to supplement your baby.

It's also possible that one breast is hypoplastic and the other has enough milk-making tissue to produce a sufficient milk supply. If that's the case, you can nurse your baby from just one side, and that would be perfectly fine. But, even if you aren't able to make enough breast milk for your baby, you can still breastfeed. Any amount of breast milk that you give to your child will be beneficial. The time spent at your breast also provides your baby with comfort, security, and that special bond created through breastfeeding.

If you have underdeveloped breasts and want to breastfeed, here are some tips to help make it more successful. 

Tips for Breastfeeding With Hypoplastic Breasts

1. Talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant about your particular situation and create a plan together.

2. Make sure that your baby is positioned correctly at your breast and latching on well.

3. Breastfeed your baby very often. The more you put your newborn to the breast, the more you can try to stimulate the production of breast milk, if possible.

4. Have your baby's weight monitored by a pediatrician.

5. Ask your doctor or lactation consultant about using breastfeeding herbs or medications that may help you to make more breast milkGoat's Rue may be a good choice since it's believed to help build up the breast tissue as well as increase the supply of breast milk. 

6. Try switch nursing.

7. If you have to give your baby a supplement, know that it's OK.

8. You can try a nursing supplementer device which allows you to provide your child with additional nutrition as she breastfeeds. 

9. Pumping can help you to make more breast milk. If you use a breast pump after each feeding it can further stimulate your breasts. You can then use any breast milk that you pump as a supplement.

10. Eat a healthy well-balanced diet with enough calories to support the production of breast milk, drink plenty of fluids, and get enough rest.

11. If you have breast implants, talk to your doctor and learn more about breastfeeding after breast surgery.

12. If you have not had breast surgery but are considering it, wait until after you have breastfed all your children since breast surgery could damage what little milk-making tissue you do have.

13. Join a local breastfeeding group for assistance and support.

Sources:

Cruz, N. I., & Korchin, L. Breastfeeding After Augmentation Mammaplasty With Saline Implants. Annals of Plastic Surgery. 2010. 64(5): 530-533.

Huggins, K., Petok, E., and Mireles, O. Markers of Lactation Insufficiency. Current Issues in Clinical Lactation. Jones & Bartlett. Boston, Mass. 2000: 25-35.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Eighth Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2015.

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