Insufficient Glandular Tissue as a cause of low supply

This week I worked with two mothers who were struggling with low supply due to insuffient glandular tissue (IGT). They didn’t feel their milk come in, they had minimal breast growth during pregnancy and they were needing to top up with almost full feeds of formula. Noone had mentioned to them the possiblity of IGT.

IGT is not well known among health professionals working with mothers and babies, or other mums. They are often given well meaning advice that does not work and may feel as though they are doing something wrong or failing their baby. They are not! Unfortunately there is not a lot of research behind this heartbreaking condition. Diana Cassar-Uhl (IBCLC) has contributed to the field of knowledge through research and written a fantastic book. We do know that the glandular tissue, where milk is made and stored, is underdeveloped, but not necessarily why. It can be hormonal or due to circumstances surrounding periods of breast development (inutero and during the teenage years). Mums may make as little as a few drops of milk or up to 3/4 of the milk, but despite their best efforts to increase supply need to supplement with formula (or donor milk).

It is often not until they consult with an IBCLC that they understand the reasons behind their milk supply struggles and then get to set realistic expectations around increasing supply or to make peace with their breastfeeding journey. Understanding their body and its limitations clears any doubt or confusion. IBCLC’s do have tools up their sleeve to support mums to work out exactly how much milk they make and tools to support supplementing at the breast. Ultimately the diagnosis can be healing in and of itself.

If this resonates please seek the emotional support and knowledge of an IBCLC.

For a more detailed discussion of IGT see this resource.

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