After the birth of my first child, I found myself unexpectedly faced with a huge breastfeeding hurdle. In spite of all my concentrated efforts to breastfeed, it turned out I had IGT (Insufficient Glandular Tissue). The road to diagnosis was confusing, painful and heartbreaking. If you've ever struggled with breastfeeding, then you know what I mean.
And, while there are well-known obstacles to breastfeeding, such as latch issues or overcoming the sometimes initial pain of breastfeeding, IGT is significantly under recognized and undertreated.
What is IGT?
Insufficient Glandular Tissue is a form of primary lactation failure due to a decrease in the glandular cells needed for milk production. It is estimated that 1 in 1,000 women suffer from this condition, but these numbers may actually be quite higher considering it may go largely undiagnosed -- and these estimates were based on a study over 10 years old.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Most women with IGT don't realize they have it until they find themselves struggling to produce milk after the birth of their first child. In hindsight, the signs and symptoms are much clearer:
- No change in breasts during pregnancy and no engorgement or sensation of milk coming in shortly after giving birth.
- Shape of breasts may also be a clue: Small, widely-spaced and tubular-shaped breasts often go along with IGT -- though size of breasts alone is not a good indicator.
- Your baby isn't gaining a good amount of weight and/or cries in hunger immediately after breastfeeding.
What can you do?
If you suspect you might have IGT, consult a board certified lactation consultant immediately. They should be able to aid in the diagnosis and help you find ways to maximize your milk supply. Some things you can try right away are: pumping after breastfeeding to stimulate more milk production, use a supplemental nursing system (SNS) to keep your baby at the breast (while supplementing with formula or human donor milk), taking fenugreek, blessed thistle and/or domperidone.
The best thing you can do?
Not blame yourself. Give yourself a break and realize that any amount of breast milk your baby gets is wonderful. Don't beat yourself up over this heartbreak. Give yourself time to grieve, and then focus on all the wonderful things you and your body are doing for your baby.
Dr. Mom's Bottom Line^ It's a myth that every woman can and should breastfeed. If you suspect you have low to no milk supply due to IGT, talk to a lactation consultant right away. Remember that what your baby needs most is a happy and healthy mama.