Tubular breasts are underdeveloped breasts. This is when a woman has insufficient breast tissue “milk-producing cells" inside her breasts. This will cause her to either have no milk at all or very low milk supply.
This condition is also called hypoplasia, tubular breast syndrome or tuberous breast.
What do Hypoplastic Breasts Look Like?
- Tuberous breasts are usually flat against the chest wall and often look like empty hanging sacks.
- The nipple and areola area is often swollen (or enlarged) and bulging at the tip.
- Hypoplastic breasts are usually far spaced from each other.
- They often have a tubular appearance to them and are mostly quite small.
- The two breasts are also often not the same size “lopsided.“
Other Signs Associated with Tubular Breasts
- Lack of breast changes during puberty.
- The breasts don’t seem to become larger or engorged during pregnancy.
- There is no engorgement after giving birth.
What Causes Tubular Breast Deformity?
- A lack of progesterone prohibits the growth of the alveoli “milk-producing cells". More about the hormones involved in the development of breast tissue and the process of lactation.
- Pesticides have been linked with this condition. Women who live in agricultural valleys have been found to have poor breast gland development.
- PCOS can cause hypoplasia. The best person to see about this issue, if you have PCOS, is an endocrinologist because the regular FP or OB/GYN won’t know how to help you.
How to Produce more Milk with a Tuberous Breast Deformity
- Increased stimulation like breastfeeding on demand and pumping in-between feedings.
- Managing metabolic issues, such as PCOS and hypothyroidism can help.
- Ask your doctor about natural progesterone during your pregnancy. Progesterone will stimulate the growth of glandular tissue during pregnancy.
- Try natural herbs or other galactagogues for increasing milk supply.
- Try breast massage for extra stimulation.
- Use a supplementary feeding device so that you can breastfeed while your baby is receiving donor milk/formula. This will stimulate your breasts while your baby is feeding. Using a lactation aid.
- Women with tubular breasts have been found to produce more milk with their second or third pregnancies, because of the hormones produced with each that increase the growth of milk glands.
Tubular Breast Reconstruction
Hypoplastic tubular breasts can look normal after surgery, but a woman must then realize that her chances of breastfeeding after surgery are very slim since surgery cannot fix hypoplasia internally by adding glands, it can only fix the outward appearance, and during the operation there is always some glandular tissue that is destroyed.
"I have always had small breasts and even before I got pregnant, I would worry that my baby would starve because I wouldn't get enough milk. I was reassured by a lactation consultant and also by family members who had breastfed successfully despite having small breasts. So I decided I too would breastfeed exclusively.
When I realized after 5 weeks that my baby had not gained enough weight, I was devastated, and I felt guilty for having not realized how hungry he was. I was given a medication (domperidone) to increase my supply, I nursed every two hours, pumped, etc. Still, I had to supplement or else my poor little Charles would cry for hours and sleep very little.
I have given up breastfeeding after two months. It was heartbreaking, but in some way a relief to see my baby happy and gaining weight. I tried to do both (breastfeed and supplement) for a while but it was just too much trouble for me, and I was getting tired and depressed.
Through all this experience, no one (doctor, nurse or lactation consultant) told me I had hypoplastic breasts. I just eventually figured it out myself! I wonder why this issue is not talked about more. I had never bothered too much about the aesthetic aspect of having a small chest, but this was like the ultimate insult to my womanhood. What kind of woman can't make milk for her own baby? Reading stories similar to mine has helped me cope with this and I am now at peace with myself.
I hope that in the future, there is more awareness about this and that although breast is best, there is no sin in bottle feeding when nature does not allow you to breastfeed."
by Erin Allbright (Texas, USA)
"I had my first child when I was 20, and I thought breastfeeding was kind of gross, to be honest.
I never even considered anything other than using formula. No one in my family had ever breastfed, and I even remember my grandmother talking about how she thought breastfeeding was unnecessary because formula was available, and babies did just fine on it.
So, I fed my daughter formula, and washed bottles, and paid for expensive formula, and lugged around all the needed bottle feeding supplies, and never thought twice about it. Three years later my son was born, and I was older and less affected by what my family though, so I researched breastfeeding, and decided that I wanted to try it.
I remember the first time Benjamin nursed, and how much of a connection I felt with him. I loved everything about breastfeeding. It was convenient, it was good for my baby and me, and I felt like I was more of a woman, more of a mom.
Being new at breastfeeding, and because I'd never been around anyone who breastfed, I didn't know what I was doing. When I took Benjamin in for a checkup at five days old, he'd lost 15% of his weight. He was dehydrated, had jaundice, and had to go back to the hospital.
A nurse brought me a breast pump so I could pump while Ben was under the lights for his jaundice. I used a hospital grade pump for an hour and didn't get enough milk to cover the bottom of the bottle. I realized that I had been starving my baby. I felt so much guilt. Benjamin began receiving formula, and I gave up on breastfeeding. Five years later I found out that I was going to have another baby.
This time I educated myself. I read everything I could about breastfeeding, I bought an expensive pump, I stocked up on herbs and vitamins that were supposed to help with milk production, and I told my family that regardless of their opinions on the topic, this was my baby and my body, and I was going to do what I felt was best.
I was going to breastfeed my baby this time, I knew it.....I was diagnosed with Hypoplastic Breast 3 days ago.
My son was five days old, and I just knew that breastfeeding was going to work for me this time. When I took Jackson to the doctor and discovered he'd lost over 10% of his original birth weight, I was shocked. Then the lactation consultant had me breastfeed him and then re-weighed him. After 15 min of feeding, he'd only taken in 8 ccs.
She then examined my breasts and told me that I had Hypoplastic breasts, which means that I don't have enough breast tissue. I sat there for a minute and listened to what she was saying and then realized I was sobbing.
My grandmother was with me at the appointment, and I thought I was about to hear "I told you so," but she began to cry, and explain to the lactation specialist that I had tried so hard and that it was so important to me.
I then started thinking about my older son. When I was breastfeeding him, and he became ill due to low milk supply, my friends and family (myself included) joked and said that my breasts were too small and that I was starving him. Realizing that this was somewhat true all along was heartbreaking and embarrassing.
I had tried so hard this time to make breastfeeding work. I'd read every article, I'd bought supplements and a pump, I would let my new baby nurse for ridiculous amounts of time, thinking that maybe it was a problem with the transfer of the milk rather than the supply, and he needed a little more time.
I also wondered why no one had ever mentioned this to me before now. Why hadn't someone said something when Benjamin was so sick? At least I would have known what to do when Jackson got here and wouldn't be going through this again.
I've been supplementing for a day and a half now, and I break down and cry every time I give him a bottle. I continue to pump and let him nurse, but its just not enough to keep him healthy and full.
I never thought I'd be this upset about not being a success when it came to breastfeeding, but this has just broken my heart.
I feel like I'm less of a mom, but I know its not my fault, and that I did try so hard. I am considering using donor milk, but want to research that more. I want him to get the best start at life."
by Amanda (Jacksonville, AR)
"Okay, I need to know the truth about what I am capable of!
I was told twice by a Certified lactation consultant after having my 2nd and 3rd child that: "Your breasts are too far apart and you will probably never produce 'enough' milk for your child" Ok I had an emergency c-section with my first child and scheduled c-sections thereafter (following bad advice) and the longest I ever breastfed was 10 days with my third baby.
I have this opportunity to do better with number four and I want to! I feel like I'm missing out on something so beautiful and I hate myself for giving up so easily and letting the "so-called professionals" discourage me!
Please help! I can't seem to find any information on this subject at all. Is it a real thing!? Is there anything I can do to overcome it? It's not like my breasts are small! I'm currently a 'D' any info would be greatly appreciated!"
RE: low milk supply?
"Hi, when you breastfed your baby for ten days, did you have milk? Did you hear baby swallowing while feeding? Did you feel a let-down?"
Re: Response to the previous comment
by: Amanda Macy
"When I nursed for ten days, it took 7 for my milk to come in at all, so there was no swallowing for the first seven days and after that, I did start to feel the let-down."
Re: The benefits
"Hi, It's very strange to me that you were told that you would not produce enough milk, just because of the spacing between your breasts.
I would suggest you try to breastfeed anyways because any amount of breast milk will be beneficial.
Also, there are other benefits such as bonding, oral development and such. Even if you do need to use a supplemental feeder, you could then build your milk supply while supplementing.
Some moms who have hypo-plastic breasts have managed to breastfeed or partially breastfeed and since you said your breasts are large, I don't think you have this problem.
Please read more about the benefits of breastfeeding.
Re: Second-time breastfeeding
"I was also told this when I had my first visit with a location consultant in the hospital after delivering my first child. I was shocked. I'm an a-cup and have always worried about being able to produce enough milk. But I did a lot of research and felt confident that my size did not matter.
I had never heard or read anything about spacing being a concern! I brushed her off and stuck to my instinct. I nursed my first until she was 18 months and am now nursing my second child who is 13 months. I've never had to supplement. Everyone's body is different - work closely with your baby and a supportive lactation consultant. If things don't work out and you have to supplement or exclusively formula feed you are still a great mom and giving your baby a great start, just by trying!"
Re: Breastfeeding with wide-set breasts
"My breasts are a full bandwidth apart, and I managed to breastfeed both my children for eight weeks and 12 weeks respectively. I had massive milk production."