Insufficient Glandular Tissue

Alfalfa_ 3, 2X a dayI discovered that chronic low milk supply is a real thing, and not always a product of poor breastfeeding management.  I had anatomical factors working against me.  I have never been diagnosed by a LC or MD, but I know that I have Insufficient Glanduar Tissue.

As I mentioned a few days ago, I discovered through Diary of a Lactation Failure that I was not the only mom experiencing the heartbreak of not making enough milk.  The Facebook community of moms in similar situations has been so helpful as I have processed my grief, experienced loss, learn tips and trick and ultimately learned the keys for taking charge of my health.  Understanding the causes of my low milk supply has been empowering, and has positively impacted my breastfeeding relationship with my son and youngest daughter.  Understanding the limitations of my breasts has allowed me to forgive myself and move forward.

My Breast History

I started wearing a training bra in third grade.  Now, many girls are already hoping to need a bra soon and curious about what puberty will bring.  I come from a family of women with bigger breasts, so I always figured that when I started developing early this was a “good” sign that I’d look like the women in my family.  As it turns out, I didn’t have any more breast development in puberty and only minimal changes during my first pregnancy.  SAME CUP SIZE SINCE 3rd GRADE.  Honestly, it was pretty disappointing.

Menstrual Cycles

I started menstruating a few years later, I think around age 12.  Things were pretty normal until about 2-1/2 years later, I became irregular. I would go months without a cycle then had one long phase of spotting or bleeding that lasted an entire month.  My mom took me to a gynecologist, I ended up having an ultrasound reveal multiple ovarian cysts.  They did some blood work and diagnosed me with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome.  I was told this diagnosis meant I wouldn’t have regular cycles, and the birth control pill would create regularity.  The biggest downside of PCOS was a decreased chance of normal fertility.  “We will cross that bridge when we get to it” the doctor told me.

The Magic Pill

Oh, birth control pills.  I was regular for the remainder of high school, but when I had to start paying the co-pay out of my pocket in college (instead of mom’s) I stopped taking them.  In February of my freshman year, I thought I had appendicitis and went to the ER expecting to need surgery.  No, they ordered a transvaginal ultrasound which was SO PAINFUL, must have been lousy techs.  I’ve had several during pregnancy that caused no discomfort.  Again, multiple cysts.  They gave me a few packs of pills and Tylenol3 and told me to rest for a few days.

I stayed on those pills for until I was dropped from insurance, the curse of being a full time student at age 23.  It was a few years before I had a job that provided insurance, so I was off the pill from age 23-25.  When I got insurance again, I started taking them.  Of course it was new brand and I didn’t really read the pages of warnings, information and instructions.  I began having mysterious headaches that they couldn’t diagnose.  I had an MRI, no information.  I wasn’t able to drive because if the headache hit I would lose my vision.  They were so strange.  My mom read my pill warnings which clearly stated that headaches could be a side effect.  I stopped taking the pills and within a week my headaches were gone.

Holistic Efforts

By this point, I had done enough PCOS research to know that a low-carb diet and weight lifting exercise could keep the symptoms of PCOS in check just as effectively as the pill, without compromising fertility.  I wasn’t ready to have a baby, and I wanted to control my symptoms as naturally as possible.  I began having acupuncture about one time a week and in that first year of acupuncture treatments I had 8 cycles in a year.  Normally, that would have been 3 or 4 times a year.

So, why do I share all these gory details? I share it because although PCOS is not a predictor of lactation failure, there are strong correlations for many women.

Insufficient Glandular Tissue can be caused by or correlated to a many factors, including these three:

  1. PCOS/ irregular menstruation. My hormones were not functioning effectively enough to stimulate regular ovulation.  Therefore it makes sense that they didn’t function effectively enough to produce normal amounts of glandular tissue with each cycle.
  2. Poor Diet, leads to insulin resistance.  Insulin Resistance affects reproductive hormones.  I wish I had the time to post more detailed information about this.  Essentially, most of my life I ate non-nutritive carbohydrate dense meals.  Spaghetti with factory made marinara, cereal, cereal and more cereal, macaroni and cheese.  I rarely ate foods with protein, and consumed multiple daily servings of low-fat dairy products.
  3. Environmental Factors, BPA exposure has been linked to mammary issues in rodents, including mammary hypoplasia.  We know BPA is used to line canned foods, and plastic bottles.  Recently there has been backlash and fewer companies use BPA in their products, BPA is linked to a host of endocrine trouble.  I would say I had significant exposure to BPA as I mainly ate Spaghettio-s and ChefBoy-Ar-Dee Ravioli as a kid.

Now, what came first the chicken? or the egg?  Did I have Insulin Resistance before puberty causing PCOS?  Did they just go hand in hand?  I don’t know. Clearly, they all fit together in my health history.

Because of that I can understand that my body has milk-making limitations. This helps me accept those limitations, it helps me plan for the future.  It helps me make better choices for my children.  It makes me passionate about sharing the truth that “lactation failure” does not equal “mama failure.”

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