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Insert Witty Title About Deformed Breasts Here

My worth isn’t defined by my breasts, it shouldn’t be defined by my breasts but in little ways, I do let my breasts define my worth. Breasts tend to be seen as a defining characteristic of what makes a woman a woman, so when breasts are deformed, it isn’t a very big leap to somehow feel … You know what? I don’t think it’s a big leap to see where that sentence was going.

Women are embracing their breasts, embracing their bodies and I look at mine, and feel like I should apologize. That despite this deformity being outside of my control, I am somehow “letting the side down.” So. Yes. My breasts are deformed. The longer version of that is: I have tubular hypoplastic breasts. Small mercies, it is not right at the most severe end of the scale, but it is very much there and very much an issue. First, a brief tour of tubular breast deformity and hypoplastic breasts?

Sometimes a woman’s breasts do not develop “normally” during puberty. Abnormal development can affect one or both breasts. Examples of abnormal breast development include:

  • complete failure of breast tissue development (amastia)
  • marked under-development (hypoplastic growth)
  • marked asymmetry (unevenness) of size
  • abnormal development of contour and shape. For example, tubular breasts (where early growth is limited, resulting in unusually small, drooping and uneven breasts).

(Source.)

 

What are the visual markers of hypoplastic breasts? In a study of 34 mothers by Kathleen Huggins, et al. (2000), the researchers found a correlation between the following physical characteristics and lower milk output:

  • widely spaced breasts (breasts are more than 1.5 inches apart)
  • breast asymmetry (one breast is significantly larger than the other)
  • presence of stretch marks on the breasts, in absence of breast growth, either during puberty or in pregnancy
  • tubular breast shape (“empty sac” appearance)

Additional characteristics that may indicate hypoplasia are:

  • disproportionately large or bulbous areolae
  • absence of breast changes in pregnancy, postpartum, or both

Hypoplastic breasts may be small or large. It is breast shape, placement, and asymmetry that indicate hypoplasia – not necessarily size. Normal-sized breasts that are lacking glandular tissue may be made up of fatty tissue that will sufficiently fill a bra cup.

(Source.)

I always knew my breasts weren’t quite right, but girls are always told that all breasts are normal. I ended up feeling like a freak. It wasn’t until after I had my son that I learned what that deformity was, and even then it was by chance. A television programme about cosmetic surgery was on, I hadn’t been paying attention but my husband had noticed and pointed out that they were just like mine. Things to be learnt from this? Number one: my husband has always been wonderful about my breasts (strange, I know) and my insecurity about them. Number two: once I had something I could search, I did just that. I learned a lot. And cried. A lot.

The world seems to be past the point of burning bras, but I see calls to reject underwires and the various forms of padding. But without these, I would have little shape and I’d be unable to have an ordinary appearance. Finding a bra that fitted ““ truly, properly fitted ““ has always been a living hell. As a teen, the discovery of underwired bras was wonderful, as was that of the plunge bra. But even then, a bra never fit perfectly because, as it transpired, my breasts were deformed, missing tissue that “should” have been there, so I was never going to properly fit a bra.

Breastfeeding is another issue, too. We are implored to embrace our bodies and what incredible feats they can achieve, to acknowledge what women’s bodies have been doing for millennia, what We Were Meant To Do. And I think, quietly, “Do you know how fortunate you are to have ordinary breasts?” I am a traitor to many a cause for feeding my son formula milk. Despite a beginning that included my breasts not changing, or becoming engorged after birth, I breastfed our son for a year, before every formula feed, and yet my breast milk was never more than a minor top up to his formula. I did this for several reasons which generally stem back to the idea that if a woman is not producing enough milk, she isn’t trying hard enough. The idea that women may have breast deformities is promoted by many as a myth. For some reason, breasts are these magical body parts imbued with super strength unicorn glitter and therefore incapable of being anything other than normal. Breasts are, apparently, infallible. And I have cried so many times because of these beliefs. Yet I can see how fortunate I am, my body was able to produce … something, I was able to have something of that experience to feed my child.

It might seem strange that I haven’t had links throughout this article, when there is a lot of information out there but it’s in bits and pieces. So my suggestion, if wanting to find out more, is to hunker down with something yummy and spend an hour or so surfing the net. However, I am going to leave a few links that are helpful and good stepping stones.

From the La Leche League, a very good resource about hypoplastic breasts: Supporting mothers with mammary hypoplasia

Breast size and breastfeeding (this link contains pictures of breasts and is NSFW), is another article that looks at breastfeeding and discusses the link with PCOS, the sources they list are worth checking out, too.

By Juniper

Rarely to be found without herbal tea nearby. Team Unicorn. Often in pyjamas. Also: TEAM KATNISS!

14 replies on “Insert Witty Title About Deformed Breasts Here”

This article and the comments make me feel a lot of … feelings. Anger mostly, but what’s new.

Breastfeeding: To the moms who get to do it and advocate it and tell everyone what’s best: Can you see how privileged you are??? Aside from the fact that a lot of moms (like my own) had to go back to work at jobs where the couldn’t pump several times a day, there are several other reasons and conditions, like the one you mentioned, why women can’t breast feed. I just wish more women would recognize that having a health baby, being able to breast feed and bond with it was a privilege, and not go around preaching about how it’s best. It’s just one way of being a mom, not the best for everyone.

Bras: while I don’t have this condition, I have problems with bras too. I’ve been meaning to write a post about it, but long story short, I’m a 32D and I can’t find a freaking bra in my size in a freaking store to save my life. I have a lot to say about it, but I will spare you for now. You’ve certainly made me realize how lucky I am to fit in the spectrum of “normal” as dictated by underwear companies. Bras in my size exist, even if they are elusive.

That terrible evil twin of the AHA moment that comes along with realizing you have an “abnormal” condition: A similar moment happened to me over the summer, in which I realized that I’ve probably had the learning difficulty/disability dyspraxia for most of my school going days and never knew until I was 21 and a senior in college. It changed the way I looked at every aspect of my life, as in so many things about my life made more sense in hindsight, with dyspraxia in mind. And I cried. A lot. And I had a lot of resentment for my elementary school teachers, my parents, etc. But in the end it’s not their fault that the medical community has a blanket idea of what a learning difficulty is. You either have dyslexia or ADHD. Or you have apsergers syndrome. And with LDs like dyspraxia that are less clear cut,  feature some over lap with these other disorders, they throw up their hands and often times even refuse to recognize it. I’m in the process to apply for grad school and I’m trying to decide if getting tested and diagnosed is worth it, because many schools don’t recognize LDs diagnosed after high school.

Anyways, sorry for ranting about myself so much. My intention was definitely not to derail you, but kind of commiserate on the feelings associated with feeling abnormal because of a medical condition.

Not derailment at all, it’s really interesting to hear about other women’s struggles with their breasts. Commiseration definitely has its place, too! I’d really like to hear the longer version of your rant about finding bras, too, it’s an important topic!

Wow, thank you for this – now I know what’s up with my breasts.

Most of the time I don’t really care ’cause that’s how my breasts have always been, so whatever, but I remember when I was younger, my mom would make comments (like say she thought the smaller one had grown some and stuff), and it was just… yeah. She didn’t mean it in a mean way, but it made me really self-conscious. Changing with friends typically wasn’t too bad, though there was one time where one of my friends said it looked like “one of them ate the other one,” so… yeah.

Anyway, I kinda have a love/hate relationship with my breasts, but I think understanding what’s up with my body will be a big step towards accepting myself more. That and, now that I know a plunge bra may help, I’ll definitely look into it! I, too, can only go underwire.

Sorry for talking about myself so much, but I guess I just want to let you know that I really relate to this and I think this article is something I really needed to read. Thank you, again.

No need to be sorry, at all! I think it does make a difference to know there are other people out there experiencing something similar and most definitely, I would describe my relationship with my breasts as love/hate. It’s a difficult one, but i’m getting there. At the moment, I just want to get to a point where i’m at peace with it. And plunge bras, what i’ve found is that where they’d give ‘ordinary’ breasts a boost, they give mine a more natural shape.

Thanks for this piece.

It also highlights the almost-total lack of research on this (and corresponding lack of research on other breastfeeding problems e.g.: PCOS-related, as you point out): the study cited on the characteristics of hypoplastic breasts had 34 women in it!!  You deserve better information than that!

And that makes me angry at a system that  advocates breastfeeding as the best/the norm (which I’m not arguing with, at all) but then often fails to offer the support, information and research for women to be able to do it, sabotages them, and blames them when they ‘fail’.

I’ve never been pregnant or breastfed, but what I’ve heard from friends and relatives is that the medical system here (Ireland) tells them “breast is best” but there is very little education available, and a lot of misinformation that meant they gave up earlier than they wanted to or they suffered for longer than they needed to with problems like thrush or mastitis. And these are women who (as far as I know) didn’t have any additional physiological issues that made breastfeeding more challenging than the norm, like you did. Makes me so enraged! That, plus the almost-total lack of research, all adds up to tell women, Your woman-problems aren’t important.

I’m just across the water in Scotland, and yes, it’s “breast is best” here, too. There really is very little information and, as you say, there’s misinformation, too! It’s incredible that such an important  aspect of health is so readily ignored by professionals. And once it hits the “your woman-problems aren’t important’ stage, the consequences often leaves women persecuted by the attitudes of others.

There are few things that make me as angry (like, blood rising, I’m getting a little bit shaky right now) than the way that some people think it is okay to talk about breastfeeding.  I get it.  Breastfeeding is a great way to feed your baby, and there are lots of benefits to it.  But when people start to make women feel like they are less fit as mothers, or they are being selfish, or there is NO POSSIBLE REASON that anybody would EVER USE FORMULA EVER, I get so angry I have to walk away.  This is coming from somebody who cannot for the life of her wean her almost two year old, so it’s not a sour grapes thing.  It’s a “FFS, every parent makes decisions in the best way that they can given their circumstances, and there is NO room for ANYBODY to feel like a choice that they made makes them perfect or makes others inferior.”

crap, I’m starting to ramble and be incoherent, because this makes me SO ANGRY.

And I’m really sorry you felt the fallout from those jerks.

It is definitely incredible the way some people feel it is acceptable to talk about breastfeeding. I have been exceedingly fortunate that family (where all the women breastfed, too) and friends have been fantastic and supportive. But when the wider beliefs are so … enraging, it’s difficult. What I try to do is simply ‘spread the word’ in the hope that it goes part of the way to helping change. But when many breastfeeding organisations perpetuate these myths, it’s hard and in fact, it’s staggering the number of breastfeeding counsellors who believe it, too!

Can only send good wishes with your two-year-old, with Juniper Junior, I ‘just stopped’. I had fed him for a year and I simply couldn’t do it any longer.

Holy crap, you have blown my mind. First of all, I wrote a piece a few months ago about getting rid of my underwires and I am sorry if it made you sad. Second of all, apparently I am deformed as well. I had no idea. I read the descriptions above and googled some images and that is definitely me. It is a very weird feeling.

On the one hand, I now know why bras never fit right. I tend to get slightly smaller cup sizes that will mash my boobs into shape (this is probably one of the reasons underwires end up poking into me).  I also feel somewhat justified for all the times I have thought my boobs looked weird.

On the other hand, It pisses me off. I want to find these people and say “This is the way they grew. How dare you call me ‘deformed’ just because they aren’t round and close together?”

Like I said, it’s very weird.

No need to apologise, truly. It does sadden me in a way, because I would love to go wireless all of the time but it’s important (for me, at least) to be reminded of where I am with my breasts and reconsider how I view things. It’s an ongoing thing, for sure.

It was down right bizarre when I realised what was going on with my breasts, but yes, a lot of things made more sense: the fit of bras, of clothes, etc. Yeah, i’ve mentioned in another comment, but i’m still getting there with how I feel about them being ‘deformed’. I think it says something that my husband has a better relationship with my breast than I do.

 

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