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Breast Budding in Girls

It’s an exciting time for your daughter when her breasts finally start growing. And often an anxious time, with lots of worries. Often, the child is embarassed to talk about their concerns: How big will they get, will they look good, and is anything wrong with mine? So here is the basic information you will need to talk to your daughter about her breast development.

The development of tender breast “buds” is usually the first sign of puberty in girls. Some girls notice breast growth as early as age 7 or 8, while others don’t start until age 13 or so. The timing is determined by your own biologic “clock” that tells your body to start producing high levels of female hormones. Breasts go through five “stages” of growth over the next five to six years, until their full maturity is reached by age 17 or 18. The final size of a girl’s breasts is determined by heredity and can range from very small (like bra size AA) to very full (such as size EE). Breast size varies greatly among women, and all sizes and shapes are normal and healthy.

The breast made up of milk glands and ducts, connective tissue and fat. In teenagers and young women the breast tissue is firm and dense, and then becomes softer and more fatty with age. There is no muscle tissue in the breast, which is why there are no exercises to make them bigger. However, the pectoral muscles that lie underneath the breasts can be firmed up to provide lift and shape (think of the “pecs” on male body builders.) Since the breasts do contain lots of fat cells, women will notice their bra size increases with weight gain.

Nature designed a woman’s breast to produce milk for her baby. In our society however, the breast is often viewed as a symbol of femininity and sexual attractiveness, so it is normal for a young woman to have lots of questions about her breasts.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

My breasts are starting to grow. They hurt and are very tender. They also itch a lot and I’m getting red stretch marks. How long will this last?
What you are experiencing is very normal. Hormones cause your breasts to start “budding,” and the new tissue is very tender at first. Because the skin is stretching, it may also itch. Usually the pain and itching last less than a year (even though your breasts will continue to grow over five to six years.) It sounds like it’s time to get your first bra, which will protect the tender new breast growth and help minimize any pain. Any time the skin expands rapidly, the delicate underlying tissue can tear, causing thin scars (stretch marks) to form. The marks are pink or reddish at first, but they will fade and become pale or skin colored in about a year or so. There is no evidence that any treatment will prevent the stretch marks of puberty, but many women like to moisturize the skin with creams containing cocoa butter, vitamin E, vitamin K or aloe vera.

Is breast size hereditary? I heard it is, but I’m nowhere near the size of my mom.
Yes, breast size is primarily determined by heredity. However, genetics can be very complicated, and the genes for your breast size may have come not just from your mom, but also from your father’s side, or from more distant relatives you don’t even know. So many girls will have a breast size different from their mother or their sisters. Remember that breasts are normal whether small, large or in between.

When do your breasts stop growing?
Your breasts usually continue to grow for about four years after your first period. But what we mean medically by breast “growth” can be very subtle. Breast tissue develops through five “stages” during puberty. Stage 1 is the flat, childhood chest. Stage 2 is breast “budding”, when the nipples swell and become tender. In Stage 3, breast tissue enlarges from gland and fat development. Young teens usually start their first period about this time. During Stage 4, the breasts may change only in contour (shape) rather than size, and the nipples protrude. Then in Stage 5, breast growth is completed. By age 17 or 18 you’ll know your final breast size.

I want my breasts grow bigger. Is there anything I can do to make them grow faster without surgery?
No, there is nothing you can do to make your breasts grow bigger or faster than nature intends. Don’t be misled by advertisements for special creams or “natural” herbs or supplements. If you read the fine print, you’ll see “results vary with individuals” or “works until full maturity is reached” – meaning they won’t do anything more than your own genetics have already pre-determined.

My breasts are too big. Are there exercises I can do to reduce them?
There are no exercises you can do to reduce breast size. Your breasts are made up mostly of glandular and fat tissue, rather than muscle, so exercising won’t help. A common side effect mentioned by teens with very full breasts is back pain. Sometimes this is due to hunching forward in an effort to hide the size of your breasts, so practicing good posture and doing stretching exercises to strengthen your back muscles will help minimize the pain. You might also visit the undergarment section of the best department store in your town, and ask for help selecting a correctly fitted good support bra. Since there are a few rare medical conditions that can cause explosive breast growth, if you haven’t had a health check-up recently, make an appointment with your doctor. An annual physical examination is recommended for all girls your age, and this would be a good opportunity to ask any questions you have about your development. Eventually if your breast size continues to be a problem for you, your doctor can refer you to a breast surgeon who can discuss the pros and cons of breast-reduction surgery.

One of my breasts is bigger than the other. Is this normal?
Yes, it is completely normal to have one breast be a different size from the other. Many young teens will notice this while their breasts are growing during puberty, and often it will even out with time. But about 25% of adult women will continue to have persistent visible difference in their breast sizes (this is called asymmetry.) If one breast is growing markedly larger than the other, see your pediatrician for a check-up. Otherwise it is natural and nothing to worry about.

My breasts have been sore lately and my nipples are getting bigger. Is this another one of those stages my body is going through or is something wrong?
Breast tenderness and changes in the nipples and areola are commonly caused by hormone stimulation. Early puberty is the first time to usually notice this. Pregnancy is another typical time when this happens. The hormones in birth control pills may also be the cause. Many other drugs can also cause breast tenderness, including antidepressants, marijuana and many street drugs. Tell your doctor about the breast changes you are noticing, and ask if the pill or some other condition may be the explanation.

Reprinted with permission from TeenGrowthTM.


As a reminder, this information should not be relied on as medical advice and is not intended to replace the advice of your child’s pediatrician. Please read our full disclaimer.

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