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Breast Development

Breast development happens in stages during a woman's life: first before birth, again at puberty,

and later during the childbearing years. Changes also happen to the breasts

during the menstrual cycle and when a woman reaches menopause.

When Does Breast Development Begin?

Breasts begin to form while the unborn baby is still growing in the mother’s uterus. By the time a baby is born, nipples and the beginnings of the milk-duct system have formed. It is not uncommon for a newborn baby of either sex to secrete a tiny amount of milk from their nipple/s. Often referred to as witch's milk or neonatal milk, the secretion is considered a normal physiological occurrence and no treatment or testing is necessary.

What Changes Happen at Puberty?

As a girl reaches puberty, the first visible signs of breast development start to show. When the ovaries start to produce and release (secrete) estrogen, fat in the connective tissue starts to build up. This causes the breasts to enlarge. The duct system also starts to grow. Often, pubic and underarm hair also appear at this time.

Once ovulation and menstruation start, the breasts begin to mature and glands form at the end of the milk ducts. The breasts and duct system continue to grow and mature with the development of many glands and lobules. The rate of breast growth varies and is different for each young woman. Generally, there are 5 stages of breast development in girls.

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Female Breast Developmental Stages

Stage 1     Preteen. Only the tip of the nipple is raised.

Stage 2     Buds appear, and breast and nipple are raised. The dark area of skin around the nipple (the areola) gets larger.

Stage 3     Breasts are slightly larger, with glandular breast tissue present.

Stage 4     The areola and nipple become raised and form a second mound above the rest of the breast.

Stage 5     Mature adult breast. The breast becomes rounded and only the nipple is raised. 

Common Breast Conditions in Teens

As the breasts develop, problems like lumps or infections can sometimes occur. These problems can be alarming. But they are common and rarely serious.

Normal and Nothing to Worry About

Below are some things you may feel concerned about. But these are not problems. Everyone develops at there own unique pace and everyone is shaped differently, you are perfectly normal: 

  • Early or late breast development. The breasts begin to develop at the start of puberty, around age 9 or 10. But this can vary, and some girls develop later or earlier. 

  • One breast larger than the other (asymmetry). Girls commonly have one breast that develops faster than the other. It's also common and normal for girls and women to have one breast that is larger than the other. The difference can be as much as a bra cup size or more. 

  • Small or large size. Breasts come in all shapes and sizes. There is almost no size that is considered abnormal. If breasts fail to develop at all, or if they are so large they are causing neck or back issues, talk to a trusted adult or your healthcare provider. 

  • Breast pain around periods. It's common for breasts to become sore before or during menstrual periods. This is due to hormone changes and is not a cause for concern. Gentle massage with healing balms and encouraging the flow of the lymphatic system to move excess fluids can be helpful.

Other Common Conditions

The following are breast conditions that are fairly common in teens. They cause symptoms that may be worrisome. But they are not serious. In many cases, they don’t even need treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider or trusted adult if you have signs of any of these. 

  • Fibroadenomas. These are smooth, solid lumps of fibrous tissue in the breasts. They are not cancer (benign), and are harmless. Fibroadenomas may come and go around periods. If you have a lump, your healthcare provider can confirm whether it is a fibroadenoma. Many women using The Breast Care Routine have reported a reduction of fibroadenomas with regular practice. Check out our guide here

  • Fibrocystic breast changes. This is the development of fluid-filled sacs in the breasts. They make the breast feel lumpy, tender, or painful. They are not cancer. And they don’t make a girl more likely to get breast cancer. Reducing the amount of caffeine, alcohol and unhealthy fats in your diet may help, as this will reduce the load on your liver which is the organ that processes excess hormones. Again we get lots of great feedback from women who have found relief from this condition by practicing The Breast Care Routine here.

  • Infection. Infection is the growth of harmful bacteria. Infection of breast tissue is possible, especially if you feel a bit embarrassed to get a cut or sore on your breast cared for. Symptoms of infection include redness, warmth, red lines on the skin, or the skin feeling sore. You may also have a fever. If you're showing signs of an infection speak to a trusted adult or call your healthcare provider. Treatment with antibiotics may be needed.

When to Call Your Healthcare Provider

Speak to a trusted adult or call your healthcare provider if you have any of the following: 

  • Signs of breast infection

  • Nipple discharge

  • New lumps, or lumps that grow or are painful 

  • Breast pain that doesn’t go away with the menstrual cycle 

  • No breast development by age 16

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