Breast development in puberty
In girls, puberty typically starts at the ages between 8 and 14 years old.
In certain conditions, some girls start way earlier or way later than that. But for girls with a normal growth and development curve, puberty will start during their middle school or high school years.
During puberty, there is a natural increase in the hormone estrogen in the body. This is the hormone responsible for the dramatic changes that you are experiencing during adolescence, including your growing breasts. You may notice a lot more changes happening in your body, but breast development is usually the first thing you and everyone else would take note of.
As your body develops, your breasts will normally be the first noticeable change during puberty. It starts with a small mass under your nipples, like a mound or a nub, then they will gradually grow as you get older. Once you feel that you are ready to wear a bra, ask a parent or guardian to help you choose the most comfortable underwear.
Normal teen breasts: what do they look like?
At their early stages, small nubs or lumps are called breast buds. This change typically happens when you are between 8 to 13 years old and will continue to progress until you are fully matured. Normally, full breast maturation will take up to three to five years.
When your breasts start to bud, you will notice a firm bump underneath your nipple. Your areola may also grow bigger along with the nipple itself. You can choose not to wear a bra if you are not comfortable with it yet, as early budding breasts are not typically noticeable under clothes.
Puberty breast development stages
Breast development during puberty occurs in stages. In this section, we will discuss these stages along with the changes that you can expect with each:
- First stage. In the first stage (during childhood) the breasts are flat.
- Early breast development. Breast development usually occurs two to three years before a girl’s first menstruation. This is characterized by the appearance of breast buds. During this stage, the nipple and surrounding area (called the areola) start to expand. Breast tissue starts to develop and the breasts are hardly noticeable and hard to the touch.
- Breast enlargement. The breasts start to enlarge into a conical shape at first, then into a rounder shape. In this stage, the areola darkens and expands while the nipples may grow more pointed.
Breast size and shape vary from girl to girl. The size of your breasts will largely depend on genetics, meaning that if your mom has big breasts, then you have a good chance of developing big breasts as well. Nevertheless, it is important to make sure you take care of your breasts at such a critical time like puberty. In this stage, breasts are continuously growing, and neglecting to manage them may cause you problems.
Large-breasted teens may find it difficult to manage their growing breasts, while small-breasted teens may not be satisfied with their growth.
Puberty breast development is a natural process, and there isn’t much you can do to influence it. Let’s dive into why some breast-changing methods may or may not work.
Pills and creams
Catchy ads for some creams and pills often claim they can make breasts bigger or smaller. However, this is far from the truth and might even be unsafe for your health. Unapproved pills and creams may contain chemicals that are not safe on the skin and your health in general, so using them is highly discouraged.
No form of massage can affect the size of breasts. If you overdo it, it might even hurt or irritate your skin and nipples.
Breasts are mainly made up of fatty tissue rather than muscle, so exercise won’t affect breast development. However, a toned body may give you more confidence, so feel free to exercise anyway!
Losing or putting on weight may affect breast size, but it doesn’t always do so.
Girls put on weight naturally in their teenage years. It’s essential to have a certain percentage of body fat, so this shouldn't cause any concerns. Just like other parts of your body, breasts contain fatty tissue. That's why gaining weight may increase the size of the breasts, and losing weight might make your boobs a bit smaller.
Sleeping on your front
Sleeping on your front won’t affect how teenage breast development or make them smaller. However, if your breasts are feeling sore you might find it more comfortable to sleep on your back or side.
Sleeping in a bra
Sleeping in a bra has its own pros and cons, but it's definitely not known to improve breast size or shape. Some girls may feel more comfortable sleeping in a bra rather than without, but it is usually recommended to wear a light bra without an underwire when you go to sleep. because this way your breasts are not compressed and blood circulation is good.
Resorting to surgery to improve size or shape of the breasts is not an option for underage girls. According to the FDA, breast augmentation surgery is not recommended before 18 years old, and breast implants have a minimum appropriate age of 22.
Most girls will experience tenderness or pain on their growing breasts, particularly in the nipple area. Don’t worry, these growing pains are perfectly normal in teen breast development and can be managed with the right bra. It is important that you ask your mom or an older woman to help you choose the correct size and style of bra for the best comfort, especially if you are experiencing soreness on your breasts.
On the other hand, many girls ask the question: can teenagers get breast cancer? It is unlikely that women under 30 years old would develop breast cancer. Breast cancer in teens is extremely rare. However, as you are growing up, it is recommended that you do regular breast examinations for lumps.
When should you see a doctor?
Lumps in developing breasts are normal. If you feel a hard lump underneath your breasts that causes you concern, go to your doctor or a school nurse. Most likely, there is nothing wrong, but it is also good to check for any benign lumps.
Benign lumps are non-cancerous lumps that can be removed through surgery. If you feel a lump under your breasts that is somewhat suspicious, speak to your mom immediately so that you can go to a physician for checking.
If you notice your breast buds poking through your shirt, it may be time to get your first training bra. A training bra can ease the pain associated with breast development while making you feel super comfortable. Training bras are typically made out of soft cotton without cups, which are very easy to wear.
Girls who have developed further should consider getting a soft cup bra. These are similar to training bras but have soft cups to keep your breasts comfortably in place. However, it is not recommended to get bras with underwires and other complicated “grown-up” bras. Choose a bra that will still be comfortable and not make the growing pains any worse.
As the growth of your breasts continues, you can choose more appropriate bras that would fit you while still being comfortable. Remember not to get bras that are too small as these could constrict your chest and prevent proper growth of breasts. On the other hand, bras that are too big may be awkward to wear and can be more noticeable through clothes.
Your breasts getting bigger may be exciting and embarrassing at the same time. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that this process is perfectly normal and every girl goes through it at some point in their life. All the dramatic changes in your body may make you feel self-conscious and uncomfortable about your appearance, but learning how to handle these pubescent changes is the best way to go.
If you are feeling self-conscious due to teasing at school or you’re not that comfortable with the size of your breasts, go to a trusted adult that you can speak these sensitive matters with. Your mom, your aunt, a big sister-- talk to them about your problems, how you feel, and how they can help you be more comfortable with the process. Remember, it is best to let out your emotions rather than keeping them bottled up.
Bottom line is that handling breast changes all comes down to your support system. If things are getting a little too overwhelming, find the courage to reach out, even if you think it’s embarrassing. Make sure you don’t handle puberty without the help of your family since these years are some of the most formative times of your life.
Puberty is a huge change that affects us physically, emotionally, and mentally. With the onset of puberty, girls experience drastic changes in their bodies due to hormonal changes. Some of the most notable are: wider hips, narrower waist, body hair, increased sweating, acne, height, and weight increase, and most noticeably — breast development.
If you find your breasts beginning to grow, it may be time to learn more about the changes happening in your body. We hope that this article gave you enough insight into the physiological changes that happen during puberty, as well as the ways on how you can manage it with the help of your trusted family members.