Growing breasts is just a normal part of being a girl, but for something so normal, breast development can raise a lot of questions.
“When will they grow?”
“When will they stop growing?”
“Are mine normal?”
From all the questions that girls ask us about breast development, it’s obvious that this part of growing up can be exciting, worrisome, and even annoying – all at the same time! It’s exciting because growing breasts means you are growing up and your body is doing what it is supposed to do. The worrisome parts can be made a lot better by understanding what’s normal and what to expect. And the annoying part? Well, having breasts takes a little getting used to, but there are some things you can do to make them less bothersome.
How they start
When your breasts begin to grow, you might not SEE the growth as much as you FEEL it. Your nipples can be sore or tender to touch. Often, it’s just one side. That means things are starting!
If you notice pain in or behind your nipple, you might also be able to feel a firm bump underneath it. The bump is called a breast bud and it can be as small as a blueberry or a little bigger. The bump under your nipple will make the dark skin that surrounds the nipple (called the areola, uh REE oh la), look puffy or bigger. The combination of your nipple, areola and the bump underneath it is called a breast bud. That’s how it all begins – with a bud.
It’s perfectly normal for one or both buds to hurt or feel tender. Once the budding begins, your breasts will go through growth spurts just like the rest of your body does. As your breasts go through those growth spurts, you will probably have pain or tenderness again. Just like you can have growing pains in your legs, your breasts will have some growing pains too.
If your nipples feel sensitive or raw, make sure you wear soft fabrics over them. Sometimes, even t-shirts can feel too rough against sore nipples. If your breasts hurt when you run or move, a regular bra can help, but a sports bra can do a better job of holding your breasts snuggly to your body so they don’t jiggle when you’re active. And if they still hurt, it can help to place a warm (not hot!) heating pad or cloth over them.
Even when your breasts have been growing for a couple of years, you might still get some “growing pains.” And just like you need bigger clothes as your body grows, you need bigger bras as your breasts grow. A well-fitting bra is important for your comfort, so make sure you get help finding the right fit. Believe it or not, there are actually expert bra fitters in some department stores and stores that specialize in underwear and bras.
It’s also perfectly normal to have a bud on just one side. Sometimes both of your breasts will “bud” together, but usually, one side starts first, then the other side starts a few weeks to a few months later and catches up in size. Don’t be surprised if one breast stays a little larger than the other. That’s normal. Our bodies aren’t exactly the same on each side. Just like one foot is usually a tiny big bigger than the other, one breast is usually a little different than the other. Once your breasts are finished growing, they will be pretty close to the same size.
Bumps and Lumps?
When breasts buds form, some girls worry that the knot or lump under the nipple is a sign of breast cancer. It’s important to know how your breasts grow so you don’t worry. Breast buds are not cancer, and breast cancer doesn’t happen when you are a pre-teen or teen. In fact, it is very very rare for breast cancer to happen to anyone under the age of 30.
There are other breast lumps and bumps that you might notice as you develop. Some girls will grow small bumps (a little bigger than a pimple) on the areola. These are glands that make oils to keep your nipples soft. They arenormal, but not all girls have them.
There may also be smaller bumps (the size of goosebumps) with thick, curly hairs growing out of them. Some girls, especially those with darker hair, will grow hairs around the areola. The bumps that the hairs grow out of are called hair follicles, and they are normal, too. Some girls have them, some don’t.
Once your breasts have grown beyond buds, you may find that your breast tissue feels lumpy all over. And guess what? Don’t worry. Normal breasts have tiny lumps everywhere. They are made of glands that are tiny, but you can feel them. You know how cottage cheese has little lumps throughout? Normal breast tissue is kind of like that – little, soft lumps all over that you can’t see through the skin, but you can barely feel.
During puberty, you will do some pretty fast growing. Sometimes your body grows so fast that your skin has trouble stretching fast enough to keep up. When that happens, you might see “stretch marks.” Stretch marks start as red to purple lines on the skin, and eventually fade to a more natural skin color. They are most common on breasts and hips. You can’t totally stop stretch marks, but a bra that fits well can help prevent them from being worse.
Early and Late blooming
It’s normal for breasts to start growing as young as eight years old or as late at twelve. If you’re on the young side, it can seem like they are growing too fast, too soon. Just because you develop early doesn’t mean your breasts will keep growing and be giant. And if you are the last one of your friends to grow breasts, it doesn’t mean they will be small. Breast size is determined by what you inherit from your mom’s family and your dad’s family, not by your age. The timing of your development also depends on your ancestors. Either way, being the one of the first or last to develop can feel awkward.
With all this growing and changing, it’s important to remember that your body knows what to do and will do it at the right time for you. Throughout your preteen and teen years, you will continue to grow and change shape. Remember that you will grow on your own schedule and you will have your own unique look and shape. Do your best to trust your body and take care of it so it can help you accomplish lots of great things.