Many girls look forward to the first signs of breast development and view it as a sign that childhood is behind them. As a parent, that moment may seem to arrive too soon, leaving you wondering if your daughter is developing ahead of the curve. While each girl develops at her own rate, knowing what to expect and the age range when it normally occurs makes the transition into puberty easier for both of you.
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In the Beginning
Initial breast development begins before birth as the mammary ridge, the nipples and the milk duct system forms. After birth, your daughter’s breasts remain relatively unchanged until she nears puberty. At this time, a tiny swollen lump beneath the nipple begins to form, alerting your daughter that her body is about to change. These lumps, called breast buds, feel firm and are the size of a nickel. Breast buds may form simultaneously beneath both nipples, but uneven development is common, says HealthyChildren.org. Breast buds may be tender and disrupt your daughter’s sleep if she sleeps on her belly.
Time for Change
Breast buds typically appear between the ages of 9 and 10, but may occur earlier or later. Early breast development is not a concern unless it occurs before the age of 7 in Caucasian girls or before the age of 6 in African-American girls. HealthyChildren.org explains that in the United States, African-American girls reach puberty a year before their Caucasian peers. No reason for the differing ages of puberty onset in the two groups is known.
Breast development begins approximately 1.5 to 3 years before menarche, the onset of the first menstrual period. During this time, your daughter’s breasts continue to develop, as breast tissue forms and her body begins to take on the shape of an adult woman. Breast development typically ceases approximately one year after her first menstrual period, says HealthyChildren.org.
During breast bud formation, the breast often develops at different rates. One breast bud may appear weeks or months before the other. Sometimes this trend leads to uneven breast size, called asymmetrical breasts. The problem typically corrects itself within a year or two, assures HealthyChildren.org. In some cases, plastic surgery may be necessary to create symmetrical breasts.
Every Girl Reacts Differently
Girls react to the first hint of developing breasts in a variety of ways. While some delight in their emerging breasts, others are self-conscious and embarrassed by their changing body. Talk to your daughter and let her know she is developing normally, and alert her to future changes to alleviate unfounded concerns. If you haven’t done so already, discussing menses at this time prepares her for the upcoming transition from child to young woman.