Normal Breast Development
This is a comprehensive article about breast development, especially during puberty, addressing most of the concerns that teen girls have about their breasts. It is divided into the following sections:
Breast development during puberty
See our BREAST GALLERY for more NORMAL breast pictures!
The beginnning of breast development is one of the earliest signs of puberty in girls, the appearance of pubic hair being the other. In other words, pubic hair and breast buds appear close together.
Breast development normally begins about 1 year before the mestrual period begins. The development takes several years.
Note: We regret not showing pictures of breast development during teenage years. While non-sensual material purely for instructional purposes concerning child development and without faces showing should NOT be viewed as pornography, in the interest of not offending anyone, 007b.com has chosen to keep all material safely within the specifications of laws within hosting country's specifications.
In the first stage (during childhood) the breasts are flat. Next comes the breast bud stage. In it, the nipple and breast are slightly raised as milk ducts and the fat tissue begin to form. Also, the areola begins to enlarge. The very early breast bud is something you might easily miss, because the change from flat breasts is so slight. The only difference is that the nipple area begins to look a little 'puffy'. The nipple itself is still flat.
Next, the breast itself starts to get bigger. Often this happens initially in a conical shape, and later on in a rounder shape. The areola begins to darken and get "puffier". The nipple may become erect (pointing out) now, but fairly often it remains flat through puberty and onward, and only changes to an erect nipple when a woman gets pregnant.
In these initial stages of breast development, it is the hormone estrogen that drives the development, causing fat to be deposited in the breast, and the milk ducts to grow. This is the time for the biggest growth in size.
After the girl gets her period, the ovaries start producing progesterone, and that changes things. Progesterone causes the milk glands to develop at the ends of the milk ducts. This development causes less visible growth size-wise, but is very important for the job!
Some − but not all − girls go through a stage where the nipple and the areola form a separate mound from the actual breast ("mound on mound").
The whole process from the breast bud stage till the pubertal development is over usually takes about 3-5 years, but for some girls it may take close to 10 years.
During breast growth, you may experience some pain and hurt or tenderness in your breasts. That is normal. Also, the skin may be itching, which is a sign that the skin is stretching.
During breast growth, a girl's requirement for iodine, an essential mineral, increases, because healthy breast tissue concentrates iodine (it contains more of it than the surrounding tissues). In fact, breast tissue has the second highest concentration of iodine in the body (the thyroid has the highest). The larger the girl's breasts become, the more iodine she needs.
Note also that after breast development during puberty, the breast is still NOT considered mature or fully developed. Only pregnancy brings about the fullness of breast growth and development.
The breast development can start as early as 8 years or as late as 13 years. If a girl does not have breast buds nor pubic hair, which are the first signs of puberty, by age 14, it is recommended that she see a doctor. The same is true if a girl does not get her period by age 15 — this is called delayed puberty, and there are several possible reasons for it. It is advisable to visit a doctor.
Though most of this development is over in a few years after getting your period, many girls get slightly rounder and fuller breasts in their early twenties. It is the time whey they naturally get even more feminine and mature appearance with "curves", leaving the skinny teenage look behind.
Occasionally, a girl's breasts keep growing and keep growing past the typical development timeframe, and become very large. This condition where the breasts don't stop growing is called juvenile macromastia and juvenile gigantomastia — also called virginal (or juvenile) hypertrophy of the breasts. This lady may have suffered from it.
What about those "Tanner stages"?
In medical circles, breast development is sometimes divided into five stages according to Tanner. These stages of Tanner describe the physical appearance of the breast and do NOT describe "what is going on inside", or the development of milk ducts and glands.
Every girl should have a breastfeeding doll instead of skinny barbies.
They are just some general notions of how growing breasts often look like — something that a doctor can easily observe from the outside when he needs to judge the pubertal development.
HOWEVER, since the Tanner stages only describe the outside appearance and have little do with the inside development, you should not worry about these. Women's breasts vary SO MUCH in appearance that you simply cannot apply Tanner stages to every girl's breasts.
Question about long-time breast development
It's true that usually breasts only grow 2-3 years after your period comes in. But, occasionally, here and there is a woman or girl who has some breast growth even after that time. There have even been several women, 20 to 25 years old, write in to our site who have experienced some breast growth all of a sudden at their age.
So it does happen, and not to worry. Unfortunately I don't really know when they will stop growing for you.
Question about small breasts
Quite likely, you are already done with pubertal breast development. However, like already mentioned above, some girls do experience some further breast growth outside those 3-5 years in the beginning of puberty.
Remember that the difference between the various cup sizes is mostly fat (and some connective tissue). A-cup size breasts can be just as fully developed as DD cup breasts, containing the same milk-making apparatus, but just different amounts of fatty and connective tissue.
So if your puberty started early and you are 15 now, your breasts may be fully developed by now — as fully as they can be for this time. There is nothing wrong with small breasts — they are great!
Breast development during pregnancy
Breasts grow in size considerably during pregnancy because of further growth of the milk ducts and milk-producing glands. Teenagers' breasts are mostly fat, but during pregnancy that fat gradually disappears and gives space for the milk-producing system.
Also, the areola enlargens and becomes darker, making a big contrast with the surrounding skin, as if really pointing out to the baby where the "nutrition center" is. Breasts start producing colostrum (the early milk) already during the last months of pregnancy, and are thus fully mature and ready for their job.
Breasts during breastfeeding and weaning
The baby should start nursing immediately after giving birth, receiving colostrum for a few days. Then after those few days, the so-called "mature milk" comes in. The mature milk comes in in larger quantity than colostrum, and often a woman's breasts become engorged and are at their largest at this point.
After the baby learns to nurse more, the supply of milk settles down to exactly match the demand, and a woman's breasts return to the size they were just before giving birth. During subsequent breastfeeding relationship, the breasts change size (slightly) all the time as they either are filling with milk or are being emptied by the baby. In general, they are usually about the same size as during pregnancy.
With weaning, the milk glands atrophy or shrink to almost nothing, and obviously the breasts decrease in size correspondingly. However, after the milk glands shrivel up, the body starts depositing some fat back to the breasts. Remember, at lot of the fat left the breasts during pregnancy.
If the weaning is abrupt, the breasts will dramatically decrease in size and can look like "empty balloons". If the weaning is gradual, this will not happen. At any case, eventually fat fills breasts again and the breasts will regain their pre-pregnancy size or close to it.
Changes during menopause
In menopause, the milk producing system—ducts and milk glands—shrink, and are slowly then replaced by fat (just like after weaning). Some post-menopausal women can even experience an increase in breast size. Having more fat instead of milk glands makes the breasts softer. Also, the connective tissue loses strength, which makes the breasts sag more.
Teens worry if their breasts are normal
As the following comments sent to this website show, teenagers do worry a lot about their breast size/shape/development, and many teen girls wish for bigger breasts:
First of all, it is very normal and usual for one breast to bud before the other, or the breasts to develop at different rates so that they are lopsided for a while. They usually even out eventually, so that the uneven sizes are not very noticeable. However, a big portion of adult women do have different-sized breasts; usually one is just slightly bigger than the other, or maybe has a different shape.
Secondly, many teenagers get concerned when they see their friends' breasts growing and theirs are not. There is usually absolutely NO REASON TO WORRY because the timing varies greatly from girl to girl. Some start developing breasts as early as 8 years old, some as late as 18, though in most girls the breasts start budding between 9 and 12 years. In any case, your breasts WILL develop in time for their purpose of feeding your baby!
These girls are probably describing a flat nipple. When the nipple is not erect, it is called a flat nipple. That is fairly common, and more so among teenagers. It is nothing to worry about. Most flat nipples start sticking out (become erect) during pregnancy. See also our nipple information page.
Worrying about small breasts
We have also gotten lots of requests for help from girls who have A-cup size breasts:
Actually those puffy nipples that look "normal" in the cold are flat nipples that become erect when cold... like mentioned above.
Since these girls have gotten their period already, it sounds like they are going to be small-breasted as adults. Or, if they are skinny, they may get somewhat fuller and rounder breasts later when they gain a little weight. But why is it such a catastrophe to have an A-cup as breast size? It is normal; many women have it. It only seems distressing when the media has brainwashed us into believing that "breasts make a woman" or that breast size is the main thing that makes a girl attractive to guys.
Not so. While guys usually do want to see breasts — they are often just plain curious about it, since they are kept so well hidden from their view — they are far less concerned about breast size than girls and women are! Remember, what makes a woman attractive is her general appearance, behavior, personality, attitudes, sense of humor... and that can include a lot of variety in the actual physical attributes. Please also read our page about small breasts.
Photo by joyfulabode
Worrying about large breasts
Next, if you have large breasts, it is very normal that they start 'sagging' or drooping some already during your teen years. It is a natural process that happens to everybody at some point, and there really isn't anything you can do to prevent it — for example bras won't keep breasts from sagging (except while you wear them). Below you can see what comments some teens have left on our breast gallery page about this fact. If you're teen and have sagging breasts, you are NOT alone!
Sometimes you may think you have sagging breasts when in reality you really don't, or it is very minimal. You can read What causes sagging breasts? to find out more about droopy breasts.
Breast size is largely determined by your genes. You can look to your mom and other female relatives and get somewhat of an idea of what your breast size might end up being, though this is NOT a guarantee.
This mom is nursing her newborn right after giving birth — just like all moms should!
Another factor in breast size is how skinny/fat you are. As mentioned already, breasts have a lot of fat in them. The skinnier you are, the less fat your breasts contain and smaller they are. When you gain weight (or fat) in general, some of that fat will get deposited in your breasts, so that is why overweight and obese people have bigger breasts. And if you lose weight (fat) from your body, some of that fat will be lost from your breasts, too. This explains why athletic girls often have small breasts — their body fat content is fairly small. The same is of course true for girls suffering from anorexia nervosa.
Unfortunately, when you lose weight and your breasts will be smaller, they often end up sagging more, as the skin is already stretched, but now there is less "stuff" to fill it. There is no sure way to prevent this (some nutrients might help preserve skin elasticity).
Exercise won't make breasts bigger because breasts don't have any muscles. Nor will sleeping position, wearing or not wearing bras, milk, peanuts, or any other foods — but of course it is important to eat a healthy diet so your body can develop as it is supposed to.
Photo courtesy of Beauty of Breastfeeding Calendar
There are no reliable means of increasing your breast size other than breast implants. But you should know those carry with them very serious health risks. We also have a page that answers in detail if and how you can make your breasts bigger.
Some girls end up being flat-chested — for reasons we do not know. Flat-chested girls lack the fat in breasts but they have the milk producing system in there and can breastfeed. Please read our page about being flat-chested to learn more. Being flat-chested doesn't mean you have to get worried — but if in addition you don't get your period by age 15, that can be a sign of delayed puberty.
We hope knowing these facts will ease your mind off from worrying. You may have heard or read these same facts about breast development elsewhere, too. They are commonly known and commonly noted. So the chances are you are developing just normally and there's no reason to be concerned.
Photo source Mama Fresh (www.pusteblumenbaby.de)
Your breasts are normal.
What is not normal is the society's and media's emphasis on "cleavage". It's not something women automatically have, and the only reason women are "supposed" to have cleavage is because the media makes us think that's the way to attract males... to have cleavage and of course to show it.
Breasts that point somewhat to the sides are perfectly normal. Breasts that don't have "cleavage" even with push-up bras are perfectly normal. I am not even sure if it is healthy to push and squeeze the breasts together to create cleavage.
Anorexia and breasts
Anorexia, bulimia, or severe dieting will cause the fat to disappear from breasts, and that is why breasts of an anorexic girl will look very small, or shrunken.
When such a girl is recovering and gaining weight again, fat gets deposited back to the breasts. However, it won't always be the same amount of fat as was there before.
An older baby is often distracted from nursing by whatever is going around her.
The milk ducts and glands shouldn't be affected — if they had already developed! But if anorexia hits while the breasts are growing ducts and glands, then that development will stop since the starved body will stop producing hormones that drive that growth.
With anorexia, it is hard to say how things will go afterwards. Most girls become fertile again and resume menstruation, or continue their pubertal development if it wasn't finished, but some girls never gain their menstruation and fertility back even after recovery.
The following letters show how after anorexia, breasts won't necessarily be the same size as before:
Mostly this difference compared to earlier breast size would be because the breasts now have less fat. Unfortunately, it's hard to tell if the breasts will gain their previous size, or not, and if the duct and gland development was completed. However, if and when these girls get pregnant, the breast development during pregnancy will quite likely be normal.
Why do teenagers worry so much about breasts?
But it might be worth your while still consider this one thing: WHY is it that teenage girls worry so extremely about their breasts? Is it just normal human nature? Do you worry equally much about the shape of your lips or eyes? Usually not. So something else enters the picture.
The culture that surrouds you — especially magazines, TV, music videos, Internet — has influenced your (and your friends' and your parents') thinking. The media images leave the impression that normal kind of breasts are fairly big and perky with small areola — the ones you see supermodels have. But remember that those photos in magazines are retouched — THE PHOTOS ARE NOT REAL!
Photo source Mama Fresh (www.pusteblumenbaby.de)
Hollywood has promoted a "big breast" image to the modern world — BUT it was also Hollywood that in the 1920s was promoting the flat-chested look. Women in that time tried to bind their breasts to make them look smaller.
So what you see in media does NOT reflect the reality of women's breasts! Female breast is the one body part that varies most of any body parts in size and shape. You can be smarter than to fall into this trap and think for yourself! There is NO precise rule as to what is "normal" when it comes to breasts.
The North American culture also makes breasts to be primarily a sexual body part, and does not emphasize their feeding function. Remember, breasts are for breastfeeding, and when the time comes, your baby will LOVE your milk and the closeness of being held next to mom's bosom no matter what size or shape your breasts or areola or nipple are.
The best thing to do is just try to learn to be GLAD YOU ARE YOU, instead of trying to copy other people. When/if the time comes that you find yourself a husband someday, he will hopefully fall for YOU — and not for some Hollywood stereotype!!!!!!!!
I have a daughter. She's 11 years old. She was worried because sometimes she accidentally hits her breast. What will happen to her breast? Or is it normal because she's in the puberty stage? Or it will stop growing?
Answer: When a girl's breasts are growing, they often are quite tender and sensitive even to touch. That is normal.
Hitting or bumping them is of no worry, if her breast doesn't continue hurting. Growing breasts may be tender. Therefore, bumping or hitting them can hurt more than when you are adult.
But, as long as the pain goes away, the breasts should be fine. If the pain continues, then that is a sign that something has been damaged inside the breast — but almost always the body fixes and heals such damages. Just like if you hit and hurt your toe or leg, you may get a bruise, but eventually it heals.
Hi, I am 13 years old and I have really really small breasts but I don't know what size my breasts should be at my age and I'm a bit scared that I haven't started my period and all my friends have.
There is not any specific age "X" when breast are supposed to be size "Y". You see, as adults, our breast sizes vary tremendously, so you can't say that a woman should achieve a certain breast size! All sizes are normal (well, almost all... there exists a condition where breasts get abnormally large).
What is a normal breast? How do you define NORMALCY? It is when a breast has enough milk glands in it to make enough milk for a baby. The amount of fat does NOT count! And it's the amount of fat, for the most part, that makes some breasts bigger than others. (Of course, in larger breasts, also the milk ducts are longer.)
Also, breasts ONLY develop fully during a pregnancy. During pergnancy, the milk glands grow a lot and the amount of fatty tissue is actually reduced.
Look at this lady's breasts (middle of page) — how small hers were, and how much they grew during pregnancy.
So not to worry, your breasts sound normal to me, and at any rate, they are still developing — usually up to about 2-3 years after your period has come.
This site is great! I used to think about making my breasts bigger when I was 11-13 because all my peers were going through puberty and I wasn't. I finally hit puberty at 15 and it's good to know that I'm normal. I'm 19 now and reading the messages from girls who want so badly to grow up is really heartbreaking because I remember what that felt like. JUST WAIT UNTIL YOU GROW UP!! I can't stress this enough. Please don't do anything rash. Stay safe, girls.