Breast buds are often one of the first signs of impending puberty. This early development of breast tissue signals the beginning of the change from a female child's body to an adult's body. Each girl's body is as different as her personality, so development begins at a different time for each person.
Stages 1 and 2
The stages of breast development begin with a flat or nearly flat area of chest where breast tissue will eventually begin. Eventually, girls enter stage 2 of development, which is characterized by a small bud that grows under the nipple and begins to make the nipple stick out from the rest of the chest. These buds, which contain fat and gland tissue, may be about the size of a quarter and feel like small lumps. In addition to developing these raised buds, girls also have a slight increase in areola size during this stage. Interestingly, a girl may first develop a breast bud in one breast or the other; they don't always become apparent in both breasts at the same time.
Stages 3, 4, and 5
There are three breast growth stages that follow the initial appearance of breast-bud development signs. In stage three, breast tissue continues to grow, and the breast appears rounder and fuller. During stage 4, the areola and nipple become even more raised away from the chest, forming an additional mound on top of the breast. In stage 5, the final stage of growth, the mature breast is developed, becoming even more full and round.
It's difficult to predict when a child will begin to show signs of breast-bud development. Some children begin to develop when they are as young as 8, while others do not begin until 12 or 13. Every girl's development is different, and this is usually no cause for alarm. According to the Center for Young Women's Health, it's a good idea to seek a doctor's evaluation if there's no evidence of development by 13 years of age. Keep in mind, however, that girls who are heavily involved in active sports may develop later than others, and this is usually no cause for concern.
When breast buds begin to develop, a girl has entered puberty. This is the stage at which a child's body begins to change and develop into an adult's. Besides breast changes, a girl will also experience hormone level fluctuations and the beginning of her menstrual period. However, there is typically significant time between the appearance of breast buds and the beginning of a girl's periods. According to FamilyEducation.com, a girl will often begin menstruating about two years after the development of breast buds. Other signs of puberty include growth spurts, acne, hair growth under the arms and in the pubic area, and vaginal discharge.
According to the Mayo Clinic, girls typically begin puberty between the ages of 8 to 12 or 13. However, some girls may begin puberty before 8 years of age. When this occurs, it is referred to as early puberty and is marked by breast development, early menstruation and growth of underarm or pubic hair. Acne, increased body odor and growth spurts may occur as well. If your child begins developing breast buds or other signs of puberty at a young age, it's best to have her evaluated by a doctor. Early puberty has been associated with shorter heights and polycentric ovary syndrome, a condition that affects ovulation and impairs fertility. Fortunately, there are treatments for early puberty.