breast budding, early

The day may come when your preadolescent girl (perhaps eight or nine years old) confides that her breast or breasts have lumps right under the nipples that are tender to touch. This is perfectly normal. Explain to your child that she is not going into puberty just yet, but the hormone system that regulates the change from little girl to grown up woman is just having a little practice run-through. The tender lumps mean that everything is OK. The tenderness will go away soon and the lumps will eventually shrink down again as the hormone system settles back down to sleep. Normal breast development will come later.

This is also quite common in boys the same age who can be reassured of the same things and that they will definitely not develop breasts but definitely will grow up into a normal man.

The reason for this budding is exactly as you explain to your child. The breast tissue is very sensitive to low levels of the controlling hormones for puberty and sexual maturation. Little bursts of these hormones may be released several years before the actual start of puberty, and enlargement of the breast buds and tenderness are the result in some children.

Very young infants also are occasionally found to have breast buds as well, and this is assumed to be caused by high levels of maternal hormones lingering in the baby's system or passed in the breast milk. Small amounts of a milk-like fluid may ooze from the nipple; do not try to squeeze out the so-called "witch's milk" - you could cause an infection and breast abscess. It will dry up naturally in a couple of days. Naturally, if the breast of an infant were to become warm, red and infected-looking you would call your doctor immediately and not waste time on the Internet.

Very rarely persistent enlargement of the breasts may be seen in otherwise normal baby girls that persists for several years. These girls are referred to a pediatric specialist for testing but usually turn out to be normal and go through puberty at the regular time.

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