Dear Dr. Cara: My young daughter is developing breasts, what do I do?

Dear Dr. Cara: My young daughter is developing breasts, what do I do?

Our expert: Dr. Cara Natterson

Our resident expert on all things girls. She’s a board certified pediatrician, author of the best-selling book series The Care and Keeping of You, and travels the country speaking about health and wellness issues to both kids and parents.

My daughter is only 8 and she’s starting to develop breasts, what do I do?

First of all, it’s normal. Today, girls develop breasts a lot earlier than they used to.

Girls enter puberty about 1 – 2 years sooner than their mom’s generation, which means that breasts appear at younger ages & so do mood swings & body odor too.

Interestingly, periods are not starting a whole lot sooner: the average age is still around 12-and-a-half (it was about 12-and-three-quarters 30 years ago). So the very best thing you can do is to take a breath and realize that this is the new normal. And then the next best thing to do is to reassure your daughter. Trust me, you aren’t the only one who has noticed. She is well aware of what is going on with her chest!

As breasts begin to develop, a firm lump called a breast bud appears under the nipple. It is about the size and shape of a small stack of dimes. Breast buds often appear on one side first, so many girls worry that this “lump” could be breast cancer. Sometimes growing breasts itch or ache or feel very sensitive against clothing. This is all entirely normal. Reassure your daughter. Ask her if she has any questions about her body and, if she doesn’t volunteer, then find a way to gently tell her that her two breasts are going to grow over many years. Eventually they will be the same size but, in the beginning, they don’t necessarily start out that way.

Because most girls are self-conscious about their breast development, it really makes a difference to help your daughter choose clothing that doesn’t accentuate her new body parts. You might want to encourage her to switch from tight fitting tops to looser ones, or to wear a camisole or undershirt underneath. The goal is to make her feel good about herself, not ashamed about her new breasts. Tell her this – she will feel relieved.

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