Stages of Breast Development

Do you know breast growth is a step by step developmental processes and not some sudden change? Development of breast is a process that happens throughout the life of a female. In medical terminology, the process of development is called mammogenesis. This process starts way before a female is born i.e. from the womb of the mother up until menopause in adulthood.

What Is Normal Breast Development?

Stages of Breast Development

Breast buds start to occur around nine to ten years of age and is the first sign of puberty. These breast buds continue to undergo different developmental stages that result in formation of normal healthy breasts. Disturbances in these developmental stages along with the disturbance in hormones that contribute in breast formation can be alarming and needs to be consulted with the doctor. However, if there is a long delay for stage I of breast development then girl should really see a doctor. Likewise, visible changes in the size and shape of breasts in the mature period should also be taken seriously and proper advice and treatments should be sought.

Phases of Breast Development

It’s the misinterpretations of breast growth facts that mostly contaminate our perceptions about aftermaths of breast enhancement procedures; both natural and surgical.

So if you want to get the facts straight then let’s look into the five developmental stages of breasts by Tanner. He has carefully proposed this scale to track puberty changes regarding breasts. Read on to find out what’s the general scheme of changes in breast shape and sizes in your life cycle:

Stage I:


It’s the preadolescent phase. The nipples or papilla start elevating above the level of chest wall at this stage. Though there is no formation of breast tissues in this stage and the breasts remain flat. This stage is mostly seen in 8 to 13 years old but basically it depends on the personal genetic makeup of the individual. Also factors like diet and health play an important role at this developmental stage.

Stage II:


At this breast developmental stage generally the milk ducts and fat tissues start to rise. These growth changes cause the breast wall to elevate a little along with budding of nipples. There will be very slight difference apparently but tenderness and pain upon a subtle touch can mark the presence of this stage of budding. A small bud like breast is formed at this stage.

Stage III:


It’s a pre-pubertal stage. At this stage breasts become ready to allow changes of puberty phase to take their course. The fat tissues start to get bigger and form an initial conical shape of breasts which later transforms into a rounder shape. Well there are still no contours and no projection of nipples. However, the area of areola starts to darken and puffiness can be seen. This stage is marked by the appearance of small breasts like bulging on the chest wall.

Stage IV:


This developmental stage of breasts signifies the onset of puberty. The nipples and areola start to project and proper breast contours are formed. This change is mainly conducted by “estrogen” hormone. Estrogen calls forth fat tissues to grow and accumulate in the breast area along with the milk ducts. Hormone “progesterone” is also released at this stage when a girl starts menstruating. Progesterone is released by ovaries and plays an important role in the contouring and milk production, since it’s responsible for milk production. Though it doesn’t cause breasts to increase in size but it does play a role in shaping and firming the pubertal breasts at this stage by producing milk via milk glands.

Stage V:


The developmental process of breasts take 3 to 5 years from first stage to the pubertal years of development, even for some women it might take around 10 years. In the post-pubertal years the breasts continue to grow and form more fat tissues.

Mature female breasts are not only bigger in size but also their areola starts to recess and cause the nipples or papillae to bulge or extend above the breast contours. These changes mark the development of mature female breasts with visible curves. It also marks the end of previous skinny and teenage look. It can be called maturity but the fullness of breasts is only achieved during pregnancy period. In pregnancy, hormones are released to prepare the breasts for lactation stage. These hormonal changes add to the size and fullness of breasts, making the breasts look more curvy and full.

Breasts mark the feminine beauty. Knowledge about breast growth stages can allow you to be conscious about any changes and support proper growth through nutrition, exercise and healthy lifestyle.

What Changes Normally Occur During Menstrual Cycle?

Changes in the texture of breast are reported during menstrual cycle, these textural changes may range from breast tenderness to lumpiness that happen due to spike in the hormones (progesterone) causing menstruation. Hormones are released by the glands in the breast, enlarging them to prepare for a possible pregnancy. If pregnancy does not happen, the breasts return to normal size. Once menstruation begins, the cycle begins again.

Breast Changes during Pregnancy and Lactation Period

Breast changes are one of the first signs of pregnancy, since these are also related to the lactation period. There is rapid breast swelling during pregnancy. Most pregnant women experience tenderness down the sides of the breasts and soreness of the nipples. This is because of the growth of the milk duct system and the formation of many more lobules. By the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy, the breasts are fully capable of producing milk. Other physical changes, like the prominence of the blood vessels in the breast and the enlargement and darkening of the areola happen. All of these changes are in preparation for breastfeeding stage after the child birth.

Common Problems in Breast Development

Some problems in breast development are quite common from adolescence to older age women however, these problems are not indicative of any breast cancer signs.

Breast Lumps:

The health care provider may find breast lumps by examining them. Occurrence of breast lumps is quite common for women between 20-50 years of age. However, it’s important to investigate further through different diagnostic methods whether these lumps are a sign of breast cancer or not.

Breast Pain Or Tenderness:

The breast pain or tenderness is “cyclical” and is usually caused by hormones regulating menstrual cycle. The pain or tenderness may start to occur before a few days of menstruation as well as during menstruation in most cases.

Non cyclical breast pain occurs due to breast cancer and happens in very small percentage of women.

Nipple Discharge:

Most women experience this after breast feeding. Some women are born with inverted (pull in) nipples and averted (pull out) nipples. Nipple inversion is not really a concern but occasionally it is first sign of breast cancer.

Breast Skin Changes:

Skin problems occur that can cause itching, swelling, redness, itching, scaling. These however are not significant, yet it’s important to evaluate the reasons for all these symptoms through mammogram or any other required examinations by your doctor.

When to Consult Doctor?

If you find a new breast problem, it’s very important to consult it with your health care provider. Although breast problems are not really an emergency but delaying it can worsen them. Especially in cases of late puberty onset or breast growth beyond maturation stage, a doctor should be consulted!

In case, your initial evaluation shows no signs of breast problems but you remain concerned, talk to your healthcare provider. Further testing, follow-up over time or referral to a breast specialist may be recommended.


  1. I am a 55 year old blk female wanna know what stage is it when they flatten out, seems as if the fat has melted leaving them flat

    • Hi Jorja, Its normal at this age and only have to worry if nothing developed till 16th, you can just eat healthy food and even more of estrogen rich food which will help you naturally. Hope this helps

    • Sophie, you can surely wear cup bra and if your purpose is to lift up look then wired bra is best recommended because underwire bra helps to hold up… if you are looking some enhance breast look then you can follow some healthy food, exercise and supplement to increase your size naturally, Even i recommend you to look out sports wired bra too to consider.

  2. I’m thirteen and all my friends wear a bra and are at stage 5 but I just reached stage four and even sports bras are kinda big what should I do?
    Should I wear sports bra or cup bra

    • Slow growth is nothing to worry… you can just wear regular cup bra and make sure to follow healthy estrogen rich food in your diet


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