Breast Buds

Question

I have read that newborns (boys and girls) may secrete drops of milk from their nipples as a result of the hormones in their mother's breast milk. My 3 week old baby girl has not produced drops of milk, but there are small lumps of tissue under her nipples that are fairly firm, almost like tiny developing breasts. Is this normal? How long do you expect that it might last?
Amy Obrist - Los Angeles, California

Dr. Greene's Answer

Several times throughout childhood, Amy, there are situations where the past and future collide. No, not collide really. It’s more like a double-exposed photograph with the past, present, and future superimposed. I can remember seeing my children toddle across the family room wearing my loafers, many sizes too big. Conjured up in my mind is an image of myself as a toddler, tromping about in my dad’s shoes. While watching these scenes, one in my family room, one in my mind, I recognize that someday my children will really fill those shoes — perhaps with children of their own.

For me, breast buds in an infant is another one of those precious times. A burst of your hormones passed to your daughter shortly before delivery is one of the finishing touches in preparing her lungs to breathe air when she is born. These hormones include estrogen and androgens, and can have several transient side effects. Real, mature breast tissue forms, creating firm lumps under the nipples. Some babies even leak some real milk from their breasts. This is colorfully named witch’s milk, a term which captures the magic of the situation, but inappropriately attributes sinister and supernatural overtones to this natural wonder. Breast buds commonly occur in both boys and girls.

Many little girls may also develop a cloudy vaginal discharge. Some little girls will even have mini-periods — with blood appearing at the vagina during the first week as estrogen levels fall rapidly. Some boys and girls will have genitalia swollen by the hormones. Many boys and girls will have their first experience of acne, with real pimples appearing on the face and upper chest at around three weeks and lasting for three or four weeks. Sometimes this is severe enough to require treatment with a prescription baby form of benzoyl peroxide – similar to the common over-the-counter acne medicine used by many teens.

All of these changes disappear gradually, usually over the first several months of life, as your hormones and their effects vanish. Typically, the breast buds are the first to form and the last to go. Unless the breasts become red, hard, or warm (indicating possible mastitis, or breast infection), savor the weeks the firm lumps remain.

Budding breasts, a face full of pimples, and her first period are all visible reminders of a moment not long ago when she was still inside your uterus. They might even remind you that not terribly long ago, you were inside your own mother and receiving these same hormones. And these same little bumps are a glimpse of a future that seems so far away right now (especially on those sleepless nights), but will come all too soon — when your teenage daughter becomes a woman.

Cherish moments like this when they occur. It might be when she stands in front of a mirror putting on make up, or delights to play with a briefcase, or it might be her graduation from kindergarten. Notice those junctures where, for a fleeting moment, she looks grown-up — and appreciate the brief double-exposure of the future and the past.

Last medical review on: September 12, 2010
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Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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Recent Comments

So i have grown a breats bud but after a week of sore breast and backaches they disappeared. What happened??

Hi Kat – You are not alone! Perhaps the most common question most pediatricians get about breast development is about one breast developing before the other. Usually the two end up growing to about the same size.

On average, the amount of time from the first breast bud to two mature breasts is a little over 4 years. Sometimes it is as quick as 18 months. Typically the second breast begins to grow by the time pubic hair is getting curly or the first breast has grown beyond a breast bud. If it works for your pediatrician to examine you along the way they can help make sure everything is on track and developing normally. Best – DrGreene

Hi I’m kat and I only have one breast bud I’ve only had one for the past 9 months is that normal

Hi Kat – You are not alone! Perhaps the most common question most pediatricians get about breast development is about one breast developing before the other. Usually the two end up growing to about the same size.

On average, the amount of time from the first breast bud to two mature breasts is a little over 4 years. Sometimes it is as quick as 18 months. Typically the second breast begins to grow by the time pubic hair is getting curly or the first breast has grown beyond a breast bud. If it works for your pediatrician to examine you along the way they can help make sure everything is on track and developing normally. Best – DrGreene

Hi, I’m 15 and my breasts have been developing for a few years now and my breast buds still haven’t gone away, should I be worried? if not, when will they go away??

Dear Anon,

As Dr. Greene says, this can be a normal part of puberty.

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I answer a lot of questions on DrGreene.com, I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, Dr. Greene’s business partner and wife, but I am a not doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

I had a breast bud and about three months later I got it on my other breast. After two weeks, the first one disappeared but the other one is still there. I have also had inverted nipples all my life and my nipples are not becoming erect! Please help me!

Dear Anon,

As Dr. Greene says, this can be a normal part of puberty.

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I answer a lot of questions on DrGreene.com, I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, Dr. Greene’s business partner and wife, but I am a not doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

My 6 months baby is having a small pea sized ball on her left breast. I’m so worried, what can I do to help her because the doctors said that they cannot figure out what it is.

Miry,

Dr. Greene says, “Typically, the breast buds are the first to form and the last to go. Unless the breasts become red, hard, or warm (indicating possible mastitis, or breast infection), savor the weeks the firm lumps remain.”

It sounds like the skin around the swelling is hard and red. In this case, it’s wise to see her doctor to determine if it’s an infection that may need treatment.

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I answer a lot of questions on DrGreene.com, I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com and Dr. Greene’s business partner, but I am a not doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

my eight month old baby has redness and swelling on one of her nipples and when i feel it i can feel a little pea sized ball. the skin is red all around. it only appears on one side. what could this be?

Miry,

Dr. Greene says, “Typically, the breast buds are the first to form and the last to go. Unless the breasts become red, hard, or warm (indicating possible mastitis, or breast infection), savor the weeks the firm lumps remain.”

It sounds like the skin around the swelling is hard and red. In this case, it’s wise to see her doctor to determine if it’s an infection that may need treatment.

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I answer a lot of questions on DrGreene.com, I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com and Dr. Greene’s business partner, but I am a not doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

My daughhhter is 18mos old and I noticed breast buds on both breasts. Should I be worried. When she was few weeks old she had vaginal discharge but it stopped later on its own. Is there anything I can do to get rid of d breast buds?