Doctor Betti
Dr. Betti Hertzberg Ressler is a Board Certified Pediatrician on staff at Miami Children's Hospital. Dr. Hertzberg developed the toilet training video "Let's Go Potty." She is the co-author of "The Doctor's Book of Home Remedies for Children."

Early Puberty

Question: Within the last few months, I have noticed that my 8-year-old daughter(she turned 8 this past August), has soft fine hair under her arms and has been using deoderant since early summer. Just last week, she informed me of a change in one of her breasts. There is a small lump under her nipple and her nipple actually has a swollen appearance. I'm concerned whether or not she'll be facing menstration in the next year. If we are indeed facing early menstration, is there any thing we can do to ward this off for a while; ie changes in diet, perhaps? I realize this is a normal part of life - I'm just not ready for her to experience this. Your input would be greatly appreciated. Please note: we are African-American, exhibit no signs of obesity, (my daughter is thin, yet very toned, to which I cannot attribute that particular characteristic to any regular or structured athletics) and are in a medium to high socio-economic class. R.

Answer: Your daughter is exhibiting signs of puberty: i.e.: use of deodorant, hair growth, etc.

The onset of puberty can occur even earlier than 8 (your daughter's age). Puberty at this age is early, but not technically considered premature. The changes that you are describing in her breasts are considered part of the process of maturation. The hormones such as estrogen (breast development) and progesterone (hair growth) are responsible for the changes that you are seeing.

Genetics is responsible in large part for the changes that occur and the timing of these changes. Excessive activity and exercise may also have an impact on hormones that are responsible for the changes that we see. Diet may also have an effect (hormones used in processing meats, etc.) As for socioeconomic status, I'm not convinced it has a major role if any. It may be part in parcel with our diets and lifestyle.

You mentioned obesity. This does impact the rate of puberty, since overweight children seem to have signs of puberty at an earlier age. The changes that your daughter is showing in her breast is a result of hormonal stimulation. It sometimes occurs on only one breast before the other. If there are other signs, such as extreme pain, color change or discharge, have her pediatrician check this out.

Menstruation usually occurs when all stages of puberty have been matured. At this point, pregnancy can occur.

As a mom myself, I can understand that you are not ready, as you say to "experience this!" It is a natural process that will occur: READY OR NOT!

It may be time, if you have not already done so, to talk about the changes in our bodies and the naturality of it with your daughter. Being prepared (both you and your daughter) will benefit everyone!

Good luck, mom and daughter!

Dr. Betti

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    This information is not intended to be a substitute for visiting your pediatrician. If you or your child has specific concerns, you should see your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.