My daughter is 7 and seems to be already showing signs of puberty.
Her breasts have budded (they are very hard around the nipple area, is that normal?) her skin is beginning to break out and she is complaining of itchy bumpy underarms.
Question: I thought I had until at least 9 or so before this started, should I be concerned that she is so young?
Answer from Elizabeth Walenz, Pediatrician
This is a good question. Over the last 10 or so years, the beginning signs of puberty have shifted for young ladies. It used to be that girls would start to go through pubertal changes between ages 9-12.
The shift has been over the past few years to ages 8-12. Part of this shift can be attributable to the nationwide obesity epidemic. As more and more young girls are found to be overweight, this can also increase hormone levels, especially estrogen, in the system leading to earlier puberty.
Puberty onset for males is a bit later, with the average age of onset of puberty at 9-14.
That being said, it is recommended that if a child is starting to show signs of puberty prior to age 8, they should be evaluated. I would recommend that you make an appointment with your child’s doctor.
It will be important to look at your child’s height and weight and then a full physical exam to examine if there is indeed breast tissue or other signs of premature puberty. It would be good to prepare your child prior to appointment to let them know about the upcoming exam.
The physician will exam your daughter’s chest and underwear area. The physician will take a close look at the skin and examine the underarms as well. Depending upon what the doctor finds, he or she may order an x-ray of the wrist to look at what is called a bone age.
This can help to diagnose early puberty or advancement of bone growth in relation to puberty. Your physician may also order hormone levels or refer to pediatric endocrinology if there are indeed abnormal findings.
In regards to the question about breast buds, some young ladies will have a small amount of fatty tissue around the nipples which can be normal. If the tissue is more firm or glandular feeling, this can indeed be the beginnings of breast development or thelarche.