The shape and size of the female breast vary so widely that it is often difficult to say exactly what is normal and what should be considered as a small-sized breast. Breasts that seem small in a teen girl may grow in size within a few years as she develops into a more mature woman. Sometimes, one breast may appear slightly smaller than the breast on the other side. This is quite a common phenomenon and absolutely normal.

Breast Development

The first outward sign of breast development (thelarche) in a girl starts at puberty, which is the period when certain biological as well as emotional changes take place as she approaches womanhood. Appearance of breast buds is taken to be the first sign of puberty. This usually occurs between the ages of 8 to 13 (average being 10 to 12 years of age).

As a result of increased secretion of the hormone estrogen by the ovaries at puberty, the breasts start to enlarge, mainly due to accumulation of fatty tissue and development of periductal connective tissue. At this stage the breasts may be small in size but has the potential for growth till a girl is about 19 or 20 years old.

There is also further increase in breast size during pregnancy and lactation. This is further explained under Breast Anatomy and Breast Milk Production.

Attitude towards Small Breast Size

Small breasts are rarely due to any significant anomaly but can cause much anguish to teens. It is often associated with low self-esteem and even depression especially when there is a history of taunting, which is a common practice among teen girls.

However, it is not only young girls and teens who are worried about their breast size. Older women too are often unhappy about their small breasts and look for ways of enhancing them. Attitudes about breast size usually develop as a result of ongoing media presentations depicting large breasts as being attractive. Women with large breasts are also seen as being more desirable by the opposite sex.

Breast size is often associated with sexuality and attraction and therefore the belief arises that the size of breasts may affect one’s social and interpersonal relationships.

    Causes of Small Breasts

    Genetic Causes

    • Breast hypoplasia, which is the underdevelopment of the breast may occur due to familial or genetic causes, without being linked to any pathological cause. It may also be a result of rare genetic disorders like Poland’s sydrome as well.
    • Genetic body fat distribution
    • Turner’s syndrome (ovarian agenesis) is a medical disorder that affects about 1 in every 2,500 girls. It is a genetic condition in which a female does not have the usual pair of two X chromosomes. Besides other symptoms, there may be lack of breast development at the expected age, usually by age 13.
    • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia

    Hormonal Causes

    • Delayed menarche (first period) is discussed under primary amenorrhea.
    • Hormone irregularities as a result of gynecological disorders that may also cause a range of menstrual symptoms like irregular menses and heavy periods.
    • Shrinking of the breast tissue during menopause as a result of decreasing estrogen levels can cause a decrease in breast size.

    Other Causes

    • Age
    • Family history
    • Eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia or severe dieting
    • Severe weight loss, whether intentional or unintentional

    Certain Facts about Small Breasts

    • Small breasts do not hinder breastfeeding in any way.
    • Milk production is not hampered by small breasts.
    • There is no relation between breast size and the development of breast cancer.

    About Increasing Breast Size

    • Creams and lotions cannot increase breast size.
    • Herbs and supplements are not effective either. Even if herbs claim to act as estrogen-like substances or stimulate estrogen production, it is rarely of significantly high concentrations to have this effect. Seasonal variations may account for unreliable concentrations of the active ingredient . In most cases, proper clinical trials have never been done to validate these claims.
    • Improving nutrition may help, especially where there is severe under-nutrition.
    • Exercise does not increase breast size. Some exercises may develop the pectoral muscles beneath the breasts.
    • Using padded bras may boost one’s self confidence.
    • Being comfortable with one’s body and accepting that small breasts are beautiful can be a better way of restoring one’s self-image.
    • Hormone supplementation like oral estrogen therapy may help in some cases where small or underdeveloped breasts may have a hormonal cause, such as in delayed menarche.
    • Breast enhancement by means of breast implants is the only reliable method to increase breast size. Many women undergo this surgical procedure without considering the dangers and possible long term complications of breast augmentation.


    Article reviewed by Dr. Greg. Last updated on November 8, 2010