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Boobs — what actually are they?

Boobs. You know, those things on the chests of folks with female bodies? They can be pretty fascinating, especially when you’re just starting to notice changes in your own body. It’s also totally normal to feel a bit unsure about them too.

A lot of people worry if their boobs are normal or if they’re growing in the right way. But guess what? There’s no one-size-fits-all for boobs! Boobs come in all shapes, sizes, and colours. Understanding these changes and embracing the uniqueness of your own body is where it’s at.

So, let’s break it down—here’s everything you need to know about boobs. 

So, what are boobs?

Boobs are made up of fatty tissue and milk-producing glands called ‘mammary glands’. The darker area of your breast around the nipple is called the ‘areola’, which becomes bigger and darker as the breasts develop. Nipples and areolas can vary widely in colour, ranging from light pink to dark brown, depending on your skin colour.

How do breasts develop?

Breasts will start to grow at the beginning of puberty

During puberty, your body experiences changes in hormone levels. This causes your breasts to develop and for you to start having periods. These things do not always happen at the same time. Genetics — what runs in your family — largely determines when you will begin puberty and start to develop breasts. Nutrition also plays a role in influencing when you will begin puberty.

When your breasts start to grow small bumps (called buds) will start to grow under your nipples. It’s normal for these buds to feel tender when they’re growing, but this should decrease over time. As they grow, your nipples and the area around them — called the areola — might start to change in colour. Over time as they develop, your breast buds will become rounder and fuller and grow into the shape of your breasts.

@yourbreastfriends This video is all about the struggles that you may experience during your breast development. There are more videos on this page about physical changes of breasts, but this focuses on the social aspects. You are not alone. #puberty #struggles #breastchanges ♬ original sound – yourbreastfriends

When will I get them?

Breasts usually begin to develop around the ages of 8-13 and can continue to grow into your early twenties. All people assigned female at birth will notice that they grow and develop breasts in different ways and at different speeds. 

Some boobs develop slowly over time, and others might seem like they grew overnight! The age you start developing breasts and the pace they grow at does not affect the final size of your boobs. 

What do normal boobs look like?

One of the many beautiful things about boobs is that they come in all different shapes, sizes and colours. They can be bumpy or smooth, a little uneven or anywhere in between. There is no ‘normal’ of what breasts should be!

What size is normal?

Sometimes one breast might be bigger than the other. This is very common. The size of your breasts may even out after you’ve finished puberty, but it’s completely fine if they don’t. Some do, some don’t.

People with very large breasts may experience back pain and chest soreness, especially during exercise. This might make you feel like your boobs are too big, self-conscious or anxious about the difficulties caused by your breast size. 

If your breasts are very large, the first thing you can do to help reduce physical pain and anxiety about your appearance is to find yourself a well-fitted bra that will support your boobs. Check out our post on buying a bra for info on how to find the right bra for you.

For those who suffer acute pain and discomfort due to their breast size, a final option is breast reduction surgery. This is a serious decision and a surgical operation. If this is something you would like to explore, talk with your doctor in order to make an informed and safe choice.


Nipples are as diverse as people. Some nipples point inward instead of outward, which is called “inverted nipples” and is totally normal. It’s also common to have hair around your nipples. If you’re bothered by it, it’s best to carefully trim it rather than plucking or shaving, which can lead to infections.

For some people with breasts, their nipples are always erect and might show through clothes. This isn’t unusual. Nipples can also change with temperature or stimulation, getting harder or developing bumps or wrinkles, which is all part of their normal function.

Stretch marks

Stretch marks are those reddish or purplish lines that can pop up on your skin when you go through rapid growth spurts, like during puberty or pregnancy. A lot of folks with female bodies notice stretch marks on their breasts, while others may see them on their hips and thighs during puberty.

Feeling self-conscious about stretch marks is totally normal, but remember, they’re pretty common, and having them doesn’t make your body any less beautiful!

While it’s natural to want to zap them away ASAP, there’s no magic cure for stretch marks. They typically fade over time on their own. Despite what some products claim, there’s no solid evidence they really work. Some people choose to hide stretch marks with self-tanning lotion or by wearing certain clothes, but if you’re cool with showing them off, go for it. You might be helping someone else feel comfortable in their skin too.


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Bumps and lumps

Breasts can be smooth or lumpy. Most of the time lumps in the breasts are due to changes in breast tissue that occur as they are developing. Your breasts might also feel different or lumpy around the time of your period, and might feel more tender and swollen.

Montgomery Glands

You know those funny little bumps on the area around your nipples? Yep, they’re supposed to be there. They usually look like pimple-like bumps or goosebumps on the areola. They’re called Montgomery Glands, and are modified sweat glands that produce a lubricant which helps keep the nipple protected. They also help keep the nipple moisturised during breastfeeding.


Just like the skin on the rest of your body, breasts are susceptible to acne and dry skin, and this is pretty normal during puberty. It’s not something to be worried about, but if you are, talk to your doctor about ways to manage acne.

Rashes and Irritation

Usually, a rash around the nipple area on the breasts is a sign of infection, especially if accompanied by swollen breasts, tenderness or discharge. Rashes that appear under the breasts are usually a sign of heat rash or yeast infection. If you notice these symptoms, talk to your doctor to figure out if you’ve got an infection.


Sometimes breasts can produce a kind of white-ish discharge. This can mean a few different things like an infection of the breasts; that the breast duct has widened; or that you have a hormonal imbalance. You should talk to your doctor if you have any kind of discharge from your nipples.

Breast changes: what’s normal and what’s not?

Whether you’ve just started developing breasts or you’re well and truly formed, your boobs may keep changing throughout your life. What causes your breasts to change: 

  • changes in your hormones
  • Before, during and after your period
  • pregnancy
  • Weight loss or gain

Before, during and after your period, your breasts may feel more swollen, tender, heavier and sensitive. This may also cause your breasts to look or feel different. 

While most changes and lumps you find in your breasts are normal, it’s important to regularly feel and check your breasts yourself to notice any changes that might seem abnormal. If you’re worried about breast changes or lumps of any kind, talk to your doctor.

Where to get help

If you’re worried about your breast development in any way, reach out for support. 

  • Family Planning Alliance Australia has links to sexual health clinics around the country. Visiting a sexual health clinic is really useful if you want to talk to someone face-to-face about your body.

Need someone to talk to? Free, confidential support is available.

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