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Why Does That Kid Have Boobs?

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Look around the playground at my daughter's elementary school, and what you see may surprise you: BOOBIES -- and I don't mean on the teachers.

Girl in classroom

Guest blogger Emma: The other day as I was picking up my daughter, Lauren, from school, a tallish girl was practicing some dance moves over by the restrooms. I couldn't help but notice some of her more, well ... noticeable features(and neither could a few snickering boys).Big breasts, curves, acne -- here was a girl practically stampeding into womanhood. Who was she? I wanted to know. Someone's older sister? "No," my daughter -- a third grader -- informed me. "That's Iree*. She's in Mrs. K's [4th grade] class." Excusez moi? I stopped mid-stride:

Me:"That girl goes here?"
Lauren:"Yes, Mother."
Me:"How many grades has she flunked?"
Me:"But she has boobs."

Embarrassed, she ran ahead and, I assume, got back to thinking whatever it is 9-year-olds think about these days. But I couldn't stop thinking about what I'd seen: Boobs! On a fourth grader! Dude!

When I was that age, Mary Kay Reeves* was the first to develop. She wore a bra, "went" with the cutest boy in class and -- thanks to an incident involving white jeans -- couldn't hide the fact that she'd started her period, too. For the most part, though, the rest of us fourth graders were still a few years from training bras and maxi-pads. Puberty, boys and the kissing of said boys -- which we figured Mary Kay was doing regularly (she had BOOBS, after all) -- were not quite at the forefront of our thinking.

Yet looking at Iree, I was pretty positive they were on hers. I was curious: Were there others like her?

I decided to perform an experiment. The next day, I did an on-the-sly boobie-check at Lauren's school. (I realize how pervy this sounds, but really, my research was purely scientific.) I can't say they were everywhere, but oh, they were there. I'd heard experts say kids are developing sooner, so I thought, Okay, this is just the proof in the pudding. Or on the playground. Whatever. At least I didn't have to worry about my kid getting boobs any time soon.

And that's when the gods decided to have some fun. Yes, that very night, I gave my daughter a hug from behind and felt the beginnings of two little buds. I cannot express the surprise and panic that went through me. First it's boobs, then dancing in front of restrooms ... oh God, oh God, oh God.

Since that night, I've calmed down. I've researched on the Internet and compared stories with my sisters and girlfriends who have daughters (one acquaintance's 10-year-old had already started her period!), and have learned that there are many factors that go into a girl's earlier-than-normal development -- environmental contaminants, body-fat content and genetics, to name a few. But most importantly, I've learned that while girls' bodies may be maturing sooner, it doesn't mean their minds are, too. Which means that my kid -- and all the other "sproutlets" at school (Iree included) -- are still just kids. Whether they dance in front of restrooms or not.

*Not their real names.

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13 comments so far | Post a comment now
Late Bloomer February 13, 2010, 6:50 AM

When I was 20 I dated a 17 year old for a short time. We broke up because her biological clock was ticking way too loudly. I had only just started dating and was not about to get married. Although we broke up, we kept in touch as friends. She had started menstruating and developing breasts at 10 years old. She reached menopause before 35 and died, an old woman, before reaching 60.
Most of the children from my school who bloomed early are now dead while those who were childlike when I left highschool have retained relatively youthful looks into their 60s.
I have concluded not all humans have the same life span, and some need to get on with adult life more quickly than others.

blanche February 13, 2010, 7:08 AM

There was a good article in Mothering mag a year or two ago about this — the hypothesis there was that one culprit is soy, which contains a ton of estrogen. Sadly, many parents believe that soy is healthier than dairy even in families without any allergies or real reason to think so — it just has some kind of cachet to it. In reality, it contains a lot of estrogen and has been linked to early puberty in girls as well as fertility problems in boys/men.

m February 13, 2010, 7:55 AM

It also may be the hormones being pumped into the animals we eat, and the milk we drink.

Mark (Dudge OH) February 13, 2010, 10:04 AM

I firmly believe that some of the health problems we are dealing with today are due to contaminated water supplies.

Whilst all kinds of detritus is removed from the water, which is then chlorinated to kill bacteria and viruses none of the processing of our potable water removes any of the drugs that we have had pass through our systems. Just think of all the meds we, as a population, ingest, from acetaminophen and multi-vitamins to hormone treatments and anti-depressants through to antibiotics. Now, consider then that only about 10% of a dosage is absorbed by the body.

And then, of course, there is the chemical additives and drugs that a lot of our foods end up containing…

arisma February 13, 2010, 10:17 AM

My daughter is 10, wears a B cup and has been in a training bra since second grade. No period yet, thankfully. In her school it’s about 50/50 between those who have developed and those who haven’t. According to her pediatrician she’s right on par with how her growth curve has always been so I try not to stress it and just roll with the punches.

tennmom February 14, 2010, 4:58 PM

I’m 41. I started my period at 10 & was wearing a c cup. I was always taller than my peers. I didn’t have my daughters until I was 28 and 30.
My now 12 year old also started her period at 10, is taller than most of her female peers and wears a DD. yes I am screaming on the inside ;)
My 10 year old doesn’t need a training bra yet (but wears one) and is taller than most of her male and female peers.
There doesn’t seem to be a pattern for our family.

Been there.... February 15, 2010, 10:06 AM

If you think you and your children are not exposed to endocrine disrupters, think again. They’re commonly found in many household products and cosmetics, including:

Bovine growth hormones commonly added to commercial dairy
+Soy foods, which are loaded with hormone-like substances
+Bisphenol A, commonly used in many plastics such as baby bottles, food-storage containers, and the lining of soda cans
+Phthalates, also commonly used in plastics
+Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) — better known as Teflon
I want to place special emphasis on SOY. As many VitalVotes readers have been pointing out, soy is present in virtually every processed food, and Americans are eating it in unprecedented quantities in foods like soymilk, soy burgers, and soy ice cream.

Meanwhile, some misinformed moms are still feeding their vulnerable babies SOY infant formula, which exposes their child to the equivalent of five birth control pills’ worth of estrogen every day. For this same reason, it’s also important for pregnant women to avoid eating soy, as a high estrogenic environment in utero may increase their child’s subsequent breast cancer risk.

Other environmental chemicals like PCBs and DDE (a breakdown product of the pesticide DDT) may also be associated with early sexual development in girls. Both DDE and PCBs are known to mimic, or interfere with, sex hormones.

What is even more troubling is that endocrine-disrupting environmental chemicals can actually increase your child’s risk of obesity, which in turn may increase their likelihood of early puberty.

Puberty at 8? Girls’ Earlier Puberty Puts Them at Higher Risk for Cancer

Jeff Prager February 16, 2010, 4:09 AM

Stop eating fake food and food with additives and learn to prepare a healthy diet for your children and WAKE UP.

C February 16, 2010, 2:12 PM

Soooo agree with m. The growth hormones in milks and meats absolutely cause children to grow faster. There was an 8 year old boy on our block with pubic hair and almost ready to shave. Eat organic non-hormone and non-chemically contaminated foods whenever possible. These early developers are also at a greater risk for cancers later in life. The earlier you develop increase cancer rates. It is not healthy now and not healthy later in life.

Jane July 3, 2010, 7:12 AM

It’s not soy products or the air. Its the processed foods we eat every day. I noticed that when my parents grow their own food in the backyard my niece and nephew looks like kids compared to other children who are like five and look like they are almost ten. Start feeding them healthier foods and they will develop when their bodies is ready, if you feed them that crappy processed food from stores then they will develop quicker.

Veg Mum August 24, 2010, 10:31 PM

My daughter is 12 years old. We have fed her a diet which consisted of very few processed foods, meat and animal milk. Although, she was not raised as a vegetarian we consume very little meat in our home. She is just recently beginning to develop. My sisters daughter is 11 months older than mine. Her diet consisted of meat, packaged foods, fast foods and whole cows milk. She began to grow breasts at 7 and started menses at 10. Everyone in our family has concluded that its what you feed the children that speeds up their development. Simple as that. The animal products are doing harm to our young girls and need to be limited.

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