As a parent, we learn to deal with all matter of uncomfortable topics but often puberty is one that still makes most of us cringe a bit. After all puberty is a sign that your little one is growing up and those can be hard changes to face. However, such topics are important to face head on as you want your child to know the facts and feel comfortable coming to you with questions. Puberty is happening earlier these days and some parents may be wondering when is the right time to buy a first bra, how to talk to their daughter, and what type of bras to buy. That is why I am happy to have an expert on the subject today, Dr. Cara Natterson, to share some tips on how parents can talk to their child about first bras and puberty.
When should my daughter start wearing a bra?
So there it is. The big question that many parents have is, “When should girls start wearing bras?” The answer to this is quite honestly opened ended but most people want a definitive answer. So for those who must have an age, the average age seems to be about 11. However, some children as young as 8 may start be starting puberty.
I would say that the answer to, “When should girls start wearing a training bra?” is based on one of two reasons. First a training bra may be desired for function. In other words, the bra may be wanted to provide support for growing breasts, to hide nipples from showing through shirts, or to cover sensitive growing breast and decrease sensitivity of shirts rubbing against them. So, girls should start wearing a bra when their functionality is needed.
Another reason that girls may want to start wearing a bra is for modesty, fashion or to fit in socially. For me, I remember suddenly having to change in a common area for gym class in middle school and you can bet I wanted a bra ASAP. I would say that if your child hasn’t needed one for function before middle school, it is time to get training bras to be ready for middle school.
If your child wants a bra, there is no reason that she not have this undergarment. If you are concerned she is too young for a bra, that is what training bras are for!
What is a training bra?
So now that we have established that a child typically needs their first bra some time before starting middle school, you may be wondering, “What is a training bra?” Well, it certainly does not train the breast. They don’t really need training. It is more about training the child to get used to an extra undergarment. For this reason, training bras are usually made of a soft, comfortable material in a sports bra style without underwires or cups. They are designed for comfort and support but not to push up breast or sexualize your child.
How To Have The Conversation With A Child Developing Breasts About When It’s Time To Get A Bra
Today, I have some excellent tips to share from Dr. Cara Natterson, pediatrician and cofounder of the OOMLA platform which includes the Puberty Portal where tweens and teens can find pediatrician-approved content written by their peers to help navigate this transformative time in their lives. OOMBRA is the only pediatrician-designed bra in the market, specifically created for tweens and teens to make the transformation from child to adult more comfortable on all fronts – physically, emotionally, and socially.
Dr. Cara Natterson is also a New York Times best-selling author of multiple books regarding puberty, including The Care and the Keeping of You series with more than 6 million copies in print. Affiliate link below.
Here are her tips on how parents can talk to their child about first bras and puberty.
Some girls want to wear a bra well before they need one.
They might be later bloomers, and all of their friends are wearing bras already – for these kids, having a bra helps them feel like they fit in. Others are super young, we’re talking 6 or 7 years old, but they see bras as representing female empowerment and ownership of your body. They might not express it quite this way, but for these young girls, a bra often represents female strength and power. How awesome is that? For girls who don’t really need bras but want them anyhow, parents can – and I think should – ask their girls why. Not in a judgmental way, but in a curious way, to begin to understand how their daughters feel about their bodies. This opens up an important conversational thread that will last for years. We designed OOMBRAs to fit even the smallest, flattest-chested girls who may want to wear these garments for all the right reasons.
Some girls need a bra but it’s the very last thing they want to think about.
Now technically, no one needs a bra. But as bodies grow and develop, breasts have a way of garnering a tremendous amount of attention. Partially that’s due to the appearance of breast buds, the small bumps that look like a stack of dimes has just landed underneath the nipple. These buds are tender and pointy, almost torpedo-shaped. Over the next many months – often it’s years – boobs grow and shape-shift. The tissue can be super sensitive, especially to the accidental thwack by a ball or an errant elbow. Wearing a bra helps on many fronts: bras protect sensitive skin from irritating clothing rubbing against it; they compress the breast tissue, reducing tenderness when something does bang up against it; and they minimize the appearance of new boobs (at least non-padded bars do), calling less attention to the area. Once breasts are big enough, bras also help hold them in place which can make running and jumping and other forms of exercise more comfortable for the big-busted. If you think your daughter needs a bra for one (or all!) of these reasons, find a way to talk openly with her. Share your thoughts or, better yet, ask her if she’s ever had any boob-related tenderness or sensitivity and offer up a solution.
Verbal Ways To Broach The Subject Of First Bras
If you and your daughter are talkers, then a verbal conversation is the way to go. But oftentimes, having a sensitive conversation works best when intense eye contact isn’t involved. So try bringing up the subject when you aren’t staring one another down – perhaps in a car (when you’re both facing forward and not making eye contact) or on a walk (same deal) or at night after the lights have been turned off and she’s getting ready for bed (but don’t try this last technique if you think bringing up the subject will result in a heated argument).
Non Verbal Ways To Bring Up Training Bras
If you’re not big talkers, there are many other ways to broach the subject. You can find an article (like this one!) and print it out, leaving it around the house somewhere she will find it. Or try texting her a link with a preamble like: Thought you might find this interesting. I’ve met kids who keep a Q+A journal that they pass back and forth with their parents to ask the awkward questions. I’ve seen parents use a scene in a movie or an ad to get the ball rolling on the subject. There are lots of ways to open up the lines of communication about bras.
- Don’t decide to announce she needs a bra in front of her friends.
- Don’t announce she needs a bra in front of her siblings.
- Don’t even announce it – this goes far better when it’s a conversation, not a lecture or a pronouncement.
- Don’t dismiss her if she doesn’t think she needs one.
- Don’t decide you know what style or color bra she’s going to like.
- Don’t suggest a bra that’s meant for a specific use – a sports bra, for instance, works well for sports but it’s designed to be tight and made of synthetic materials, so it’s not a great option for all day wear.
- And finally, don’t confuse wearing a bra with being sexualized – there are lots of options that are comfortable and age appropriate.
How To Buy First Bra
When you go to select a first bra, keep in mind you want something easy to put on, with a giving fit, and that is comfortable. I am partial to a training bra with no clips, clasps, strap adjusters or wires. Not only does this make things easier for your daughter, it also makes them super comfortable.
How To Measure For First Bra
Your child can be wearing her shirt when you take the measurement. To find the bra size, use a soft tape measure, wrapping it around the biggest part of her bust. Don’t pull tight! The number of inches around her chest is will help you select the correct size first bra in a brand sizing chart. Or if you are buying an OOMBRA the number of inches around her chest is the only information you need as that will be the size you order.
Buying My Daughter Her First Bra
I bought my daughter her first bra as part of back to school shopping. My daughter started middle school in 5th grade and she didn’t really need it for function yet but I wanted her to be comfortable changing in gym class. I told her that I wanted to get her some bras so she would feel comfortable changing and so that she would feel comfortable as she began to hit puberty and her body began to change. She was very receptive to the idea and said she wanted some because her friends were starting to get them too.
My daughter is 16 now but OOMBRA still makes great bras for her. They are super soft and completely reversible, made from a patented design that hugs without binding. The criss-cross design in the back makes for a perfect balance of snug and relaxed fit that makes her feel confident in her clothing.
I hope this article answers your questions about when should girls start wearing a training bra. I also hope it helps you tackle the first bra conversation with your daughter. It doesn’t have to be awkward. In fact, it is a great time to show your daughter that it is OK to talk about anything with you and that you are there to help her get answers anytime she needs them!