Your little girl has just asked about a bra. It might be that she feels she needs one, or that her best friend just got one, or perhaps, everyone on her team has one. Wasn't it just yesterday that you were pushing her on the swing? Regardless of the reason, it is a monumental time in her personal development and one in which you play a vital role. We want to set our daughters up for success. The messaging and proactive support for her physical and mental well-being needs to be on point during this crucial time in her development.
I am often asked: when will I know if my daughter is ready for a bra? The answer isn't entirely straightforward because it is not a one-size-fits-all equation. It relies heavily on pubertal development, which can vary widely from person to person. In some girls, puberty starts as early as 7-8 years old; in others, it can begin after age 13. It usually extends well into the teen years for everyone, so there is a wide range of normal. One of the first signs that a girl is ready for a bra is developing breast buds, which are small lumps underneath the nipple and areola that can be tender. Sometimes, one breast develops before the other, sometimes one side is tender, and the other isn't. All of this is completely normal. On average, this is the time that most girls will request a bra. Remember, some girls develop later than others, and if all of their friends are shopping for bras, they may want one too, even if their breasts develop later.
Many parents feel nervous about having this conversation, but they absolutely should not. Our daughters easily pick up our emotions, anxiety, and stress. If we are uncomfortable having this conversation, our daughters will be too. The message we are relaying is that this is a time of discomfort. I am here to tell you that we need to reframe this conversation altogether. Puberty is not an uncomfortable time in any way, shape, or form. It is a natural time in her development, one that all women will go through. Her body is beautiful, and it is doing what it's designed to do.
To alleviate some of the stress you may be feeling around the idea of your daughter needing a bra, it is important to have ongoing conversations about your daughter's developing body. When the time comes for a bra, it is a natural part of the continuing open and honest dialogue. Their bodies undergo so many changes during puberty and adolescence; if you establish yourself as a reliable source of information and role model for a positive body image, she is likely to come to you throughout her teenage years as a confidant.
We want our girls to grow into confident and empowered young women, leaving little room for feelings of self-doubt and negativity. Her first bra is the optimal time for you to pave the path for body positivity and self-assurance. She needs clothing that will lift her, support her, increase her confidence and focus. There is way too much pressure from society regarding the look of women's and girls' bodies. We need to redefine this narrative, and this is the perfect time to start.
Jennifer Wider, MD, is a nationally renowned women’s health expert, author and radio host. She is the author of four books, including "The Savvy Woman Patient," "The Doctor’s Complete College Girls’Health Guide," "The New Mom’s Survival Guide" and "Got Teens? The Doctor Moms’Guide to Sexuality, Social Media and Other Adolescent Realities."