For many young girls, a first bra is more than just a mere article of clothing: it can simultaneously be a symbol of maturity, a rite of passage into womanhood, a magical object of fantasy. As a parent, it may evoke just as many powerful and conflicting reactions: your brain may recognize this as an important physical and emotional milestone, and yet your heart may dread it as the end of your precious little girl’s childhood and seek to postpone it as long as possible.
How do you know when it is time for your daughter’s first bra? And if it is, what do you do?
When and How to Get a First Bra
1. Watch your daughter for body changes.
Dr. Jill Sangree, a pediatrician in South Euclid, Ohio, notes that girls usually begin to develop breast buds, a hard knot under the nipple, around age ten or eleven, although this may occur much earlier, or much later. She might tell you that her chest is sore or tender. According to Dr. Sangree, “This is a perfect segue point for you as parents to discuss breast development.” At this time, parents may choose to have a young girl wear a camisole or light sports bra. However, when growing breast tissue “begins to push her nipples out and they become visible through a light shirt,” Dr. Sangree advises “it is time to start wearing a bra.”
2. Buy a good first bra that provides proper support.
“Breasts have no age,” says Lisa, a professional bra fitter at Dillard’s in Lyndhurst, Ohio. Lisa frequently sees mothers who resist buying their young daughters a proper bra either because they don’t want to spend a lot of money on a young girl, or they are simply in denial that their daughter’s breasts are truly the size they are. “If your 12-year old daughter has size 32C breasts, then she needs a well-constructed, supportive size 32C bra. Invest in a bra that fits her properly, regardless of her age,” she advises. Don’t make the mistake of buying a bra for your teen that is cute but flimsy, or inexpensive but poorly made like a “teen” brand. Lisa warns that delicate breast tissue can quickly begin to deteriorate and sag as early as a girl’s late teens if her breasts are not properly supported. When shopping for a first bra, spend the money on a good bra.
3. Choose an age-appropriate style.
Many parents are shocked to find bras marketed to young girls that are ultra-padded, push-up styles or in racy black lace that all seem far too mature. For someone’s first time wearing bra, a professional bra fitter can help you determine the correct size and style for your daughter. Some larger department stores may carry lines such as Jack and Ginger that are supportive, well-made, and designed for younger girls. Or consider choosing an adult bra in a simple, plain style.
4. Don’t delay.
Don’t wait too long to get your developing daughter her first bra or she may develop chest or back pain from the weight of unsupported breasts which can be very uncomfortable and interfere with sports. A bra that holds the breasts closer to her core will alleviate the discomfort that many girls with a larger chest experience. Further, a girl who needs a bra (but isn’t wearing one) can unfortunately be the object of teasing, which Dr. Sangree cautions, “can be very destructive” to young girls.