"I think eight is a little young for a first bra." is a common phrase I've heard declared when the topic of the best age for young girls to start wearing bras is broached. Why does it matter? Shouldn't it be a personal decision between a daughter and her parents? In this digital age we no longer have to feel the weight of only the opinion of our in-laws, but random voices from the internet or social media as well. Oh, the irony as I begin to weigh in my own two cents.
As a mom of a newly turned tween girl, this and other issues like it are in the forefront of discussions in our home. I've never been one to adhere to social norms, just for the sake of fitting in growing up, and as a parent I've become even more opposed to settling for the status quo simply because I don't want to take the time to research other avenues. Identifying as an out of the box thinker, I'm always on the lookout for gadgets and experiences that are unique and solve problems or improve situations.
What I've discovered, as my daughter has begun to develop into a young lady from a child, is that there is a lot more to think about in determining the best age for her to wear a bra than I ever imagined. As we've made this decision, the various elements surrounding the appropriate age to start wearing a bra caused me to consider that earlier may be better for her.
First, of course, we always ask ourselves--does she physically need a bra? That usually pertains to development of breast buds. But how large do they need to be before they cause discomfort or require support? Personally, I came to the conclusion that this was the least of the factors influencing my resolve in this matter.
The biggest reason I acquiesced to my daughters request to start wearing a bra at age eight, was that she'd been asking for one since she was seven. It was odd to me, because that was so not on my radar. At her age, a bra was not even remotely interesting to me so, honestly, I was a bit taken aback at her desire to start wearing a bra. But then, I started to think about it.
Modesty, Privacy and Comfort:
As our kids transition from pull ups to big kid underwear, we start purchasing our girls cartwheel shorts. It's pretty obvious as to the reason why. Girls still love to wear their skirts and dresses, but they don't want to reveal their underwear when they engage in certain activities. The same thought begins to occur to them regarding their chest. By age seven or eight, our kids have long been taught that bathing suit areas are private and have become well aware that they do not want their nipples on display for the world to see. But when their shirts start to lift up-- or should I say fall down--when they show off their head stands and cartwheels--they do not want to be tugging at their t-shirt while trying to pull off these feats. A bra provides that privacy that girls have begun to crave. I would never want my daughter to stop being active because of her changing body.
Sadly, a good number of girls drop out of sports due to the changes occurring during adolescence. I didn't experience it myself, but my daughter said her chest had started to become quite tender whenever she leaned into a table or accidentally bumped it, so she was very relieved to find the removable padding helped it not hurt so much.
It's a bit nippy out, isn't it? By age seven or eight many kids become quite mindful of what happens to our nipples when we get cold. And for girls, many become acutely aware. I, myself, had wrongly considered padding was purely for the purpose of adding bulk, but not for the case of my eight-year-old daughter. In talking about styles, she again expressed a desire for a bra with padding so that when she became cold, her chest wouldn't announce it to the world.
Speaking of announcing it to the world. Think of your daughter's experience in locker rooms or dance changing areas, sleepovers at friends or Grandma's house. Yes, some girls are embarrassed they need a bra, but many girls find a bra a nice shielding of their desired dignity.
Changing in front of others can not only be an issue for privacy, but also a matter about fitting in with the group. No one wants to be the last one without a bra. Maybe not necessarily the first, but definitely not the last.
And if a girl has older friends, siblings or a cousin who is already wearing a bra, this may add to the strong longing kids this age have to not be viewed as a "little kid." I came across a theory in a book once that age eight was the age of actualization. The age a child could realistically on average survive on their own. So, it stands to reason that from age eight there is an innate aspect to fitting in by taking those first steps to becoming more grown up.
Don't Make It a Big Deal:
There is a fine line between making it a big deal, but not too big of a deal. We definitely took a celebratory approach to the first bra experience by having it be part of the birthday milestone and chose her first bra to be full on Her-Rah! style, complete with confetti printed packaging, tied with a pink organza bow. But during puberty, so many changes happen to girls between acne, periods, hair, body odor, AND bras.
I figured if I could minimize the change bomb and take this one element out so it wasn't everything all at once, I could reduce the stress of massive change that is inevitable. Allowing her to choose to wear a bra at eight allows her years to get used to the idea before it becomes a BIGGER DEAL. Because once those puberty hormones kick in to high gear, everything will be a much bigger deal than at seven or eight.
Does she wear her bra every day? No. But she likes having it for when a top is too thin, when she's going to be active or when she just feels like wearing it for the fun of it. Owning a bra on the early side of puberty also gets her used to the idea of caring for it when she's not dealing with skincare and cramps. Again, the less we can throw at them all at once, the better.
They Are Fun:
As you might already guess, my daughter and I are two very different people when it came to our approach regarding wearing a first bra. And if your daughter is absolutely opposed to wearing a bra--I can relate. Sometimes kids want to hold on to childhood as long as possible and that is normal and okay.
But my daughter was born older. She was curious about my bras from a young age and was equally excited about them. Where I saw them more as function--she recognized the form. She appreciated the fashion quality of them. So, imagine her excitement to find out there are bras she can customize to her mood, interests, or her outfits with removable and interchangeable straps. Rainbows, flowers, sparkles? Yes, PLEASE! She has friends over and they mix and match the straps so they can be twinnies.
What fun to not only not have to worry about a strap showing, but be able to have them serve double duty as layering tanks and bring out pops of color in her carefully curated wardrobe. She is a self-proclaimed fashionista. Like her great grandma, she's been told. Not only that, but Her-Rah! straps can also be made into cute headbands or necklaces without any sewing or cutting required and then returned to their original strap form--damage free. Talk about delighted! Her-Rah! 1st Bras made it easy and fun to let my eight-year-old wear a bra and neither of us regretted the experience. Show your daughter that growing up can be great--and celebrate!