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Breasts and bras

Developing breasts is often one of the first signs of puberty for young girls.

Introduction

Developing breasts is often one of the first signs of puberty for young girls. Breasts start developing at different ages. Some girls start to develop breasts around age 9, others don’t start developing breasts until their mid-teens. This is normal. Everyone is different.

Breast buds developing are the first sign of a growing breast. They look like a small lump under the skin, behind the nipple. It can feel hard to touch and can feel sensitive and tender. As the bud starts to grow, the nipples may start to stick out. Sometimes it can feel itchy as the skin around this area starts to stretch and grow.

It is normal for breast buds to develop at different times. Your child may have one breast bud and not develop their second breast bud for a few months. One breast might be bigger than the other. This is OK

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It can be good to talk to your child about breasts before they start developing them. This will give them time to understand the changes that are happening to their body. It will help them to feel prepared when these changes start to happen.

It can also be good to explain to your child that breasts come in all shapes and sizes.  Everybody’s breasts are different and that is OK. You can use some of the resources listed below to show your child some of the many different ways breasts can look.

It is also important to reinforce that breasts are a private body part, so should only be seen or touched when in a private place. For more information about private body parts, go to Private Body Parts.

As a general guide, once their breasts start moving when they run it is a good time to think about bras. At this stage the breasts may need some support to stop them feeling sore or uncomfortable when your child is active. Some people also choose to start wearing a bra when their nipples start to show through their clothes.

Some people choose not to wear a bra at all. This is their choice. It is important to help your child choose what makes them feel most comfortable.

Conversation Starters

I was talking to *friend’s name* mum and she said your friend has just started wearing a bra. Is this something you would like to do?
Can you help me sort the washing? These are bras. Your mum wears them because she is an adult and has breasts. You will start growing breasts soon. Would you like to try a bra of your own?
I noticed you seem a little uncomfortable when you play sport. Do you think a bra might make it a bit more comfortable when you play?

Strategies for you to try

Make it fun

Make bra shopping a fun and exciting experience for your child. Explain that this is something only grown-ups get to do. That it means they are becoming an adult.

You can also try using special treats or activities as rewards for trying on or wearing a bra. Your child may initially find the experience of trying on and wearing bras unpleasant so it can help to associate these tasks with something positive.

Get fitted

Get your child fitted for a bra. Having the right size bra will make wearing a bra more comfortable. You may need to get them fitted multiple times as they grow and develop.

Consider sensory issues

For many young people with sensory issues, wearing a bra for the first time can be stressful and unpleasant. To help your child with this transition it can be helpful to show them the different bra options that are available. Try wire-free and seamless bras to minimise the sensory impact of wearing a bra. Plan to try on a few different types so that they can choose an option that they find most comfortable.

Practice

When you notice that your child’s breasts are budding introduce them to wearing bralettes, camisoles with in-built support or crop tops under their clothes. These are a good way to prepare your child for wearing a real bra as they allow them to become familiar with the sensation of wearing something under their top.

It can also be helpful to choose an environment in which your child is most comfortable for these practice sessions. Over time you can introduce wearing these items for longer amounts of time and in different locations.

Use visual supports

• Use images like those listed below to act as cues to help your child learn how to put on and take off a bra.

• Increase your child’s capacity to put on a bra by helping them to gradually do more and more of the steps by themself or with limited help.

• Model how to put on a bra. Begin the process of putting a bra on yourself or a doll and ask your child to show you what happens next.

learning about girls’ bodies

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Introduction to puberty for girls
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