Advise Me

Is Your Daughter Ready for a Training Bra?

Over the years, you’ve done the sleep training and the potty training, but suddenly another training day is upon you. No, it’s not baseball season. It’s bra training … or rather, training bra season.

Daddy and Mommy’s little girl is no longer your little girl—at least visibly. Somewhere along the way your daughter started going through puberty and now she has some little lumps under her nipples called ‘breast buds’ poking out from underneath her shirt.

Is it really time for your daughter to get her very first over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder or training bra? What even is a “training” bra?

At this point, your blood pressure may be slightly elevated; sweat may or may not be forming. Your life may be flashing before your eyes. Before you go down an anxiety spiral, here are some helpful answers and tips to navigate this normal rite of passage.

What exactly is a training bra?

Contrary to its name, training bras aren’t doing any “training” per se. There is no boot camp or push-ups involved. Really, training bras are meant to cover-up or act as a barrier between your daughter’s growing breast buds and nipples and her T-shirts.

“There is no medical or physiological reason to wear a training bra other than the social and psychological reasons,” said Brenda Kronborg, DO, a pediatrician with  Banner Children's. “Training bras are pretty much standard bras except for the trim as they don’t provide any support. They make the protruding nipple less visible but do nothing to ‘train’ the breast.”

At what age do girls typically start wearing a training bra?

Puberty can start as early as age 8 in girls—sometimes even earlier—and can last well into their teen years. This wide range in ages means tweens and teens will have varying stages of breast development. There is no right age for a training bra. In this case, don’t let their age guide your decision but instead base it on the tell-tale signs, such as breast buds, and conversations you have with your daughter about her desire to start wearing bras.

“As soon as the breasts start growing breast buds, small (sometimes very tender) bumps below the nipples, is typically when girls start wearing training bras,” said Dr. Kronborg. “Normally, by the time a girl can fill a B cup is when she’ll eventually require a standard bra.”

Is my daughter ready to start wearing a training bra?

Although having a conversation about bras can be a bit awkward (especially if you’re the male caretaker in the family), it’s an important one to have as part of your ongoing conversations about your daughter’s developing body.

When it comes to deciding when it's time to start wearing a training bra, there are a number of factors to consider—some social, some psychological and some that are just personal for you and your child.

  • Does she have breast buds?
  • Is she getting stares by those looking at her developing breasts?
  • Are other friends wearing them?
  • Has she become more self-conscious or embarrassed by her growing breasts?
  • Is she showing discomfort (some of those sequin T-shirts are notorious for chaffing nipples)?
  • Does she play sports or dance and need extra support?
  • Is she hunching over to hide her breasts?

What if she asks to wear a training bra or bra?

For some girls your daughter’s age, they may be very anxious to start wearing a bra—especially if their friends or older sisters are already wearing them.

“Some girls want to wear them before they really need one,” Dr. Kronborg said. “This could be because they look forward to wearing a bra or because their friends are wearing bras. Some girls feel self-conscious about their breasts and want to wear a bra.”

This can be an awkward time for girls when they start developing breasts, so a training bra isn’t a bad idea if it helps them feel more comfortable and confident.

What if she refuses to wear a training bra?

While some girls may be excited, your daughter might communicate via text with, “(>_<),” which basically translates into, “Mom and dad, stop—just stop!” If you got this similar response to the period and sex talk, you shouldn’t be too surprised by this reaction either.

“Some girls don’t want to wear a bra because of discomfort or embarrassment, or simply don’t want to wear one at this point,” Dr. Kronborg said. “Be sensitive to your daughter’s feelings.”

“Obvi” you don’t want to force your daughter to do anything she isn’t comfortable with—even if she’s been comfortable talking about everything else.

Wearing a bra is a commitment and not every girl is going to just jump on board. Eventually, she’ll come to a point where she wants to find something (whether a training bra or sports bra) that will support and encourage her to continue to be her beautiful, confident self. And when she does, you can have the credit card ready.

Tips for buying their first training bra … or bras

From training bras to sports bras to underwire bras and everything in between, the bra section of any clothing or intimates store can be very intimidating and overwhelming. With so many choices, sizes, colors, fabrics, styles—it’s no wonder some men avoid this section like the plague.

Before introducing your daughter to this crazy world, start at home and look at styles online. Consider what activities she’s involved in, such as sports or dance, and what type of bras she might feel most comfortable in. Because, if you’ve been wearing bras for years, you know that comfort is everything.

Here are some helpful tips to consider when bra shopping:

  • Get them measured. Many girl’s bra styles don’t have cup sizes, because young girls aren’t fully developed yet. To measure them properly, use a tape measurer and measure around the rib cage, just under their chest. Check out this helpful guide for more tips to choose the right bra.
  • Watch the padding. Most girls who are beginning to develop don’t need padding. You want your daughter to be comfortable and confident in her own skin, which doesn’t mean any of that added fluff.
  • Buy different styles. If your daughter plays sports or dances, she may need a different style of training bra depending on the activity. Find a couple different options, maybe some for school and another for play.

Your daughter may not visibly be your little girl anymore, but she’s growing into a confident, empowered and wonderful woman thanks, in part, to her incredible parents.

For more helpful parenting advice and helpful tips, check out the Banner Health Blog for articles on anything from prenatal care to young adulthood and everything in between.

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