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Should Young Girls Wear Padded Bras? Myths About First Bras

  |   By Elisabeth Dale

Some parents were recently critical of Marks & Spencer for marketing padded bras to young girls. But they aren’t the only retailer who has come under attack for offering this bra style to teens and ‘tweens as a first bra.

Is it wrong to sell padded bras to developing girls? Some parents have strong opinions on the subject. But I think most of the controversy misses some general facts about bra wear and body development.

padded bras

Soft Padded Full Cup First Bra
Available in Bands 28-38, Cups A-D
via Marks & Spencer

Myth #1: Padded bras “sexualize” young girls. Bras come in a variety of styles. Most intimate apparel manufacturers offer t-shirt style “contour” or molded bras in their collections. These are options women of all ages have in their wardrobe because they provide a sleek look under clingy tops. Rather than sexualizing a woman’s bust, they give the wearer a smooth look under specific clothing.

Myth #2: Girls as young as nine don’t need padding. Breast development can begin as early as seven years of age. First, not all girls develop breast tissue at the same rate or size. Adolescence is also a time marked by extreme self-consciousness. Growing boobs may be painful, too. Padded styles hide nipple swelling and an extra layer of protection and security. It all depends on the girl and her individual preferences. But it’s a perfectly acceptable and often necessary choice as a first bra.padded bras

Tween Bee Full Coverage Bra
Available in Bands 30-36, Cups AA & A
via Nordstrom
 
padded bras
 
Moulded Smooth Super Soft Bra
Available in Band 30-36, Cups A-D
via Royce Lingerie
 
padded bras
 
Stardust Bra
Available in Bands 30-36, Cups AA-B
via Royce Lingerie

Myth #3: Padded bras encourage young girls to want bigger breasts, including plastic surgery. Most young girls worry that they are too small or too big, or develop too quickly or slowly. What they don’t realize is that they might not get their full “boob growth” until their late teens or early 20s. It’s one reason why plastic surgeons discourage the procedure in younger women unless it is to correct some medical problem.

Bra padding also varies widely. Most styles don’t add a full cup size unless it is of the push-up variety. That’s not the kind of bra you’ll find at Marks & Spencer and other retailers. But what’s wrong with bigger breasts? Some girls—like myself and my daughter—grow bigger boobs at a younger age. They shouldn’t be made to feel bad about their bodies. My priority was finding my teen a first bra that fit and made her feel good about herself. She didn’t want to appear larger than her peers.

padded bras

Bunches of Berrie Bundle 
Available in Sizes XS – XL
via Yellowberry

If you’re not sure what type of bra to buy your daughter, do some online research and discover what’s available. There are plenty of first bra options for younger girls. Some manufacturers (like Yellowberry) specialize in soft, fully lined cotton alternatives or bralettes. What’s more important is to make your child feel comfortable during a time when her body is experiencing significant changes.

Do you think retailers should sell padded bras to young girls? What’s your biggest concern when bra shopping with your daughter?

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Breast and bra expert, author, and founder of TheBreastLife.com. My latest book, The Bra Zone: How to Find Your Ideal Style, Size, and Support, busts common bra fitting myths and helps consumers navigate the confusing world of bra styles and sizes.