Many of the women I come into contact with talk about how there was little or no dialogue around breasts when they were growing up. Thousands, if not millions, of women in North America are left to figure out their breasts and bra fit over decades. This time can be fraught with doubt, self-criticism and both physical and emotional pain that could have been prevented with early bra education and support. The emotional and physical changes involved in developing breasts can be a daunting experience made much easier by an informed and supportive family.
The World Your Daughter Lives In
The reality of our world today is that we are exposed to more body commentary than ever before. Here is a pretty staggering statistic:
"By the time they're 17, girls have seen 250,000 TV commercials telling them they should be a decorative object, sex object or a body size they can never achieve."
When we live in a world where you daughter is being bombarded with other people's ideas of how she should look it's even more important to instill a confidence that will allow her to be herself and be happy. I really like this resource pack for parents to start talking about body image, women in commercials, dieting and Photoshop.
It's not an overstatement to say that your early experiences around bras and breasts form a significant part of the foundation of your adult relationship with your body. Giving your daughter the language and tools to understand and support herself (physically and emotionally) can have a positive effect on her self-esteem, confidence, health and happiness.
Understand Your Own Bra History
Before you can help your daughter through her developing years, it's important to know your own bra history.
Busty Moms - If you were a busty teen and/or are a busty adult then you have some empathy about what your daughter is experiencing. It's worth writing a list of things that you remember being hard (sports, teasing, shopping etc) to give you a frame reference for the challenges your daughter might face.
If you were fortunate enough to have a parent who understood the importance of a well-fitting bra then you will have a good idea of what that meant to you. For most women there wasn't a lot of conversation around bras and breasts (it may even have been a subject shrouded in shame or embarrassment). You will know how this made you feel - you have the chance to change this cycle of shame for your daughter.
Smaller Busted Moms - You may not have been a busty teen (or a busty adult) but you have a daughter who is developing larger breasts. This can be daunting for some Moms because they don't have experience in dealing with larger breasts.
The first thing to remember is that your daughter's development is completely normal. Girls are developing breasts earlier and larger (for reasons including increased calcium in our diets, hormone changes in the food chain, increased use of the contraceptive pill).
There are many experiences you can share with your daughter no matter how big your breasts are and these create the bond of womanhood between the two of you. Here's one pearl of wisdom from my own Mum that let me know I was now a woman and part of an exclusive club:
"Women have to go through a lot so we should always have great bras and shoes to support us on the journey."
Knowledge is the key to effective communication so it's worth getting to know busty resources and finding other women who can help you support your daughter (I'll explain this more in the next section.)
|The Dove Self-Esteem Project Relies on Role Models|
Moms, Dads, Aunts, Friends, Grandmothers Can All Be Role Models
The best way we learn how to be proud of our bodies is to see people we love and respect being role models. You don't have to be busty to be a role model.
Moms - I know this is a tough question to ask but are you positive about your own body? Regardless of what size or shape you are, your daughter is looking at you to learn how to feel about herself by seeing how you treat yourself. We all have bad hair days, bad wardrobe days, bad "why are my hips still growing" days, but it's important to have more "I have a great smile", "I love wearing my favourite colour, "I love being tall/petite/curvy/athletic" days. By being positive about you, learning to accept a compliment and celebrating more than just your physicality your daughter will learn to see herself as more than just a body.
In the bra department the first thing you can do to be a great role model is wear the correct bra size. No matter what size you are, wearing the correct bra size (and knowing what correct bra size means) gives your daughter a tangible example of what wearing the right bra looks like. If you don't know what correct bra fit is then I recommend these articles:
Your Boobs Tell You When You Need a New Bra
Not All D Cups Are The Same
7 Ways To Tell If Your Bra Fits
She needs you to let her know that she can be proud of her figure but not defined by it. I know that the length of my skirts gave my father heart palpitations from time to time, but he never made me feel ashamed of my figure always complimenting me on how smart, or colourful, or beautiful I looked.
Encouraging good bra support can also keep girls in sports (a horrifying number of girls drop out of sports because they are ashamed of their bust). Too many women tell me that they enjoyed playing sports with their fathers until their bodies began to change and then Dad became embarrassed. You can literally improve your daughter's health and happiness by taking the need for great sports bras seriously. You can do this simply by encouragement, acknowledgement or paying! It's being part of the conversation that matters.
For some Dads they are the sole parent and all aspects of growing up fall to him. For those Dads who have lost their partner to breast cancer the subject of bras and breasts can be doubly difficult. Here are some resources for lone Dad's bringing up daughters:
National Fatherhood Initiative
Fathers Raising Daughters
Communication is the key to instilling the confidence your daughter will need as a busty teen and adult. If you know you have your own hang-ups about bras and boobs then now is the time that you can start to address them so you don't perpetuate the cycle of bra misery and shame for your daughter. Replace the sadness and frustration with joy and freedom. Check back next week for the conclusion to this guide. As always I love to hear your feedback, stories and suggestions. xx