Breast development can be an exciting and daunting time for pre-teens, teens and their parents.
Finding their friends are all developing at different stages can be of concern for some teens with some more developed than others. So, your aim is to convey a positive message about your teen’s body, and to find bras for your pre-teen and teen which offer support and instil body confidence at this critical development time.
It may be helpful for you to tell your child that girls commonly have one breast that develops faster than the other. Everyone’s breasts are different, and no two breasts are the same. Nipples come in all different shapes and sizes and this is usually determined by your genes. Breasts change throughout your life, and it’s important you look after them.
In puberty breast development often starts on one side before the other, difference in breast size is normal and common. When breasts are fully developed most breasts are slightly larger on one side than the other but this is usually not very noticeable in a bra.
On rare occasions a teen may experience differential growth with one breast many cup sizes smaller than the other breast this is known as Poland Syndrome. This is usually caused by the underdevelopment of the chest muscle. This cannot be corrected medically until the breasts are fully developed. This can be very destressing for some teens especially if its visibly noticeable under clothes. I would recommend a partial breast prosthetic to create symmetry, these come in different shapes and sizes and can change how a teen is feeling about their body and give the confidence to wear what they want without hiding the lack a symmetry.
What to look for when checking if your bra fits
Band The band of the bra offers about 80% of the support and should sit level around the body. If the band is digging into the body, it usually means it’s too tight. If the band is riding up your back this means it’s too loose, this can also happen when a bra has worn out due to washing and wearing over time.
Hook & Eye Closure On a new bra, fit it on the loosest hook and eye closure. Why? As the bra stretches over time from washing and wearing, you can tighten it and get more wear from your bra.
Cups Breasts need to be fully in the cups. If there is spilling out of the sides, front or underneath the band of the bra it usually means the cups are too small. If the cups of the bra are wrinkling or there is excess space in the cups, the bra cups are too big. The bra’s wires or side seams sit behind the breasts, if they are digging in or sitting on the breast the cups are too small. If the wires or sides seams are sitting too high under the arms the cups may be too big or it can be due to the band being too loose.
Centre Front This is the area between the cups and should sit close to the body, if this is standing away from the body it suggests that the band is too big or the cups are too small, pushing the centre front forwards.
Straps Strap position and tightness is very personal. Some like a tighter strap; others a looser strap. The straps offer some support but not all the support, if your straps are taking most of the weight of the breasts it’s usually because the band of the bra is too big and not offering enough support. The straps are often adjusted to pull the breast upwards this causes the band to ride up at the back and create discomfort on the shoulders.
Shape That all important bra shape, there are different bra shapes to choose from. Find a shape that works for you and looks great under your clothes.
Sports bras and crop tops
If it’s not yet time for a bra, or your pre-teen or teen are embarrassed about their breast development, here are some options:
- The nipple area is often sensitive and can cause discomfort if it rubs against clothes. In this scenario I would recommend your child wearing a crop top and then transitioning to a bra when the breast is formed and can fill the cup of a bra.
- Light padding is a good option as it can hide the nipples which react to temperature variations and can often cause embarrassment
- Sports tops are great as not only do they offer good support, they often don’t look like a bra. This is particularly so if you choose racer-back shapes.
- If playing sport, wearing a sports top offers additional comfort and minimises the breast movement. This is ideal, as breasts don’t have muscles so the less bounce the better.
Should younger teens wear underwired bras?
I would recommend that pre-teens and younger teens wear non-wired bras but this is only a recommendation.
There are a couple of reasons for this.
Firstly, it can take a little getting used to wearing a bra, let alone an underwired bra. Non-wired bras are more comfortable at this stage.
Secondly, breasts can grow at different times which means you can be fitted for a bra one day and, within a few weeks, breasts may have grown again. Having a non-wired bra gives longer wear time as it means that there will be nothing uncomfortable digging into the breast if your child has a growth spurt.
Breasts can and will develop in their own time and own way. You can never tell how fast the breast will grow, so always check bra cups for breast spillage over the front or the sides of the bra and buy a larger cup size if there is spillage.
What about older teens?
Often older teens may prefer to wear an underwired bra and at this stage they are usually more familiar with bra wearing. They may even have a preferred shape which they like to wear.
If they are wearing an underwired bra, check the wire comes right around the contour of the breast and sits behind the breast. If the cup is too small the wire will dig into the breast and will cause discomfort. Use the tips on Cups above on "what to look for when checking if your bra fits" to find the most comfortable fit from your wire.
For more help and support with bra fitting for your child, please check out my personal styling for teenagers.