Why you need to talk about breasts with your daughter
Even young girls have so many questions about their developing breasts
“Didn’t her parents ever feed her?” Mrs Sharma whispered, pointing with disdain towards the bride. “How will she feed her baby – she has no breasts to speak of.”
“Parents feeding you or not doesn’t determine the size of your breast, Mrs Sharma. And you don’t need big breasts to be able to feed a baby,” I sniggered.
“Of course you do. How will small breasts fill a baby’s stomach?” she retorted, and then murmured to herself, “I wonder what the boy saw in her…”
My nostrils flared, but I bit my lip and stopped myself from shooting a comeback just in time.
‘Wanted: Fair, beautiful girl’ are words commonly used in matrimonial ads, but if Mrs Sharma had her way, then, ‘With big breasts’ would be added.
BREASTS – I write this in bold and capital letters to draw attention to the fact that this is exactly what breasts do – they stand out and attract eyeballs.
But for a young girl, who is just stepping into puberty, this is not necessarily a good thing. She is already confused, embarrassed and probably overwhelmed with her changing body and can very well do without this added scrutiny not just from young men, but also gawky pubertal boys.
In our workshops with boys aged 12 and 13, they openly share the various names they give breasts — boobs, boo-boos, boobies, bouncies and some I can’t mention here.
They giggle amongst themselves about some woman with big breasts and then also scratch their heads in confusion, wanting to know if milk will come out of them if squeezed.
Interestingly, even girls have these questions. An 11-year-old girl once confided in me almost tearfully that there was something wrong with her — when she pressed her breast, milk did not come out. Can you imagine the trauma she must have gone through worrying about it?
Adults often just assume that kids know about this stuff, but how is that possible if we don’t talk about these things with our children? What’s to talk about, a parent may well ask. It’s a natural phenomenon and I will get my daughter a bra when she needs one.
Well, this is the exact approach mothers have been taking for decades. When I was growing up (it seems like centuries ago), I recall my mom just taking me to a shop one day and saying that I need to start wearing a bra.
I also vividly remember being very embarrassed with the saleslady measuring me while salesmen hovered around.
In the days to come, it was also a task trying to hide these new pieces of clothing from my snooping brothers. I also felt everyone was staring at my breasts and started hunching to avoid calling attention to them.
It was only when some classmates started boasting that they had started wearing bras, and the others oohed and aahed over it, that I got the confidence to square my shoulders and walk straight.
Some girls get their growth spurt before their peer group, which makes them very self-conscious. The hunching posture they adopt to hide their developing breasts can unfortunately become permanent. As a parent, you must make your young daughter comfortable with her changing body, more specifically, her maturing breasts.
Girls with delayed development or small breasts worry about their size, girls with early and bountiful growth fret about their size too– no one is happy with what they have.
But these are good times – if you are generously endowed, you can wear a minimiser bra. If you are not so big in that department, then push-ups and double push-ups do the trick.
Jokes aside, it’s important to explain to the young ones (and to Mrs. Sharma) that breast size does not matter. And it’s equally important to pass on the message that every girl is unique and grows differently and at her own pace, so comparisons are not warranted.
These conversations will ensure that your daughter grows up with a healthy body image.