When I was about 12, I probably single-handedly doubled my family’s toilet tissue budget with all the wads I stuffed down in my tank tops and t-shirts. That Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret exercise I must, I must, I must increase my bust I will, I will, I will increase my skill wasn’t working for me and, well, I was tired of being the president and CEO of the Itty Bitty Titty Committee, what with all the attention Amy and Heddie and a few of my other friends were getting with their womanly boobies. Like, seriously? I was so flat I was doggone near inverted. I worked that scratchy toilet tissue like a corner boy does the midnight shift.

But my, um, enhancements were solely that mine. I couldn’t go to the teen section in the local department store and cop a grown-up bra; they just didn’t sell them there. Back then, little nuggets that barely poked through coordinating Garanimals shirts got flattened out by standard-issue training bras, especially when Bettye was footing the bill. Twelve-year-olds especially those living under Bettye’s roof were to look like little girls for as long as possible. Neither she nor Macy’s was trying to help me vamp it up for my 7th-grade male classmates. Made perfect sense.

So can someone puh-leeze explain to me why, when Nick and I went into tween Heaven a.k.a. Justice to pick up a couple of outfits for the girls, there was an entire section of training bras with wait on it padding. Like, seriously, Victoria’s Secret-worthy padding. Right next to the table full of low-cut bikini panties with hearts and stuff all over them.

The hell?

So,10-year-olds need padded bras now? For what, so they can look like they have bigger boobs under their Bobby Jack t-shirts? So, what, 10-year-old boys or worse, 17-year-old boys and grown men can get a better visual of little girls with Brick House bodies?

And we’re seriously wondering why teenage pregnancy rates are rising after decades of declining. And why most of the teenage girls who end up pregnant tend to get knocked up by grown butt men. And why 12-year-olds look and act way more grown than any 12-year-old ever should.

Look no further than the training bra rack at the local children’s department for at least some of the explanation for these things.

When, people? When are we going to stand up as moms and demand that these stores stop sexualizing our girls? For sure, Nick and I brought our concerns to the store clerks; a few of them shook their heads in agreement totally understanding why the parents of a 10-year-old would be bothered by padded bras for little girls. One pointed out to us a few more traditional training bras; they were buried at the bottom of the rack, way in the back. But the manager, well, she thought we were making much ado about nothing. Some girls need the extra support, she said weakly.

I’m sure. But we moms don’t have to support stores that try to turn our girls into women way before their time. Keep that in mind the next time you happen into a store that tries to make your baby look like a Victoria’s Secret model before she even has a chance to see her little nuggets blossom into something to look at.

Just think about it.

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  1. Have you seen their heels for toddlers?! I'm waiting on sippy cups with stems! It's all crazy, heck sometimes I have a hard time shopping for myself being as how I don't like all my "business" in the street. Luckily Yael scoffs at it still, but it only takes a neighbor's child and a minute to turn that scoff into longing.

  2. LOL. Its not funny, but I have to laugh because I had the same reaction when shopping for the 6 year old's little nuggets. I was horrified. The padding and the little rhinestones in the middle of the demi bras… it was all too much for me. I finally was able to find and settle on a pack of sports bras because that was literally the only thing that was appropriate for a 6 year old! Oh, and, did your store also have matching bra and panty sets??? Cuz, mine did!

  3. MBB Founder and Editor Denene Millner

    @TAllen-Mercado: Girl, you ain't nevah lied about the pull of the "longing." It's a beast. Stay strong—that's why we're the parents and they're the kids. My mom used to say all the time that a parent's job is to keep their kids "from killing their fool selves." Speak, mommy. Speak.

    @MsBar: Lord, matching bra and panty sets? With rhinestones? Who in the hell is supposed to be looking at that?! Oh. My.

  4. I so agree with you on this issue. I noticed this situation a few years ago – the sexy underwear and bras for young girls. It totally sends the wrong message to children and teens, to tell the truth. Even in high school I was still wearing pretty standard stuff. Who was going to be seeing it anyway? We are just pushing these babies into womanhood before they are ready. I don't have a girl, but it would certainly be an issue for me if I did.

  5. It's just awful! Our girls are growing up too fast and we have to be the backbone of support to teach them it's okay to be a child. A young lady…not a hoochie!

    I've seen the little girls in heels and I must say I'm baffled by them.

    Hugs and Mocha,

  6. Having three girls I am so with you on this. When my oldest (19) was into Limited Too you would never see more than a "sports bra" type, now my younger girls are of that age (12 and 11) it is all I can do to buy clothes for them without them looking like little hookers.

    Even baby clothes with "juicy" across the bottom IMO is just wrong! At what age does it stop being "cute" then turn into a question of "does that outfit make my child look like a tramp?"

    What is worse is when they enter Junior High and have to dress out for PE and are exposed to all kinds of "underthings" that would not be appropriate in my house.

  7. MBB Founder and Editor Denene Millner

    @Melissa: EXACTLY! Who's going to be looking at it? I mean, if I had a bra with rhinestones when I was 12, I probably would have wanted to show it to someone. There's no need to encourage that behavior.

    @Stesha and Jane4Girls: SO glad I'm not alone in this. I just don't remember seeing this kind of thing ever. And I'm tired of pop culture and these stores pushing our girls to grow up WAY before their time.

  8. JoyfulMom @ HappyGirlHair.com

    My husband and I were just in a department store choosing a baby gift. They had adorable, sweet clothes up to about 5T. I wandered over to the size 6 and up section to see if there was anything for my girls, and it was like stepping in to another universe. Those were some trashy, trashy clothes. Some of those clothes wouldn't be appropriate on a 17 year old, much less a 6 year old. And the bras? Wow.

    I read Packaging Girlhood awhile back and it discussed this in the broader issue of how marketers create a culture of desire for all things sexy and glamorous in our young girls. It was eye-opening. So Sexy So Soon is next on my reading list.

  9. OMG, this is disturbing. Bad enough that my beautiful Ethiopian daughter is developing at 9, but I will not turn her into Rhianna! I did find "training bras" or (as she calls them: half t-shirts) at Target. Thank goodness SOMEONE is willing for girls to be girls and not slutty women!

    Oh, and wanted to check to make sure that I should be here. I mean, I'm not of color (though my daughters tell me I'm slightly pink), and I notice that all of the commenters are brown. Don't want to horn in, but our family is "1/2 brown and 1/2 tan".

    Thanks for the great posts and articles!


  10. MBB Founder and Editor Denene Millner

    @Beth: Thanks for the head's up about Target; we'll definitely check out the selections there. And OF COURSE you can read and comment here at MyBrownBaby. This blog is for EVERYONE, and certainly, while I do tend to write about motherhood from the perspective of being a mom of color raising children of color, many of the topics here are universal. Take, for instance, today's post. Every last one of us moms of girls—no matter the color—are experiencing this phenomenon. It has not color. I'd venture to say, too, that moms who are not of color (or who are raising white children) can, on some level, identify with the posts written specifically about race—and even if you can't, at least you're learning something about a fellow mom. So keep coming back to MBB and certainly, comment like a loon. Every last one of the comments here are welcomed and appreciated. In the spirit of motherhood!

  11. LOL @ Beth, I am more ghostly white right now, could get some lobster red in a few weeks then will be more of a cafe mocha with extra milk during the summer if I work at it really hard.

    MBB is for all hues

  12. Thanks, Denene! You know, I sometimes think of myself as a mom of color, though I know that would grit the teeth of many moms of color to hear!!! I do learn ALOT about raising 2 brown daughters though, by reading your blog and the comments. Thanks for including me. 🙂

    LOL @ Jane4girls. I will undoubtedly be pinker after our 1st vacation in 3 yrs. next week. My older daughter told me last summer "don't try to get your skin brown,Mommy. You weren't born to be brown." Aaaaargh.

  13. I second your motion on this issue. I have a 9 year old and trying to even buy panties to actually cover her behind is a big issue (as I'm sure with most black girls), let alone training bras. They have skimpy cut boy short that ride high on the behind (showing more that they should) and hi-leg bikinis panties. I even had the hardest time finding appropriate bathing suits to cover my girl. Why do little girls need bikini style suits. I went from store to store just trying to find bathing suites with full bottom coverage and or wraps/skirts to keep my girl covered from all the learing eyes. The thing I hate the most are them sweatpants with the words written across the behind. What kind of attention are you attracting with that!

    I'm all into little girls being fashionable but help them to remain a child. Lets help young ladys to respect herself and demands that in return, not be little girls to be googled at by boys and men.

  14. I'm hesitant to even buy my 3.5 year old panties with Dora on them because "why the heck does she need decorations on them"? My daughter will be wearing all white everything.

  15. My 8 year old has just started wearing a bra. Well, I shouldn't even call it a bra. It's more of a really short tank top. And she only wears it because she has to dress out for PE. She was so excited to wear her little bra. I must say that I was horrified that a 7 year old was sprouting little buds. But that padded bra thing is rediculous. I pray that my baby looks and acts her age for as long as possible. That's why I am determined to be my daughters role model instead of the heifers I see on TV who look and act much too old for their age.

  16. I am so with all of you guys. I experience the same dilemma as Joyful Mom. It is like they think 5-6 year olds can't wear "child-appropriate" clothes. But Osh-Kosh and Carters still cater to those moms who want their 5 year olds to look like 5 year olds. It was so upsetting to see that my oldest could no longer get same or similar clothes as her sister at particular stores, and the thing is she likes having clothes that are similar to her younger sister's. She is only in a 5T-6 so I definitely do not understand this, but I will just stick to these brands until the time comes to move on. I do not think my job will get any easier with all this craziness.

  17. Oy, one more thing to add to my checklist of things to worry about if this baby I am carrying is a girl… I can't even believe this.

  18. I live right around the corner from one of those stores, and I've never gone in there. While I do agree with the manager about SOME girls needing some serious support, because let me tell you, I've seen many 12-year-olds more busty than me over the years, but padding is not support. Is it?

  19. i agree mostly. if a young girl doesnt need to be wearing a bra (meaning hasnt developed breast yet) then she should not be wearing a padded bra. but i am 14 right now and i started gettin breast when i was 9. no as u can imagine after about 2 or so years when i was 11 i started getting bigger…alot bigger, and bras without padding were embarrassing to where because if i got cold… well u know what happened. When i started wearing padded bras i no longer had that problem. so in some cases i do believe that children shouldnt wear padded bras, but if a girl were in my situation i think there would be no problem

    • Well 10 is usually when you start developing breast. So the padding is just to cover the bids starting to grow no support for no boobs. Just cover nipples that’s all. Why does everybody get worked up with these things. Padding just helps young girls feel comfortable so her nipples don’t show. Decorations no point really its not like girls at age 10 younger or a bit older will be showing anyone. If they do show them to someone like a guy then maybe the parent needs to just make sure at all times they know where the girl is. If your daughter claims she’s going to a sleepover then check with the parent. If she goes to a party drop her off or no party call her at least once or twice make sure she picks up and set a time to pick her up. Don’t allow dating util you know she’s ready. It’s this simple and the media don’t help. Avoid Victoria secret even when she’s ready for cup sizes go to stores she’s comfortable with and you are comfortable with. Let her be herself so if she does need padding to cover her nipples allow it if she doesn’t want plain white allow a flower or two and some other colors or she’ll have no guidance and want to look like a hooker

  20. I think my thought about this was a little different. I was that kid who had constant headlights. It was embarrassing and I got a lot of unwanted attention. The padded bras when I found them were a life saver. I still have to wear some sort of padding. Just thought in some rare cases padding can be helpful.

  21. I have to agree – my two 10 1/2 year old daughter's sprouted buds this year, but they have constant headlights! Maidenform has padded bras that have no underwire or anything and are sporty and have saved them a lot of embarrassment. Those padded bras are a blessing in our family! And my daughter does wear bikini cut underwear, has since she was about 3 or 4, she says they are more confortable. It's all how you raise them – you can raise them to feel proud of their bodies and girly, without it being sexual!

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  23. My daughter started developing at the age of 9 as I did too. The little sports bras aren't doing her justice. She needs a little padding for coverage. Unfortunately some girls develop faster than others. She hates wearing them but it saves her the embarrassment of kids being cruel to her. She definatley still has the mind of a little 9 year old girl.

  24. My 10 year old just started wearing a sports bra with the tinest bit of padding. I think she needs it because her buds are becoming large

  25. Your article is so funny, however, do you realize that you were stuffing your bra, the stores are just making what people want. I’m not saying that it’s Ok, but our society feeds off consumerism and we are not forced purchase them. Anyways, I don’t purchase those for my little girl. I buy her sports bra with a little padding because you can still see a little too much when she wears ones without the pads.

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