Based on the research that Dr. Marisa C. Weiss and her daughter, Isabel Freidman, collected, Taking Care of Your “Girls” answers the most compelling questions girls have about their changing bodies, from “How do I know when I need to get my first bra?” to “Is there a perfect, correct, or average breast size?” Dr. Weiss offers advice at a medical and a motherly level while Isabel provides a peer-to-peer perspective.
Changes in puberty can be challenging
It’s not easy to talk to anyone about the changes your body is going through—especially the private changes. You want to know everything, but you don’t want to feel uncomfortable learning about it. So how do you get answers to your questions? How do you find the reassurance that everything is going okay and figure out what to expect next? This can all happen in a bunch of ways. Someone in your family might take you aside for “a talk.” You might learn some of the things at school or from friends. A book might show up in your room that has a lot of answers (like this one). Or maybe you’ll see something in a magazine or on TV.
For me things were a little different. I grew up in a unique household. I’m not saying puberty wasn’t a confusing time for me, because it was. But because both my parents are doctors (as are three of my grandparents), medical information has always been easy to get. I never had “the talk” because I heard talk about bodies all the time. I also have a very close and open relationship with my cousins and aunts on my mom’s side of the family. Dinner conversations quickly get carried away, and we share lots of funny and embarrassing stories.
Pay attention to your family’s wisdom
Years before my own breasts even started developing, my mom and aunts would tell stories and pass down wisdom from their own experiences. Once my aunt Alice told my cousin Lena, eight, and me, 10, that when she was my age, she felt a bump in her breast. Worried that it might be breast cancer, Alice ran downstairs to tell her mother. Her mom—my grandmother—assured a panicked Alice that it was not breast cancer at all, but that her breast buds were starting to grow!
We all got a good laugh out of the story, but I had another feeling: huge relief! I’d had the same breast cancer scare with my breast bud as Aunt Alice did. That night, Lena and I stayed up late talking, and she said she had been scared too. Even two girls from a family of doctors could freak out about these big changes! From that point on, I knew how important it was to learn about what was going on with my own body; I did not want to be scared every time I noticed a change.
By the time I was 11 years old, I had read through books and talked to friends and family. But I was still not entirely satisfied with the information. My mother is a breast cancer doctor, so I figured that she mainly knew what could go wrong with breasts. My father is a pediatrician, but I wasn’t going to ask him anything about my breasts. Lena, at nine, had not yet started puberty, although she was just as curious about all the changes that I was going through. I also wanted to be prepared to teach Lena when she would go through puberty herself. Our joint fascination and eagerness to learn led us to create “nipple books.” These were books we kept that helped us explore and understand what was going on with our bodies.