Raising Tween Girls Q&A with ‘The Care and Keeping of You’ Author and OOMLA Founder Dr. Cara Natterson

Raising tween girls during a pandemic was a challenge for me and many other moms I know. Lacking a support system of other parents to see regularly and chat with made it difficult to know when and how to start conversations about the big issues that come up, especially with middle school starting this year.

Instead of taking my best guess at how to handle these issues, I decided to head to the expert herself, Dr. Cara Natterson, a pediatrician who authored the American Girl series ‘The Care and Keeping of You,’ and who recently launched a new bra line for tweens, OOMLA.

Check out her helpful advice, and make sure to check out her bra line too. They are made with great quality fabric with neat patterns, like outer space constellations. Plus, they are reversible with blush, tan, or deep brown color on the other side, so there are no issues with wearing lighter tee shirts too.

Having open and honest conversations can be easier with some girls than it is for others. What are your tips for helping to inform girls who are more shy or quiet about these topics? 

Talking doesn’t always have to be verbal. Some people communicate through the written word – you can exchange a journal with questions and answers or you can even trade texts. Books, digital content, even movies and shows that address specific coming-of-age topics can be filled with teachable moments.

If you have a quiet child and you’re trying to break through with conversation, don’t give up! But add into your repertoire other, non-verbal ways of sharing information. And when you do try talking, you may find more success doing it in a setting where you aren’t looking at each other directly, so in the car or on a walk or even at night when the lights go out.

Some tweens wonder, why do I need to wear a bra? Do I really need to? What would you suggest for moms managing this rite of passage?  

Bra wearing is all about comfort – what’s going to make a person feel physically and emotionally comfy. A bra can minimize sensitivity to overlying tee shirts or sweaters, and when they have padding or compression can reduce the pain of being bumped in that area. It can be tricky for parents to suggest a bra, particularly if their child is having a moment of low self-esteem because the suggestion can feel like a criticism.

Some of the best ways to bring up the subject carefully include: acknowledging that bodies change and grow; normalizing the fact that kids will have question (so ask!); and acknowledging that growing breasts can be made more comfortable – and maybe even a little less obvious to the outside world if that’s a concern – with a soft, supportive bra.

What are some benefits to talking in the home instead of just relying on the school’s health class? How can your Puberty Portal be a tool in this conversation between parents and children?

I am a big believer in both sets of conversations – the ones at home and the ones at school. But neither should be a substitute for the other. The more conversations we have with kids about their changing bodies and their evolving emotions, the better. This doesn’t just normalize the experience. It also normalizes talking things through.

Parents will often tell me they don’t know where to start on the puberty conversation front, so I point them to reliable resources including books (like The Care and Keeping of You  and Guy Stuff) and OOMLA’s Puberty Portal. You can both read the same content and then jump into a conversation about it without having to cover the basics, which makes a huge difference!

Oomla Oombra

Your website talks about your product photos not being made for the male gaze. Do you want to share more about building up girl’s confidence for themselves, and not for someone else?

Deep exhale. This is such a critical question. Taking care of ourselves – everything from hygiene to sleep to exercise to nutrition to mindfulness to kindness – are central to our physical and emotional wellness. OOMLA is about making puberty comfortable in every way, so we choose not to objectify the models in our photos. Instead, we capture them in authentic moments and we opt to do so from the side or from the back because we want to remove the layer of imagery meant for the gazes of others.

That said, we have many Gen Z fans who send us images of themselves wearing their OOMBRAs, photographed from the front. These images are usually just as authentic and no more sexualized than anything we produce on our end. There is a fine line between not promoting content for another’s gaze and honoring content that both empowers and celebrates the subject of the photo.

So we take pictures from the side and back, but we deeply respect OOMBRA wearers who want to show us how their wear their OOMBRAs from the front. At the heart of this is a deep belief that the entire generation, regardless of gender, learns to value how they feel about themselves and behave as humans above how they are seen – literally and figuratively – by others. If they do, they will be miles ahead of the generations that preceded them.

CREDIT: Dr. Cara Natterson, renowned pediatrician, NY Times Best-Selling author and the co-founder of the new puberty brand OOMLA.

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