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When Girls Develop Early

Shari Harper of Spokane, WA, was shocked to notice that her daughter, Creta, 8, was developing breasts. "My baby's growing up too fast!" she thought.

In fact, this isn't unusual. Over the past century, the average age at which girls get their periods has dropped to 11 to 12; breasts usually appear 18 to 24 months beforehand.

No matter what the "normal" age, it can be hard to be the first girl among friends to need a bra. To help your daughter feel confident about her new body:

Say something. Even if you're close, she may not feel comfortable discussing this with you. In that case, suggest a shopping trip for a bra and new tops. That lets her know you've noticed, without making it a big deal.

Reassure her. If she complains about her chest, or is getting teased, explain that all girls go through this eventually and that there's nothing wrong with her. Since pubic and underarm hair usually show up at the same time as or soon after breasts develop, let her know that that's normal, too.

Clothe her comfortably. Often, girls will wear baggy shirts or hunch over to hide their chests. Tell her you'd be happy to help her choose clothes that fit well but don't emphasize her chest. She may want to wear a sports bra, which minimizes the bust.

Let her act her age. She may look grown-up, but it's okay for her to be the kid she still is.

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