10 Moms Confess How They Really Feel About Little Girls Wearing Bikinis


little girl playing with sand on the beach

Earlier this summer I transitioned my 5-year-old daughter, Evelyn, from a one-piece swimsuit to a tankini to make her pool-time potty trips easier. She quickly outgrew it, so I went hunting for a new one. But when I couldn't find a tankini in her size, I ended up buying her a bikini that covered her chest and top of her tummy. I thought she looked sweet and sporty. But my husband saw her exposed belly and took a surprisingly old-school stance: He vetoed the suit on the spot.

Bikinis are a hot topic for most parents, and my husband's strong reaction got me thinking about where I stand on the issue. Like many parents, I want my daughter to feel totally confident in her skin and like she's free to wear whatever makes her feel comfortable. At the same time, I have an immediate and visceral negative reaction to little girl swimsuits that have triangle tops and spaghetti straps, or look like something a Victoria's Secret model might wear.

More from CafeMom: Outraged Mom Gets This Totally Inappropriate Swimsuit for Kids Removed From Stores

I ended up returning the suit and finding a tankini in another size, but I couldn't stop thinking about what message we were sending Evelyn about her body by not letting her wear the bikini. My daughter isn't a sexual person yet, so why do some two-pieces seem "sexy " to me? Am I actually kind of anti-bikini? Is there truly anything wrong with a little girl wearing a bikini?

I asked other moms how they feel about the great bikini debate, and it turns out I'm far from the only mom trying to make sense of how to raise a confident girl in a world where even buying a swimsuit can feel complicated. Here, real moms share their strong opinions on why swimsuits -- especially bikinis -- matter.

  • 1. My girls can wear whatever they want.

    two girls on a unicorn pool float

    "I let my girls wear pretty much whatever they want at ages 6 and 10. If they are comfy and like it (and it fits), that's all that matters to me!" -- Mary G., Seattle, Washington

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  • 2. Bikini top? Try no top.

    two girls playing on the beach

    "I'd rather see no top on a toddler than a bikini top, but that may be my own weird biases. It's because little kid chests/nipples aren't sexual ... but putting a bikini top on them sexualizes them." -- Emily D., Los Gatos, California 

  • 3. Bikinis aren't the problem, sexualizing them is.

    little girls hugging at the beach

    "I VASTLY prefer two-piece suits because of the ease of going to the bathroom. But I don't think putting a bikini on a toddler sexualizes them, nor do I think that's what their parents are going for ... Sexualizing anyone comes from the person viewing it, and not from the child in the clothes. If someone sees a baby in ANY type of clothing and thinks it's 'sexy'? Well, that's on them. 

    "Starting at around age 11 or 12, my oldest two wanted legit bikinis. I honored that. I feel like there's such a short part of life where we feel totally free in our bodies, and telling them no would be sending some kind of message I didn't want to send." -- Sarah T., Waseca, Minnesota

    More from CafeMom: Here's What These Funny Moms Get Wrong About Sexy Swimsuit Struggles

  • 4. I just want my kid to be comfortable.

    kids splashing in water at beach

    "I want my daughter to be comfortable in her body, and also not to feel like it's her responsibility to monitor how other people are looking at her. That being said, I really do think there are swimsuits out there that pretend like a young child is older than she is. Those make me very uncomfortable." -- Lizzi K., Lincoln, Nebraska

  • 5. Why is this even a conversation?

    little girl on sand at beach

    "[A bikini] has never been what I've bought my girls, but what's MORE concerning is that it's a 'thing' to talk about what little girls wear to the pool but not little boys. This is how it starts, you know? Even though they aren't my taste, my official opinion is that everyone needs to back the f*ck off of having an opinion about what other people wear ... and back the f*ck off ESPECIALLY of females. If we aren't pushing back, we're letting the pattern perpetuate." -- Erin G., Greensboro, North Carolina

  • 6. I'm okay with the suit but I hate the reasons behind it.

    girl running on beach

    "I let my 7-year-old get her first bikini and she looooves it. I love that she's so comfortable in her body. However, if I ask [myself] 'why' a bunch of times -- why does she want a bikini? To show her belly. Why does she want to show her belly? Because her friends do. Why do her friends want to show off their bellies? I keep coming back to 'because society rewards girls for showing off their bodies' and that makes me uncomfortable. She's not begging me to show off her brain. She's begging me for a bikini. At age 7. Ugh." -- Catherine P., Saint Paul, Minnesota

  • 7. I'm just lazy, okay?

    two girls swimming

    "Listen. I hate slathering my kids in sunscreen. So they wear rash guards. It has less to do with 'modesty' and more to do with laziness." -- Ashley G., Las Vegas, Nevada

    More from CafeMom: 20 Fabulous Swimsuits for Moms With Tummies

  • 8. My daughter is too young for a bikini.

    young girl on the beach

    "My husband thinks our daughter is 'too young' for a two-piece, which feels ironic to me. I think I'd rather her wear them when she is little and innocent than wear them when she hit puberty. I'm much more worried about my 14-year-old having boobs in a bikini than my toddler, but my husband isn't budging on this issue." -- Wren E., Tucson, Arizona

  • 9. Her body, her choice.

    little girl on pool float

    "I do not like the two-pieces sold at stores for younger girls. My 6-year-old has found that she is more comfortable in Speedo one-piece swimsuits because she 'doesn't have worry about showing her front.' I personally like tankinis for the ease when it comes to bathroom breaks. However, I need to respect her personal choice based on feelings/preferences she has shared." -- Mariah W., Saint Paul, Minnesota

  • 10. Why aren't we calling out the boys?

    boys and girl running on beach

    "I guess one thing we have to ask ourselves is 'why is it okay for a little boy to run around in a Speedo-type suit with no rash guard and think nothing of it, but we question a girl wearing a bikini?'" -- Rena W., Houston, Texas

swimwear confessions