When it comes to feminine hygiene supplies, there are almost as many questions as there are products!  Since your daughter will use approximately 10,000 pads, tampons and/or panty liners in her lifetime, it is worth investing some time to learn more about her options.


The Starting Line

Some girls start menstruating at age 9 while others don’t have their first period until age 15.  Whether your daughter starts before most of her friends, along with them, or is one of the last to get her period, the odds are good that she will start with disposable pads (or a mix of disposable pads and panty liners).  Pads are practical, easy to use, and highly effective.


The interest level in trying an internal product varies widely among girls who have recently started menstruating.  Some of the most common reasons for growing more interested include:

– Friends’ Recommendations
Leaking Through Pads
– Summer Outfits & Outings
– Sports & Activities
– Concerns About Odor
Swimming/Fun Water Activities
– Wanting to be Like ___ (mom, older sister, etc.)


Coach Mom (or Dad)

If your daughter is expressing interest, make time to make sure you and she are both well educated about her options.  While your daughter may be talking about this subject with friends, keep in mind that research shows an adolescent’s decision to use tampons is most influenced by her mother.  As her coach, it is important you know the basics:

– Age. If your daughter is menstruating, her body is physically mature enough for tampon usage.  There is no “right” age to try a first tampon.  The transition is easier for girls who are already comfortable with menstruation, having managed several periods with pads.

– Fear.  If your daughter is anxious, rushed, or fearful about inserting anything into her vagina, it may be best to delay tampon usage.  Slow down and provide her more information, and the opportunity to explore her own anatomy privately with a hand-held mirror (apart from and prior to her first attempt to insert a tampon).  Remember, if she is nervous her body will tense up, which makes insertion much more difficult.  Also, keep in mind one of the most common mistakes among new users is failing to insert the tampon deep enough into the vaginal canal.

– TSS.  For the sake of good hygiene and to lessen the likelihood of Toxic Shock Syndrome, make sure you explain how important it is that she use the least absorbent tampon needed for her flow and that she change her tampons often (every 4-6 hours).  We recommend tampons not be used for sleeping and that daytime use be alternated with pads to allow the toxins to dissipate. Please note: girls from tweens to early twenties have an increased risk of TSS – it is important to learn the facts & symptoms.


Race Options

At some point after she decides tampons are for her, together you must choose a box (or a few boxes).  Consider these factors:

– Applicator: plastic (easiest to insert), cardboard (flushable), or non-applicator (most environmentally friendly)

– Absorbency: lite, regular, super, super plus, or ultra (consider purchasing a few absorbencies for her changing flow or a box containing multiple absorbencies)

– Size: While all tampons in a given absorbency level must absorb the same amount of fluid, there is a considerable variance in size between brands and within brands between product lines

– Scent: we recommend unscented as scented products may cause irritation

– Type: traditional or organic (100% cotton product with less risk of TSS)

– Other: consider other internal products, like disposable (or even reusable) menstrual cups



The worst time to try a first tampon is the day of a big “race.”  If your daughter wants to try tampons for swimming at summer camp or some other upcoming activity, plan to practice in advance.  Plan ahead; allow for plenty of practice at home.  Once she has is comfortable using tampons at home, she will have the confidence to use them anywhere and anytime she wants or needs.


Race Ready?

For parents and daughters, there is only one wrong approach: silence.

If your daughter has started menstruating or will be starting soon, it is important that you talk to her about her feminine hygiene options.  Gauge her interest in tampons (and check in on how she feels now and again if the initial interest was minimal). Whether your daughter decides she is ready for tampons today, next year, or not at all, you will both be glad she knows all about this feminine hygiene option.


Remember to:

– Provide her with relevant, factual and actionable information
– Use supplemental resources (books, websites, her pediatrician, etc.)
– Be sure she knows tampons are one of several feminine hygiene choices (a product some girls use sparingly, others frequently, and yet others not at all)
– Keep the conversation going, and ensure she knows you are available any time she has questions


The Finish Line

Want even more information? Be Prepared. Period. and You ARE Loved will be co-hosting a one hour online event June 8th, “Summer Periods – Camp, Vacations, Swimming & More – What Parents and Caregivers Need to Know.” It is open to everyone.  – Transcript now available.


Co-written by Be Prepared. Period. & You ARE Loved.


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