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Breast ‘Ironing’: Why Mothers Are Forcing Their Daughters To It



Would you as a lady agree to your mother’s idea that your breasts be ironed, pressed flat or flattened, in line with widely held beliefs? Well, this is the whole idea of breast ironing, a controversial practice still done in a number of African countries.

Some mothers force down the practice on their daughters using instruments such as such stone, planks or tight wrappers.

The practice has led to a lot of negative consequences, like girls losing attractive shapes, remaining unmarried etc.

Here, we present to you ten worrisome facts about breast ironing, pressing or flattening as the practice is variously known.

  • An estimated 3.8 million girls around the world go through the anguish, pain and shame of having their breasts flattened by force, due to some strange cultural beliefs


  • The practice of breast ironing is done using heated tools like stones, spatulas, and pestles to pound or massage girls’ chests, in an attempt to prevent breasts from developing.


  • Some mothers tie wrappers tightly around their daughters’ chests, in an attempt to conceal their breasts and discourage men from developing attraction towards them.


  • Though believed to be most common in Cameroon, other countries which have been identified as practicing breast ironing include United Kingdom, Chad, Guinea Bissau, Togo, and Benin


  • in addition to denying girls the attraction that a pair of breasts provides, breast ironing comes with other problems, including pain, emotional and physical trauma, neglect, inferior feeling, and denial of rightful suitors.
  • Though “breast ironing” is not exclusively performed by mothers on their daughters, the practice is typically carried out by a girl’s mother or a female relative; however, in some cases, girls have “ironed” their own breasts,


  • The heated tools used for breast ironing often inflicts scars on the skin, and the wounds can make girls more vulnerable to infections and cause complications later in life.


  • Some women whose breasts were “ironed” have said they had trouble producing milk and breastfeeding their children later in life.


  • By “ironing” their daughters’ breasts, mothers in Cameroon hope to make their daughters less sexually attractive to men, staving off early marriage and pregnancy, and keeping them in school.


  • The tradition is to halt breast growth in order to slow puberty, and postpone girls’ first sexual relationships.


  • Rather than trusting men to respect women’s bodies and their choices, these mothers believe they must make their daughters less attractive to protect them.
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