Breast Ironing: Meaning and Side Effects

Breast Ironing: Meaning and Side Effects

“Who do we have next on the line, Jenny?” I asked my Resident. “It’s Layanah Alfred” She replied. Layanah? I asked. “Yes, doctor,” She replied. “Okay, let her in please” I ordered. Layanah is my favorite gynecology patient, a Breast Ironing victim. “Layanah Alfred!..” I could hear her calling out. “Knock… Knock” my door went. ‘Come in’ I responded. They entered the examination room.

“Good morning, doctor” She said. “Oh, Good morning Layanah” I replied, smiling, trying to make her feel free. How are you doing? I asked. “I’m very much better, thank you.” She replied freely this time, implying she was already coming out of her shell. “So, any numbness or pain from your surgery site?” I asked. “None. I just came for your opinion on how I’m healing, that’s all” Layanah replied. “Oh, you are healing just great already, worry not, my dear” I said, examining her. “You are good to go now” I said as I helped her bring down her clothing. “Okay, doctor, thank you very much” Layanah said as she stood up, going for the doorknob.
Now I know you are still curious about what Layanah suffered from and her site of surgery.

So What is Breast Ironing Exactly?

Question Mark Illustration

It is Breast Ironing. Breast Ironing? Yes, Breast Ironing! a little strange, I know. Are you thinking of ironing the breasts? If yes, then you are on the thumbs-up track. But with what? A pressing iron? Definitely No! If you are still caught up somewhere, no worries, read along as the answers unfold.

Breast Ironing, also called Breast Flattening or Breast Sweeping. It is the brutal practice of ironing (massaging or pounding) a girl’s breasts with hot stone, pestle, or other heated material of some sort. And why? Well, it is done under the notion of delaying pubescent breasts developing in a girl. This practice is carried out on the victim by a close female companion. Either by her grandmother, mother, aunt, or a female guardian.
In the same line of preventing a growing breast, mothers may also wrap bandages tightly around their daughter’s chest to prevent or stop her breasts from growing.

When asked the reasons for executing this health-threatening act, they will say that they are protecting the girl against untamed men who might sexually harass her, resulting in the contraction of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, STDs. And also to prevent her from premarital pregnancy that will put her family’s image to shame. Some doers of this act say they also do so to limit the girl from marriage opportunities to enable her further her educations.

Side Effects

Well.. this strange, disease-posing act is something of the very normal in some regions like some parts of Southern Nigeria, Togo, Chad, Côte d’Ivoired’Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Benin, and most common in Cameroon. In those countries, men and boys believe and live with the mindset that when a girl starts developing breasts, she is well sexually matured. As a result, approximately 3.8 million and counting teenagers are affected by breast ironing worldwide, according to the U.N.

This painful acts does not effectively satisfy the primary goal of delaying pubescent in the breasts developing girl, but it holds a free gateway ticket for the intervention of new health threatening infections and diseases. Psychological pain, scars, deformities and even increased risk of Breast Cancer are not to be left out. Some women whose breasts were “ironed” at their early ages have said they had trouble producing milk and breastfeeding their children later in life. This is called leaving the victim to suffer from the negative outcomes of the brutal act than the positive, If there is ever any! But why not use yourself as a case study to curtail the generational transfer of this brutality to loved ones?

This unkind painful act should not only be discouraged but strict laws and judgments should be levied on the doers.
Layanah is now a single breasted thriving mother. Lost the fight of her other breast to cancer from Breast Ironing. Also struggling psychologically.

There is a saying which goes like this ‘Sometimes the good you think you do for someone, is actually doing more harm to them than good’ I rest my case.


Writer: Ayuba Muhammad Mailafiya
Kaduna State University, KASU Nigeria.

Breast Ironing.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. favour ikini

    They did this in my village
    Especially if you start growing breast early like by age 8
    My cousins experienced it
    They almost did it to me as per the request by my granny but I reported and they let me be
    Most times hot water, aboniki balm or grinding stone depending on how “big the seed was”
    But if later the breast comes out it comes out bigger with full force
    They believed that it was the reason my granny, cousins and mother was busty
    But ignorance is really a disease.

    1. Ayuba Muhammad Mailafiya

      This is really sad 😔😔. Hot water, grinding stone…? 😳😳That’s obviously going to be painful. Yes, it really is a disease but it’s high time it gets cured. Glad you weren’t a victim though.

  2. shaaaron

    A friend said when she was in prepubescent age, her grandma would heat a knife and press it on her growing breasts.
    She said the pain was excruciating(obviously) but she added that it was for a good cause.
    But it’s honestly just a brutal, inhumane act and the result of ignorance.

  3. Bebo

    Was reading this and I couldn’t relate but after i saw this comment, I realized that they did that to me, they said it had seeds and they had to smoothen it out for it to grow well. It was painful😫😫.
    After my mum tried to do it once and I was struggling too much, I told her, I would do it myself. I just carried the grinding stone and used it to rub the breast, I can’t inflict pain on myself

  4. natha

    I feel the pain. Let me tell my story;

    I started growing breast quite early. As early as 9. Started seeing my period at same age. I had a gene for big breast and my mum didn’t like it. So she started using sports bra and beginner’s bra (undersized) on me, just to limit the growth. She did that for some months and later I went to secondary school, so I stopped. That’s why I wasn’t affected by it. Now it has grown to it’s own size with no issues thank God.

    Do not encourage it. Sports bra alone was very painful, you can imagine the pain of the hot stone.

  5. Deolabliss

    This is actually my first time of hearing this and it’s awful to imagine. I started puberty at age 9 and my grandma was more than happy, she forced my mom into buying extra large bras, tubes .etc. she believed me putting on way bigger bras had a way of dragging the breast out the more, lolz cos that wasn’t in my case although it worked for my sisters.
    No lady should face such gruesomeness!!!!! Truly, ignorance is a disease.

    1. UniBen

      The bigger bras worked for your sisters? That’s another ignorant statement.

  6. Ayuba Muhammad Mailafiya

    Glad you could all share a part of your story. And frankly speaking, it’s very sad 😔 😔 and disturbing to hear about the pain you all had to go through in the name of so-called “good cause”

  7. opejamyu

    I really can’t believe most women around the world go through this kind of cruelty.

    1. Ayuba Muhammad Mailafiya

      They do. As a matter of fact, the number of victims are always alarming.

  8. fatimabukar

    So sad, our people need to be enlighten about this

    1. Ayuba Muhammad Mailafiya

      Without doubt they need to📌📌. Informations on its health threatening consequences so much need to reach the ears of even the locals.(Having limitations to modern happenings)

  9. Harbisorl

    Well, this is so disheartening😲😲😲 it is my first time of hearing this, but it so disgusting, a discouragement is not enough for this there should be law for it

    1. Ayuba Muhammad Mailafiya

      Surely the enforcement of laws and local medical outreaches against this brutality will go a long way in curbing it 📌📌

Leave a Reply