Hey babes! Now that I’m a year into the breast reduction recovery process I wanted to pop on and share everything about my process, the products that helped, the things I wish I had done differently, and my overall feeling after breast reduction surgery.
I hope any of you considering or preparing for breast reduction surgery will be able to find some useful information, and if not….well I guess I’m not very useful then haha.
Let’s start with the basics!
I had my surgery in the beginning of January 2019, and I had a bilateral breast reduction with free nipple grafts. If you want to learn more about the details I have a whole post about my surgery story here.
Breast reduction recovery is no joke! I haven’t ever had real surgery before so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I have had babies so I figured it wouldn’t be worse than that, right? Wrong, ha! I delivered my babies vaginally and was lucky to have fairly easy recoveries with them, so I was super not prepared haha.
BUT I will say this… it wasn’t terrible either, it was always bearable and I’m so happy with my decision to do it, even though the recovery had some pain.
Immediately after surgery
When I first woke up I didn’t feel much of anything, I was just very, very nauseated from the anesthesia. Nausea is super common, so if you can, keep some barf bags around. I love these ones here and had some leftover ones after my pregnancies where I was really sick. Super cute and honestly they’re just good to have in the car in case you or your family gets carsick, so worth the few bucks!
For the first two days, I had drains put in and had to “bleed the lines.” I know. Gross. Haha, but really it wasn’t as bad as it sounds! As the drains filled up, I would just have someone help me (thanks mama and baby daddy) to disconnect the drain, empty it, and reconnect it.
Something that really helped was keeping a notebook close by so I could track how much the drains were filling up, and I was able to track all of the medications I was taking and at what time.
During the first part of breast reduction recovery, you’re typically on some narcotic pain medication, prescription-level Ibuprofen, and a stool softener. I was also on anti-nausea medicine to help with the vomiting. Between trying to remember all the different pills, feeling miserable, having to empty drains, etc. I just found it super helpful to keep track on a notebook.
In the first few weeks, you can’t use ANY heat at all to help with pain. Instead it’s recommended to ice and take an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen.
I found the absolute BEST ICE PACKS EVER for breast reduction recovery, they’re round and kind of squishy and the perfect size. It was so easy to slip them into the surgical bra or just sit with them on my poor swollen boobs. The best thing is that they freeze quickly too, so if I fell asleep using them and they thawed out, I could pop them into the freezer and be able to use them again pretty quickly after.
The doctor recommended to me to ice as often as I needed, with a 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off guide to start. I found that I usually would ice for like a half hour or even an hour and it really helped with the pain. I’m not a doctor, but this worked for me to help control the pain that came from swelling and even directly on my incision.
Something else that really helped was keeping on the surgical bra or wearing a tight tshirt to apply just the slightest amount of pressure when I felt like the swelling was really bad.
Don’t forget to stay on top of your medications!
I usually like to go for as long as I can without taking anything and only want to take something when I absolutely NEED it, but let me tell you what- that was a mistake this time. I thought I could handle it, but as soon as it wore off I felt like I was dying, the pain and swelling were so bad.
Once I finally took my medication, it took a lot longer to take the edge away too, so especially in that first week, just stay on top of it and save yourself the pain. Take it at the exact number of hours that you’re supposed to instead of waiting to see if you need it, I promise it will really help minimize your pain that first week.
Also, if you don’t have a jade roller for your face… time to get one! (Check out this one on Amazon!) I put mine in the fridge or freezer and then I’d roll it over my boobs when they felt extra sore and it helped SO much, I can’t recommend it enough.
Even now that it has been a year, I occasionally have swelling (for one reason or another) and this helps with that! Sore period boobs? GOODBYE. It’s the best.
I was not allowed to shower for the first week. With my nipple graft, I had a cast sewn onto the nipple to keep it protected while it was healing and those were not allowed to get wet under any circumstance, so I had to sponge bathe and load up on dry shampoo.
A week after my surgery, I had an appointment where they removed my first set of dressings and replaced them, and they gave me clearance to shower. The very first time I took a shower I almost passed out actually, I think the smell of the surgical stuff combined with the hot water just made me really dizzy.
My doctor warned me that this is something very common, so definitely watch out for that and maybe sit down your first time, or have someone help you stand.
Related: Things no one told me about breast reduction surgery
Changing the dressings
Like I mentioned, for the first week I didn’t change dressings really at all. I came home from the hospital with casts sewn on to the nipples, bolsters and tape along my main incisions, everything wrapped up in guaze, and then a surgical bra to hold it all together.
After the first week at my first doctor appointment, they removed those things and gave me some medicated fabric (no idea what that’s called? ha!) and guaze and gave me clearance to shower. I changed out these new dressings once a day every day for a couple of weeks.
Something else that was helpful is I also grabbed a couple of soft sports bras from Target so I could change out of the medical bra and use other options so they could be washed and rotated out. I loved just basic ones, but I highly recommend anything with a front clip, it’s hard to lift your arms up over your head right after.
Ugh. No good answer for this one haha. I am by nature a stomach sleeper, and you just can’t do that while recovering from breast reduction surgery. If your incisions don’t go too far to the side, you might be able to roll slightly to your side (with some pillow props) and sleep that way, but my doctor recommended staying on my back for at least 6 weeks and honestly, even if I had tried to sleep any other way I think I only could have on my back!
I kept a pillow for under my back so I was slightly at an incline which I feel like helped relieve some pressure and pain from my chest area and that seemed to really help.
At first, especially laying down, the incision along the bottom feels like the worlds sharpest underwire so it helped if my body wasn’t stretched out flat, so I tried to used pillows to prop up and kind of curl around it, which really helped with sleeping.
After the first several weeks I gradually had less and less pain on the incision and was able to roll more and more to the side, and eventually was able to get back to my normal position. I think it took about 4 months before I was really there.
Related: How to know if a Breast Reduction is right for you
Downtime and returning to normal activities
Breast reduction recovery requires some downtime. My surgeon let me know that they usually will recommend taking anywhere from 2 and 6 weeks off from work to rest and recover. The first week is spent mostly spent resting. After that they suggest getting up and walking around regularly and you can start doing more of your normal routine while still taking it easy.
The key to successful breast reduction recovery is to FOLLOW THE RULES. After surgery, you won’t be able to lift things (even lightweight things) or do any actions that cause a pushing/pulling motion, such as vacuuming or loading the dishwasher. That type of twisting and lifting motion can really disrupt the delicate new scar tissue trying to develop and cause serious issues, so take these regulations seriously.
After 6 weeks, I was given clearance to start working out again, but with careful consideration in mind about lifting and any motions that might cause tearing on the new incisions. My doctor suggested each week to build more intensity in my workout, and then at 3 months I was cleared to return to pretty much any normal activity.
This may vary depending on the level of procedure you had and your doctor, but from what I’ve heard from others and researched, this downtime is pretty common for everyone.
Related: How to get insurance to cover your breast reduction surgery
After the first three months
At this point I was feeling pretty good and had returned to all of my normal activities. It took me a little longer to be able to sleep on my stomach again, but I was able to easily by about 4 months post-operation.
My doctor did tell me that it would take about a year for my breasts to really settle and fully heal, and while for the most part I feel fantastic, I do have some days where I notice extra swelling or slight pain along my incision. The scarring will take some tie to fade but I’ve actually been really impressed with how well my scars have faded already.
At this time, they’re definitely still visible but they’re pink instead of angry red, and the puckering that I have in some areas has started to iron itself out a bit.
I hope this helps a few of you get some details about the process and learn a little more about what you can expect! This is my personal experience and of course, please consult your doctor about any serious questions! If you have any questions for me, I’d love to hear them, just ask in the comments or come chat with me in DMs on instagram! I’d love to connect.