Breast reduction surgery can be one of the most impactful and rewarding operations. The surgery remedies the frustrating symptoms that sometimes come with large breasts, including back pain, numbness, poor posture, and irritation. During the operation, the surgeon creates incisions around the areolas and vertically beneath the bottom of the breast. Next, tissue and excess skin are removed from the breast and bra-line area to create the desired size and shape. To close the incisions, the surgeon will use a unique layered suturing technique that minimizes tension and scarring.
Though patients often feel immediate relief after their reduction and will look forward to bra shopping for their new size, it’s important to be diligent during the post-operational recovery period to optimize final results. Patients can expect to feel bruising and swelling in their breasts, especially at the incision sites, for the first few days following surgery. Rippling is common and shouldn’t be a cause for alarm. Signs of complications to monitor for are changes in nipple appearance, color, and temperature. Cold, dark nipples are an indicator of possible necrosis and should be addressed immediately. Stitches will be removed at weeks one and two, then incisions will be taped for the next six weeks.
For the first three days of recovery patients must prepare for total downtime, making arrangements for child or pet care and taking time off of work. Light walking is encouraged to promote blood flow. However, patients should avoid raising their heart rates for the first three days. Some exercise can be resumed within two weeks, but avoid any upper body workouts and anything that involves bouncing or heavy lifting for at least four weeks to give the breasts sufficient time to heal fully. Most patients return to work within a week, and more strenuous activity should be restricted for six weeks. The surgeon will provide specific instructions for optimal post-operative care, including an advanced scar management protocol after the initial healing period. For the first three nights, patients should sleep with their back upright to help some of the initial swelling go down. After that, patients may sleep flat on their back but still need to avoid sleeping on their side until day seven. At six weeks post-op it’s finally safe to sleep on the stomach.
During the healing period, patients are expected to wear loose-fitting clothing to support blood circulation and allow enough blood flow to the breasts. Doctors recommend not wearing bras until given explicit clearance by your surgeon. This is a time for patients to relax and heal while enjoying the relief that comes with their new, more manageable cup size. Lots of rest and care are the best way to ensure optimal results while minimizing the risk of complications.
Do’s and Don’ts
DO: Ask your surgeon questions.
Speak up if you’re unsure or curious about any part of the procedure or recovery period. Your surgical team is there to support you, and you should feel comfortable to reach out if you are concerned about complications. Cold, dark nipples are an indicator of possible necrosis and should be addressed immediately.
Here are other reasons to reach out to the surgeon:
- One breast is dramatically bigger than the other
- Severe body rash or severe pain, especially if it’s on one side
- Fever over 101°F
- Significant bleeding or drainage from any incisions
- Redness that spreads out from the incision
- Persistent nausea and vomiting
DO: Stop smoking and avoid alcohol.
It’s essential to keep your body in optimal health as it recovers, and smoking and alcohol can compromise the immune system.
DO: Take your prescribed medications.
Taking the full course of prescribed antibiotics is a MUST, and the only way to avoid infection. Pain management medication should always be taken as instructed.
DO: Create a post-op recovery kit – or try the one we put together for you!
Many patients find that creating a kit with everything needed for post-op may relieve anxiety and prepare them for successful healing. Breast reduction recovery supplies can be anything that will make the patient’s recovery journey as comfortable as possible. Common items to include in the kit are loose-fitting clothing, sleep aids, water bottles, nutritional supplements, scar tape, bandages, and all prescribed medications (which should be filled prior to surgery) or natural pain relief.
DO: Partake in light exercise, gradually increasing over time.
Starting the day of surgery, light walking about three times daily will help blood circulation, reducing the chance of clotting. More rigorous exercise can begin after about six weeks.
DO: Massage the scar tissue.
Once the incision sites heal and the surgeon gives clearance, many patients find it helpful to massage the scar tissue to remove built-up collagen and ease soreness. Scar creams and oils also assist in reducing any itching and preventing a prominent scar from forming.
DON’T: Soak in water, including baths.
Patients should avoid baths, hot tubs, pools, and natural bodies of water to avoid bacteria that may cause infection.
DON’T: Skip bathing altogether.
Though patients shouldn’t take baths, keeping the surgical sites clean and dry is imperative. Patients will need to shower 24 hours after their operation. Your doctor will specify how to clean the wounds and reapply bandages or scar tape.
DON’T: Wear restrictive clothing or bras.
Put your bra aside for at least two weeks or until your surgeon gives you the OK at your post-op visit. It’s important to encourage blood flow to the breasts.
DON’T: Lift anything over eight pounds.
Make sure to use both hands if you have to lift anything eight pounds or lighter. Avoid upper body workouts for the first six weeks.
DON’T: Be surprised by pain, burning sensations, or localized tingles.
It’s natural to be hypervigilant about all discomfort after an operation, but it’s important to remember that some sensations are normal and will usually subside after six weeks. Nipple numbness, sensitivity, or hypersensitivity will start normalizing as you progress in your breast augmentation recovery and may take up to six months to ease.
DON’T: Ignore your body.
Many people are tempted to use the recovery period as a mini vacation. While resting and relaxing during this time is important, basic nutrition and wellness are even more of a priority than normal. Any major surgery depletes the body’s nutrients by responding to the wounds, so patients should try and maintain a healthy diet filled with vitamins and nutrients. Speak with your doctor about nutritional supplements like magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin B12, iron, and zinc that can assist in the healing process.