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What to Expect After Breast Reduction Surgery5 min read

Breast Reduction Recovery
Picture of Dr. Phillip Chang

Dr. Phillip Chang

Board Certified By The American Board of Plastic Surgeons.
Voted Top Plastic Surgeon in Loudoun, Virginia
Offices in Leesburg, Virginia.

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As you’re preparing for your breast reduction surgery, it’s important to be aware of the post-op and recovery for this procedure. Breast reduction surgeries are common and have a very high success rate, so there’s little reason to worry. However, it’s definitely a good idea to take the necessary precautions so that you assure yourself the smoothest recovery possible.

Recovery guidelines may vary from patient to patient, so of course listen closely to your surgeon and don’t be afraid to ask questions. They want you to be 100% satisfied with your breast reduction, from pre-to-post surgery!

How Long Does It Take to Recover from a Breast Reduction?

For a general timeline, you should be able to return to regular activities in 2-3 weeks after surgery, and resume exercise around a month after surgery. 

After surgery, it’s normal to feel unusually tired, achy, and sore. Breast redness, fluid movement, numbness, and swelling is also normal. These symptoms will go away after a few weeks. Some women have emotional side effects during recovery, such as depression, which is also normal. 

Contact your doctor ASAP if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms during recovery: 

  • Increasing or worsening redness, unusual swelling, or sharp pain.
  • Pus, discharge, or fluid coming from incision areas. 
  • If stitches come out.
  • Worsening pain.
  • Unusual and significant mood swings.

With proper care, recovery will be smooth and you will soon be fully healed with your smaller, rounder, and more comfortable breasts!

Can You Still Breastfeed After a Breast Reduction

It’s important to keep in mind that most women are unable to breastfeed after a breast reduction surgery. If this is a concern for you, talk to your doctor, as some are able to alter the operation or provide ways to help stimulate the nerves during recovery for a better possibility breastfeeding.

Is Scarring Normal After a Breast Reduction?

It’s also normal to see scarring during breast reduction recoveryHowever, how your scars heal depends entirely on how you care for them. Scars can become permanent with irritation. Make sure to follow your doctor’s instructions and avoid using your chest muscles. In most cases, scars fade almost entirely if not completely with proper care. 

What About Post-Surgery Care?

Once your doctor dispatches you from your surgery, make sure you have someone to drive you home. You will want to have at least a week off of work and other activities. Some patients must wear a special bra or bandage around breasts — your doctor will provide you with care instructions for how and when to remove them. If you have tape over your incisions, your doctor may instruct you to leave them on until they fall off by themselves. Don’t wear an underwire bra for at least a month. 

You may need to change your bandages daily. It’s a very good idea for someone to help you change these, so you do not need to work your chest muscles. 

Make certain to tell your doctor about all medications you’re currently taking (especially bloodthinners) and follow their instructions.

Follow your doctor’s instructions for how to care for drains. Usually, patients only need drains for around a week.

Breast Reduction

When Can I Lift My Arms After Breast Reduction?

The key to a smooth recovery is not working the chest muscles, caring for the incision cites, and of course, following doctor instructions. You should expect to resume work around a week or so after the surgery, depending on your job. You should expect to resume exercise around a month after surgery. 

When Can I Sleep on My Side After Breast Reduction?

Sleep is the best way to recovery after any surgery. Listen to your body and rest whenever you feel tired. Do not overwork yourself. When you sleep after your breast reduction, either sleep upright in a reclining, comfy chair or with pillows propping you up in bed. Don’t sleep on your side. Depending on your recovery, it may be up to 4-5 weeks before you can sleep on your side again.

Breast Reduction Recovery "Don'ts"

Here are some DON’Ts for how to best care for your body post-op:

  • DON’T go running, jogging, to the gym, dancing, or other cardio activities until fully healed. 
  • DON’T do any heavy lifting. This includes milk gallons, backpacks, heavy purses, vaccuums, pets, children, etc. 
  • DON’T drive for up to 2 weeks after surgery. 
  • DON’T wear a bra for up to a month after surgery.
  • DON’T have sex for at least a week after surgery. Talk to your doctor about when you can sex again. 
  • DON’T dehydrate yourself. As with any surgery, hydration is important for recovery. 
  • DON’T go swimming or soak in a tub for at least 4 weeks after surgery. 
  • Generally, DON’T take a shower for 1 week after surgery. Talk to your doctor about shower possibilities. 
  • DON’T hold or lift items above your head for 3 weeks after surgery. 
  • DON’T tan your breasts or incision area until fully healed.
  • DON’T sleep on your side or sleep completely flat for 4-5 weeks after surgery.

It’s important to avoid working your chest muscles, as that will make recovery much more difficult and raise the probability of complications. Make certain that throughout recovery, you listen to your body, listen to your doctor, and care for yourself. It will all be worth it!

NOTE: We don’t take insurance or work with insurance companies. Patients pay for the surgery upfront and we provide them with a superbill, and other documents they may need to apply for reimbursement.


For those wondering whether breast reduction might be the best cosmetic solution for you, we invite you to simply come in for a complimentary consultation with Dr. Chang or one of the cosmetic laser and injection nurses to explore whether you would make a good candidate. To find out more whether Aesthetica can help you, contact us online or at 703-729-5553 to arrange an appointment. Dr. Phillip Chang is a board-certified plastic surgeon in Northern Virginia near Leesburg, Virginia and an expert in a wide variety of cosmetic treatments.

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