Breast Reduction Recovery Guide

  • Full recovery from a breast reduction procedure takes about 2 months
  • You must wear a surgical bra at all times for several weeks afterward
  • You can return to desk work after about 1 week and resume exercise after 4–8 weeks

Breast reduction, also known as reduction mammaplasty, is a cosmetic surgery that can increase quality of life for women with very large breasts. At Advanced Cosmetic Surgery, the premier plastic surgery clinic in Greenville, SC, we’re committed to supporting you through every stage of your breast reduction – from answering all your questions preprocedure to guiding you through the recovery process.

Here, we’re covering what you can expect during your breast reduction recovery, how long it will take and how to prepare. For more in-depth answers, contact us to schedule a consultation with one of our board-certified plastic surgeons.

How to Prepare for Your Breast Reduction Recovery Period

Before breast reduction surgery, we recommend making a few lifestyle changes to optimize your recovery, including the following:

  • Take our recommended daily vitamin supplement
  • Avoid aspirin, herbal supplements and any blood-thinning medications
  • Stop smoking at least 1 month prior to surgery as smoking impedes wound healing

Additionally, you’ll need to undergo lab testing to make sure you’re healthy enough for surgery and undergo a mammogram to establish a baseline for any future changes to your breast tissue.

In the first 24 hours after surgery, it’s important to rest. If you don’t have someone to help you during this key period, get ready by preparing food, arranging childcare as necessary, scheduling vacation time from work and telling friends and family you’ll be recovering from surgery.

Recovery must-haves

Here’s what you’ll need for a quick, smooth recovery after surgery.

Pain medication

We recommend having both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription pain medication on hand before your appointment. 

For breast reduction patients, we prescribe a nonsteroidal pain medication such as gabapentin. Make sure you fill the prescription before the day of your appointment to ease your discomfort during the first 24 hours post operation.

Once you’ve completed that medication, continue with OTC pain medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to improve your comfort levels over the following weeks.

Surgical bra

A surgical bra promotes blood circulation which reduces inflammation and swelling, and helps your breasts heal in their new position. It’s a comfortable garment resembling a typical bra with padding, compression bands, adjustable straps, breathable fabric and a front closure. 

We’ll provide you with a surgical bra at your appointment, and you’ll need to wear it 24 hours a day for at least 4 weeks after surgery or until directed otherwise.

Wound care supplies

Medical supplies such as surgical tape or Steri-Strips, silicone sheets and antibiotic ointments like Bacitracin or Neosporin will help you keep your incisions clean and moist, promoting fast healing. When your stitches are removed, we’ll give you a silicone scar cream to keep your healed tissue supple and minimize the appearance of scarring.

Breast Reduction Surgery Recovery Timeline

Recovery times vary greatly depending on your body’s capacity to heal. Most patients require 1 day of bed rest, 1 week before returning to work or sedentary activities, and 2–3 months to resume all normal activities. 

If your breast reduction is paired with another procedure such as liposuction or a tummy tuck, the healing process will be lengthier.

First week after surgery

Immediately after surgery, you’ll be groggy from the general anesthesia. If the reduction is being performed as an outpatient procedure, you’ll need someone to drive you home. Your incisions will be bandaged underneath your surgical bra, and you may have a thin tube placed under the skin to drain excess blood or fluid.

During the first 24 hours after surgery, get plenty of rest; sleep on your back with your head and chest slightly elevated to promote blood circulation and prevent fluid buildup. Depending on your body’s healing rate, you’ll be able to walk and move around within 1–2 days. 

In the first week post surgery, you’ll experience soreness, bruising and swelling, as well as loss of sensation in the nipples. Despite this discomfort, you’ll immediately notice relief elsewhere in the body. Symptoms that are typically caused by large breasts, such as rashes and shoulder, back and neck pain will begin to subside.

1 week later

Your sutures and drainage tube will be removed, and we’ll give you a silicone scar cream to apply on a daily basis. You’ll now be ready to return to desk work and similar activities; however, it’s important that you don’t raise your arms above shoulder height or do any heavy lifting.

4–8 weeks later

You’ll be ready to resume exercise. We recommend starting with gentle, low-impact workouts and increasing the intensity over a period of 2 weeks, allowing your scars time to stretch and become accustomed to new movements.

Around this time, you’ll be cleared to stop wearing your surgical bra. Instead, you may wear a supportive sports bra or similar undergarment to compress any residual swelling over the next few weeks or months.

2–6 months later

Your final results will be visible, and you can buy new bras to fit your new cup size. Your scars will fade from red to pink and flatten out, and nipple sensation loss will gradually return.

Common Side Effects

Minor side effects from a breast reduction occur on occasion and usually resolve on their own. These include:

  • Bruising, soreness and pain
  • Hypopigmentation or hyperpigmentation (can be corrected with skin resurfacing treatments)
  • Prolonged loss of nipple sensation 
  • Prolonged swelling 

When to Contact Your Doctor

If you suspect that your incision sites have become infected, contact your plastic surgeon. Signs of infection include red streaks, swelling and tenderness at incision sites and fever. Should this be the case, we will prescribe a course of antibiotics and monitor your healing process.

On occasion, healing wounds can reopen. This isn’t cause for alarm; should this occur,  schedule an appointment with us and we can resuture the wounds.

If you experience any shortness of breath, chest pains or heart palpitations after a breast reduction procedure, seek medical attention immediately.


Recovery from a breast reduction is a lengthy process, but this procedure has an extremely high satisfaction rate and can greatly improve quality of life. To make your recovery go as smoothly as possible, stock up on necessities including pain medication, a support bra and wound care supplies, and plan for a 1–2 days of complete rest post surgery.

Expect to return to a desk job about 1 week after your appointment and to refrain from strenuous activities for 4–6 weeks. During this recovery period, you must wear a surgical bra at all times and should not raise your arms above shoulder heights or lift heavy objects. 

After 4–6 weeks, ease back into exercise by starting with light, low-impact activities and working your way up to more intense workouts.
To learn more about breast reduction and whether your current breast size makes you a good candidate, book an appointment with one of our board-certified plastic surgeons at Advanced Cosmetic Surgery in Greenville, SC.

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