What Breast Reduction Recovery Is Really Like

by Amanda Eisenberg

The unsung hero of plastics, breast reduction surgery, is a relatively quick operation that can be totally transformative — especially if you don't remember a time when you didn't have huge breasts. I know that for me, growing up with double-Ds wasn't the easiest. Everything I wore in middle school was deemed "inappropriate," and I was the only counselor required to wear a massive T-shirt during Pool Day at the local summer camp. All I ever wanted was to wear those cute Target bathing suit tops and join in when my friends complained about their boobs.

After nine years as a member of the Big Boobs Club, I finally opted for the surgery during my university's long winter break. Luckily, my insurance paid for my surgery due to my short stature, back problems, and having a larger left boob. Which was great — because without insurance, bilateral breast reduction surgery clocks in around $6,000. And that's before paying the anesthesiologist and hospital bills, which can cost up to $30,000. (By the way, I appealed the initial insurance rejection with a letter from my chiropractor, so try to get as much documentation from doctors to avoid paying for the surgery.)

Although I had family members who had also had the surgery and recommended a good doctor, I still didn't truly know what to expect. Here are the nine things I learned during my recovery that I wish I had known beforehand.

1. Drains are the best, but also the worst.

Depending on your surgeon, some will recommend adding drains to help speed up the recovery process. Basically, two tubes in a Y-shape are stitched by each boob into your skin and are attached to a pancake-like container that clips to your clothing (super fashionable, I know).

The drains help remove all the gunk that causes swelling, and they stay in for about a week. Although they were uncomfortable and itchy, I wouldn't have seen the results of my surgery as quickly without them. I also learned to sleep on my back to avoid discomfort, which brings me to...

2. You will need help.

Before going to bed the night following my surgery, I warned my mom that I was going to sleepwalk. Sure enough, I launched off my bed on all fours in the middle of the night and hit the floor — hard. Worried I might hurt myself while sleepwalking, my mom slept with me for the entire week I had the drains. That also meant going to bed when she was ready.

3. You might not feel great about your new body.

After dropping down from a DD to a C, your body proportions change a bit. Plus, all you do during recovery is watch Friends and eat, just because it's something you do. The lifestyle change makes you feel like a beached whale on your couch, and there's nothing you can do about it.

4. ...But you might also immediately feel better in it.

A weight has literally been lifted. No longer feeling the need to hunch over, you can stand up straight and keep a better posture. During my first week venturing outside my house, my friends complimented me on my new figure. It's a nice ego boost.

5. All you'll want to do is shower.

Assisted washcloth baths are the best it gets for a week. Mom, or your designated caretaker, has to help you wash, dry, and put on clothes. It's depressing. Also, your hair will get gross. Like, grosser than you ever imagined. By Day 4, my mom took me for a haircut just so I could have my hair washed. To keep my blowout fresh for as long as possible, I enlisted help from dry shampoo tutorials. That first shower back was glorious.

6. You'll get to shop your closet.

That lumpy sweater, too-tight button down shirt, and textured top banished to the back of your closet can finally come back into your life. Your clothes that didn't look too great now look amazing, and your favorites just got even better. That said, you'll probably also need to go shopping for some new clothes.

7. Recovery will be hard.

Before the surgery, my family told me the drains were the worst part. I found staying home even worse. There's nothing to do but watch TV or nap. My dad offered to take me to the mall to walk around and get some fresh air. I couldn't lift my arms or even put a seat belt on without assistance.

You're at the mercy of your caretakers if you plan on doing more than hanging out with the Gilmores or Olivia Pope for a few weeks. Also, everything becomes so much harder to do. Getting out of bed without a step stool is nearly impossible, and you're not allowed to pick anything up — doctor's orders.

8. You might not need bras anymore.

Once a necessity, depending how small you go, bras are now completely optional. You can't actually wear wire bras for nearly a year, but there are plenty of chic wireless options in your new size. The options get even better for bandeaus, bralettes, and bathing suits — you might even be able to rock those pasties displayed at Victoria's Secret now.

The bra shop is now your oyster, but again, it's your choice whether you even want to wear a bra. Your perky new boobs don't necessarily need the support.

9. It will take awhile to get used to the results.

Despite my continuing recovery, I wake up every day feeling #blessed about my decision to go under the knife — I almost forget what it was like before the surgery. I don't have to worry about cleavage spilling out at inappropriate times, or the stress from finding shirts that actually close over my chest. Sometimes, I even catch myself in the mirror and feel surprised by my reflection. A weight has been lifted (literally), and I don't think I'll ever miss them. You might not, either.

Images: Hayley Bouchard/Flickr; Giphy;