breast reduction 101
Breast Reduction 101: Your Complete Guide

Breast Reduction 101: Your Complete Guide

Dana Donofree
7 min read

Breast Reduction 101: Your Complete Guide

Neck and back pain, a desire to change your breast size: All are perfectly valid reasons to consider undergoing breast reduction surgery. No matter why you’re thinking about this procedure, a breast reduction takes some significant forethought and planning. Read on to learn more about breast reduction surgery, the risks associated with breast reduction surgery, and how to find the perfect recovery bra to support your new size.

What Is A Breast Reduction?

A breast reduction changes your breast size by removing tissue, fat, and skin. Also called a “reduction mammaplasty,” a breast reduction is often sought out to help reduce body strain caused by big breasts or change the proportion of breast size to the rest of your body. In most cases, a breast reduction will take down your cups by about two sizes.

breast reduction surgery

How Do I Qualify For A Breast Reduction? 

If you have large breasts, you may qualify for breast reduction if you have one or more of the following: 

  • Pain in your shoulders, neck, or back. If you need pain medication just to get through your daily activities, a breast reduction may be a good option for you. This is especially pertinent if your breasts are affecting your posture, causing additional strain on your back, neck, and shoulders.
  • You have difficulty breathing. Believe it or not, large breasts can impact your ability to take deep breaths. That’s because large breasts can add extra weight to your chest. If you have no other health problems that may affect your ability to breathe, your boobs may be the culprit.
  • You have under-breast rashes. If you have larger boobs, you’re more likely to develop a rash under your breasts that can cause irritation, pain, and even get infected in the worst cases. Having smaller breasts can reduce the possibility that these rashes develop.

If you have a medical condition that’s caused by or exacerbated by large breasts, your health insurance may cover the procedure. Speak with your insurance company representative or your surgeon’s billing and insurance team if you have questions about what your policy covers.

Cosmetic Reasons For Wanting A Breast Reduction 

Even if your reason isn’t medical, you can pursue a breast reduction with a board-certified, experienced plastic surgeon. As long as you’re physically healthy -- you may not qualify if you’re at high risk for complications, if you’re a smoker, or if you have a serious medical condition -- you can pursue an elective, cosmetic procedure. You may want to pursue a breast reduction for the following reasons:

  • You struggle to fit into bras and clothing. If you have big breasts, you know the feeling of clothing that constantly tugs, pulls, and doesn’t quite close right. And button down shirts? Forget about it. If you’re sick of the struggle, you may want to consider this kind of cosmetic change.
  • You simply want smaller breasts. Yes, your reasoning for pursuing a breast reduction can be this simple! If you feel your breasts look disproportionate to the rest of your body or you just don’t like how they look, breast reduction may be the right option for you.

Breast Reduction Surgery Risks

Just like any other surgery, you may experience many common risks, such as infection, surgical sites that don’t easily heal, bruising and swelling, or adverse reaction to general anesthesia. However, breast reduction surgery can carry a few other risks, including:

  • Losing feeling in your nipples and areola 
  • Developing a blood clot
  • Irregular breast shape
  • Breasts that are too firm
  • Difficulty breastfeeding or no longer being able to breastfeed

How To Find A Breast Reduction Surgeon

If you’re considering cosmetic surgery, it’s important to find a surgeon that’s right for you. A few things to consider are the office location, your surgeon’s experience, the reviews they’ve received from clients, and the overall cost of the procedure. You’ll also want to look for a surgeon who has experience specifically in breast reduction surgery. Visit the  American Society of Plastic Surgeons website to find an accredited surgeon. 

What To Expect Before, During, And After a Breast Reduction

Adequate preparation ensures that your procedure and recovery go smoothly. Here’s what you need to know before booking your surgery date.

Before The Procedure

Before the surgery, you will have a consultation, or perhaps multiple consultations, with your surgeon. A few things you’ll need to discuss are your desired outcome, any medical conditions or allergies you may have, family history, and any previous surgeries you’ve had. 

After reviewing your family and medical history, your doctor may have you take a few exams and lab tests. One thing your doctor will likely do is measure your breasts to determine their size, shape, and skin quality. This will help them determine the best size, shape, and course of action. In addition, you may be asked to avoid taking any anti-inflammatory drugs or aspirin for a period before your procedure, as these medications may cause excessive bleeding.

During The Procedure

While your surgery may look a little different, there are five general steps you go through during the breast reduction procedure. Here’s what to expect: 

    1. Prep and anesthesia.  Before you’re wheeled into the operating room, you’ll undergo surgery prep, where you’ll change into a hospital gown, a nurse will check your vitals, and you’ll have an IV placed into your arm. During prep, you’ll also speak with the surgeon and the anesthesiologist, as well as other members of your medical team. Once prepped and taken to the OR, you’ll undergo general anesthesia. You’ll go through these steps whether you have your procedure at an outpatient center or at a hospital.
    2. The incision. There are a few common approaches to breast reduction surgery. The most common incisions are a circular pattern around the areola, a keyhole pattern, and an inverted T shape. Keep in mind these scars will be permanent, so speak with your surgeon to learn more about what’s best for you.
    3. Removing the excess tissue. Once the incision is made, the breast tissue will be removed and your breasts will be reshaped and lifted to achieve the look discussed with your surgeon. In some cases, particularly for very large breasts, the nipple and areola may be removed and repositioned higher on the breast.
    4. Closing up the incisions. Sutures will be layered deep into the breast tissue to ensure a nicely lifted breast. Surgical glue, stitches, or surgical tape will be used to close the incision on your new breasts. If you need drainage tubes to help manage fluids during recovery, they will be placed before your incisions are closed.
    5. Recovery room -- and your new breasts! After your procedure, you’ll be taken to a recovery room as the anesthesia wears off. While there will be swelling and potentially some bruising, the results will be noticeable after your surgery. If you had your procedure done at a hospital, you’ll likely spend the night there.

After The Procedure

You’ll be sent home with specific instructions detailing how to care for your surgical sites. While instructions may vary depending on your circumstances, you’ll likely have to keep your incisions dry and change the bandages regularly (say hello to sponge baths or shower shirts). These instructions will also include recommended medications to help reduce pain and swelling, and when you need to return for a follow-up. Before you leave the doctor’s office, make sure you ask any specific questions you may have such as when are stitches and surgical bandages removed, and when you can resume normal activity.

Once you get home, you can expect to feel sore for a few weeks as you recover. You’ll have to lay off the heavy lifting for the time being, but you should be able to return to normal activity, including strenuous exercise and heavy lifting, within six weeks and with your doctor’s clearance. While it’s important to take it easy and give your new breasts time to heal, light activity such as short walks is OK a few days after surgery.

A post-surgical bra or a compression bra may be recommended to help manage swelling and support your sore breasts. You may also want to look for loose, comfortable clothing, or clothes with built-in drain management if you have drainage tubes, to make dressing easier.

What Bra Should You Wear After Breast Reduction Surgery?

The best bra to wear after breast reduction surgery should be comfortable and has features specifically designed to make dressing easier. Support is crucial as well, since it may take months for your breasts to return to normal after your incisions have healed. And even after you’ve healed, you may find that your scars are uncomfortable or even painful on some days. These changes require a bra built from the inside, out to accommodate your new boobs.

For starters, check out our  Bianca Front Closure Sports Bra. This bra has thick supportive straps that won’t rub on your scars, hook and eye closures in the front so it’s easier to put on, and ultra soft fabric that lays comfortably against your new boobs. The best part about the Bianca bra? You can wear it as an everyday bra and as a sports bra -- it’s that comfortable.

Shop the Bianca recovery sports bra

Shop the Bianca Front Closure Sports Bra

For a more basic everyday bra after breast reconstruction, give the Monica a try. This full underwire-free, coverage bra won’t irritate you, and the supple fabric keeps you comfortable for daylong wear, whether you’re lounging, running errands, or headed to lunch with your best friend. For something a little sexier, the Susan bra brings lacy intrigue without sacrificing comfort or support. Talk about a date night essential!

Shop Monica Full Coverage breast reduction bra


Shop the Monica Full Coverage Bra

Shop the susan wrap front lace breast reduction bra

Shop the Susan Front Wrap Lace Bra

Breast Reduction Surgery Support With AnaOno

Your new breasts will still need comfy bras long after your surgical sites have health. AnaOno’s line of post-surgical bras designs each bra with these needs top of mind. Each bra in this collection ditches the underwire without sacrificing support, and prioritizes fabrics and designs that keep pressure off your scars without looking medical.  Explore AnaOno’s post surgical bras to find the right fit for you.

Dana Donofree
Dana Donofree

Founder and CEO of AnaOno. After a diagnosis of breast cancer in her late 20’s, Dana took her own lived experience and fashion design background and (re)designed intimates for those that have undergone breast surgery. Dana’s story has been published around the world in outlets like New York Times, BBC, Huffington Post, The Today Show, and more.