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Mastectomy Recovery - Everything You Need to be Prepared

Mastectomy recovery tips


Mastecomy Recovery Tips and Gift Ideas

Everything you need to get through your mastectomy recovery smoothly or to put together the perfect mastectomy care package for a loved one. 

I really didn’t know much about what was involved with a mastectomy or mastectomy recovery before I had one. I think I was in denial and didn't really want to know. It was only a week before my surgery that I found out I would leave the hospital with four surgical drains hanging out of my body to collect excess fluid that would build up from the surgery. These would stay in for two weeks and needed to be drained four times a day. It was not a fun task. I had no idea what I was supposed to do with these drains. I consulted a friend who had gone through the surgery recently and she described a frustrating process of pinning the drains to the inside of your shirt so they weren’t just hanging out and painfully swinging around. Each one would then need to be unpinned and then repinned four times a day for draining. At the time of my surgery, there was very little information out there about preparing for a mastectomy. When I finally got up the nerve to start doing some internet research, I was very disappointed to find so little information available. 

Here are my recommendations for some things to help get you through your cancer journey feeling normal during a very abnormal time. These items also won't break the bank, because you will only need them for a short time so why spend more than you need to. 

Zip or Button Front Tops

You will not be able to lift your arms after your surgery, so any kind of button down or zip up shirt is essential. Bonus if it has pockets for the drains! There are a lot of options out there for mastectomy recovery clothing and surgical recovery garments, but a lot of them are expensive and look like surgical garments. This was my main reason for creating Kelly Bee Designs and why my post mastectomy zip up hoodie is a best seller. It looks just like a regular hoodie so you can leave the house feeling normal. The tank is great for layering under your own button down and zip up shirts. Mastectomy recovery pajamas are another great option. Plus, you can still wear them after your surgery...the pockets are useful for so many things!

Post Mastectomy Hoodie with Drain Pockets by Kelly Bee Designs

mastectomy recovery hoodie with surgical drain pockets with sunflower patternmastectomy shirt mastectomy recovery surgical drain pockets

Snap or Zip Front Bras

Your doctor might give you a surgical bra when you leave the hospital, but you will want at least one more mastectomy bra. Here are some some soft and comfy options. The one by Kelly Bee is so soft and stretchy and contains removable padding which is great for hiding your bandages so they won't be visible through your clothes. The other one is a more reasonably priced option. They can both be worn after surgery.

Kelly Bee Snap Front Bra                    Women’s Zip Front Post Surgery Bra Amazon

snap front mastectomy bra          Mastectomy Zip Front Bra


Mastectomy Pillows and Sleeping 

Full disclosure here, sleeping is not going to be fun for a little while. You will want to sleep at an incline to relieve some pressure and help with the drains. You can either pile up a whole bunch of pillows or get one of these wedge pillows to help. 

Bed Wedge Pillow for Sleeping*

Mastectomy bed surgery wedge pillow

Or, for the ultimate in comfort, you can check out this sleep system by Sleep Again Pillows. They are designed specifically to help you sleep after surgery with the optimal upper body incline. 

Sleep Again Pillow System 

These heart shaped mastectomy recovery pillows made by SewlyOne can be placed under the arms after surgery to prevent rubbing tender areas and for comfort and support. There is an adjustable ribbon strap to hold it secure as well as a pocket that can hold a small ice or heat pack near the surgical site. There are also lots of beautiful fabrics to choose from. This would make a great mastectomy recovery gift as they are not only functional but also made with beautiful fabrics.

Mastectomy Comfort Pillow by SewlyOne

Mastectomy Recovery Pillow Breast Cancer Post Op

Here are some perfectly sized hot or cold reusable ice packs to put in those pillows. Microwave or freeze.

3x5 Gel Ice Pack Reusable*

Hot Cold ice pack mastectomy surgery scar

Personal Care Products

You are not going to be able to shower for a while after surgery if you come home with surgical drains. And even if you could, you won't be able to lift your arms to wash your hair. Dry shampoo is a great option during this period, or whenever you want to extend the time between shampoos. I currently use this one by Living Proof and highly recommend it. I also listed a cheaper option, by Batiste, that has really good reviews on Amazon and comes in a variety of scents. 

Dry Shampoo by Living Proof                                 

           Living proof Perfect Hair Day Dry Shampoo, 7.3 oz: Premium  Beauty     
    Dry Shampoo Mastectomy Recovery


Try a no-rinse foam cleanser to stay fresh when you can't shower. Just soap up and wipe off. Perfect for surgical recovery. 

Medline Remedy Phytoplex Hydrating No Rinse Cleansing Foam*

Other options include these no-rinse bathing wipes. They are pre-moistened wipes that you can microwave for a warm bath experience. 

No Rinse Microwaveable Cleansing Wipes


If you do get the ok to shower with your drains still in, you will need a way to keep the drains held up so that you have use of your hands. All you need is a simple lanyard like the one below. Put it around your neck and put the drains tubes in the clasp. You can put them behind your back to keep them from getting too wet.  

Shower Lanyard by Kelly Bee Designs


Surgical Drain Care

Here are a few products I recommend keeping on hand to help keep your drains and surgical site clean and dry for quick healing: Alcohol Wipes, Hand Sanitizer, Gauze Pads and Medical Tape. This first aid kit has everything you need and then some.

First Aid Only First Aid Kit*


 Kelly Bee Surgical Drain Care Kit in "Fight" Cosmetic Bag

This cosmetic bag is perfect to throw in with a breast cancer or mastectomy gift. Comes with some drain care supplies to get you started and a cute cosmetic bag you can continue to use after. 

Mastectomy surgical drain care kit breast cancer

The breast cancer journey is long and hard. I am hoping to help make it a little bit easier. I would love to hear about what products or things you found most helpful during your mastectomy recovery. Sign up below to stay posted on new items added. 

Feel free to email for anymore info or questions -


  • Thank you for this information.

    Kiy Turk
  • Kelly, these PJs are so soft and comfortable. The drain holders are perfectly placed. Even the nurses at the hospital said while helping me dress after the surgery, these are the softest PJs they have ever felt/seen!
    Great product 😍 Thank You!!!

  • Thank you SO MUCH for all of this! I had no idea what to expect or even the questions to ask since I didn’t know what I didn’t know! (why do surgeons assume we know all this stuff??). I had the drain in for 5 weeks -and – i found that if i put a thin ankle sock over it, it wouldn’t feel as icky against my skin. because of dog walking and how i navigate the world I couldn’t always tuck it into an internal pocket, so mostly I had to safety pin it to the bra. The sock kept it from feeling cold or sticking to my skin. And – fwiw – it’s worth asking the doc if you can practice with the drain before it’s attached to you and a little scary. Good luck out there!

  • Thank you so much for the great info. Wish you were there in 2009 when I had a mastectomy. Now I’m having the implants removed.
    One has ruptured and I’m going to have the other removed.

  • Wow! There still are nice people in the world, after all! Thanks for renewing my faith in people. I really appreciate your kindness and generosity of spirit.

    As we all know, this time is a very difficult and scary time. I have the added complication of multiple sclerosis. And because of this, there were no plastic surgeons willing to help me do reconstruction. I finally found a place called The Center for Restorative Breast Surgery, in New Orleans, LA. On December 7th, I’ll be having a bilateral mastectomy, Immediately followed by an APEX flap reconstruction.

    I’ve talked with a number of women, who’ve all suggested big shirts with buttons or zippers and comfortable pants (I presume. In fact, nobody actually mentioned the pants, come to think of it).

    I went to the thrift store today, and bought about 15 outfits: loose fitting pants, big tops, easy for my husband to button and unzip.

    I bought two new items, one from you, and another affordable item from one other store.

    Well, at least I’ll be well dressed! May you be rewarded richly for your kindness’s!

    Nance C.

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