Drink Up: Preventing Dehydration While Breastfeeding

How much water should I drink while breastfeeding? This is a question women all over the world ask. Everyone has an “expert” opinion about how much water you should drink.

Not to mention the old wives’ tale that tells us to drink more water if we want more milk. We’ll go over that and more in this article, plus, get to the answer you’re looking for. Fill your glass and follow us.

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    How Much Water Is Enough?

    It’s easy for a new mom to get caught up in her new duties and forget to drink enough water. A non-nursing woman should ideally drink around nine glasses of water every day. Does this amount change for the breastfeeding mom?

    Over and above the recommended daily water intake, you’ll need to account for your baby’s needs. This means that you’ll need to increase your daily intake by approximately three glasses per day, meaning you need to consume about 12 glasses (source). This will ensure that there’s sufficient water for both you and your baby.

    But won’t that much water dilute my milk? Not at all. Here’s the thing, your body is made up of approximately 60 percent water, and around 87 percent of breast milk is water (source). You and the baby need water to function — think digestion, flushing out toxins, and everything else that water does for our bodies.

    There are other factors that can drain water from your body and require you to replenish it even more. These include hot weather, intense exercise, and illnesses that result in diarrhea, vomiting, or fever.

    That said, there is such a thing as “overhydration,” which can force the body to push out excess water as urine. The result? Too many visits to the bathroom and a decrease in your milk supply, since water has been diverted from the breasts (source).

    While overhydration isn’t typically dangerous for a healthy woman, it can lead to dangerous changes in body chemistry for people with certain conditions (source).
    Headshot of Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC

    Editor's Note:

    Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC

    Why You Should Drink Water

    While pregnant, it’s common to hear the phrase “eating for two.” The same goes for breastfeeding. Everything you consume has a potential impact on you and your baby’s health, including the amount of water you drink.

    Here are some solid reasons why you need to drink the recommended amount of water daily:

    1. Helps You Both Stay Hydrated

    For the breastfeeding mom, your body knows that the baby’s nutritional needs to come first. This means some of the fluids in your body will be diverted to milk production.

    In the process, you lose the fluids you need to function optimally, a scenario that may lead to dehydration. If you don’t replenish your fluids, your baby may end up becoming dehydrated, as well, from a decrease in your milk supply (source). Drinking water replenishes lost fluids and keeps both you and your baby healthy.

    2. Keeps Constipation at Bay

    Constipation is anyone’s nightmare, pure and simple. I can’t even begin to explain the pain a new mom feels while trying to pass hard stools, especially after having just gone through childbirth. This pain is on another level (source).

    Rather than dread bathroom visits, or sit there screaming in silence as you pass a painful stool, drink more water to help you out.

    3. Affects Milk Supply

    Here comes the age-old question: Does drinking water increase milk supply? According to research published in the journal Pediatrics, drinking lots of water will not necessarily increase the amount of milk you produce (source).

    However, when you don’t have enough fluids in your body, your milk supply will be affected. Low milk production means your baby will spend more time suckling to satiate their hunger, but will get less milk overall.

    Chances are that you will start experiencing dizziness, irritability, and even pain in your breasts. Trust me, you don’t want to go there.

    Top Signs That You’re Dehydrated

    Signs of dehydration will vary from one mom to the next. If you’re feeling thirsty, you’re already mildly dehydrated. Dark-colored urine is also one of the clearest indicators that you need to drink more water. Other signs include:

    • Chapped lips.
    • Constipation.
    • Headaches.
    • Fatigue or dizziness.
    • Muscle cramps.
    • Irritability.
    • Reduced milk supply.
    • Infrequent visits to the bathroom. Less than 4 times per day would be a clear indication that something isn’t quite right. Postpartum mommies tend to go more often up to 8 weeks after birth, due to pressure on the bladder (source).

    Tips for Staying Hydrated

    With your hands full, you may find it hard to keep track of the water you need to drink every day. Here are some tips to help you along:

    • Do you have a favorite breastfeeding spot? Keep a jug of water there and refill your glass after you breastfeed.
    • Carry a bottle of water wherever you go, and keep it within sight so you don’t forget to actually drink from it.
    • If you can’t stand the taste of plain water, try infusing it with lemon, mint, cucumber or even strawberries.
    • Minimize your sugar intake; sugar actually hinders the absorption of water by your body.
    • Help yourself to foods that have high water content, like cucumbers, watermelons, and soups.
    • Stay away from caffeinated drinks, sodas, and alcohol, as these cause dehydration.
    • Check out and download a hydration app, such as Waterlogged, on your phone. It will help you track your water uptake.

    Drink Up, Mama

    As a breastfeeding mom, you need to drink water frequently. Not only does it keep you and the baby hydrated, but it also prevents constipation, among other things. When you don’t drink enough, your milk supply could be affected as well.

    Make it your goal to drink water throughout the day. If you tend to be a little forgetful, download a hydration app that will remind you to drink up.

    Do you have any questions or comments? Any tips for other breastfeeding moms? We would love to hear from you — and remember to share!

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