How Much Water Should I Drink While Breastfeeding?

Drink plenty of fluids to keep hydration levels healthy

Mother breastfeeding baby

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When you're breastfeeding, you are hydrating your little one and yourself. Breast milk is about 90% water. Although research has found that nursing parents do not need to drink more fluids than what's necessary to satisfy their thirst, experts recommend drinking about 128 ounces of water per day if you are breastfeeding.

That sounds like a lot—it's 16 8-ounce cups—but 8 ounces is a pretty small serving size. If you drink one 8-ounce glass of water before and after each feeding, as well as with meals, you should be able to hit that 128-ounce goal. Here is a closer look at how much much water you should drink while breastfeeding.

How Hydration Affects Milk Supply

It may seem intuitive that if your milk supply starts to wane, drinking more water and other fluids will help to give it a boost. However, research on the effect of extra fluid on milk production, supply, and infant growth hasn't shown that drinking more than your usual amount of fluids will increase milk supply.

But getting too little liquid can cause you to become dehydrated, which can negatively impact your health. It is important to make sure you are getting plenty of fluids so that your body is able to function at its optimal level.

Avoiding Dehydration

Rather than focusing on meeting a goal of a set number of ounces, the key is to make sure you don't become dehydrated. Staying hydrated by getting plenty of water and other fluids throughout the day is vital to your health, no matter what stage of life you're in.

Effects of Dehydration

If you don't get enough water and other fluids, you risk becoming dehydrated, which can lead to some unpleasant symptoms, such as:

  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth and chapped lips
  • Fatigue and a lack of energy
  • Headache
  • Moodiness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea

How to Get Enough Fluids

Your top indicator of whether you need more fluids is thirst. A good rule of thumb is to drink enough water so that you're not thirsty, otherwise known as "drinking to thirst."

Thirst is your body's way of telling you that you need to drink more, so do your best to pay attention to it. By the time you're physically craving water, your body is already depleted of fluid.

Soon after starting to nurse, you will notice that you feel thirsty more often.

This desire to drink more water while nursing is triggered by oxytocin, a hormone released during breastfeeding. Oxytocin naturally affects your thirst cues to encourage you to drink enough water to hydrate yourself and make breast milk.

The color of your urine is a telling clue about your level of hydration. If your urine is dark, it isn't being diluted enough by what you drink. Look for a pale yellow or almost clear color which indicates you're getting enough fluids.

All Liquids Count Towards Hydration

Your fluids don't have to all come from water, but it's always a good choice. It's sugar-free, caffeine-free, readily available, and you can enjoy it at any temperature. Plus, you can easily flavor your water with fruits or herbs when you want a change.

That said, any liquids you consume, along with any water-rich foods you eat, contribute to your overall fluid intake. Some examples of drinks that contribute to your fluid intake include cow's milk or nut milk, decaffeinated coffee or tea, and fruit or vegetable juice. Foods can help keep you hydrated, too, such as oranges, watermelon, berries, soup, cucumbers, tomatoes, and lettuce.

If you don't care for cow's milk, don't worry. You don't need it in your diet to make breast milk. Just be sure you are getting calcium from other sources, such as cheese, yogurt, green leafy vegetables, or calcium-fortified foods.

Because newborns breastfeed about 8 to 12 times a day, having a glass of water before or after every feeding is a good way to get your daily quota without having to think about it.

Know, however, that consuming too much fluid (or having colorless urine) can actually harm your milk supply. When over hydrated, your body works to restore its electrolyte balance by dumping excess water in your urine, which diverts water away from your breasts and can actually decrease your milk supply as a result.

Drinks to Limit When Breastfeeding

It's true that you'll need to take in extra calories to support milk production while you're nursing, but those calories should come from foods and beverages that are nutrient-dense. Experts recommend that you avoid or limit the following liquids when nursing.

Sugary Sodas and Fruit Drinks

Beverages that contain a lot of sugar, such as soda, can reduce the amount of fluid that your body actually retains. This can further exacerbate dehydration, causing heat stress and putting pressure on the kidneys, according to a study that examined the effects of such beverages. The same can be said of fruit drinks that are high in sugar but low in fiber.

If you're really craving a sweet drink, try adding fruits and berries to your water. If you are still missing that sweetness, you are better off adding 1 teaspoon of plain table sugar to your fruit-infused water than drinking a can of soda, which has about 9.5 teaspoons of sugar per can.

Despite the name, fruit drinks often contain little or no actual fruit juice. These are the products often labeled as "drinks," "coolers," or "punches." These are different from 100% fruit juice, which is still a good choice for hydration.

Caffeinated Drinks

Caffeine can pass into breast milk and affect your baby's mood and sleep. It is also a diuretic, which means it causes you to lose fluid. Caffeine can have a dehydrating effect on your body.

Alcohol

There are many misconceptions regarding alcohol and breastfeeding, including that it will help to boost your milk supply. The truth is, alcohol is more likely to inhibit the letdown reflex.

It's generally OK (with the go-ahead from your baby's pediatrician and your own obstetrician) to have an occasional glass of wine or beer while you're breastfeeding. But it's best to stop there.

If you're in the mood for a cocktail, try adding a splash of no-sugar-added fruit juice to plain seltzer in a champagne flute instead.

A Word From Verywell

How much water you need to drink while breastfeeding varies per individual. You may need more than the recommended 128 ounces a day—especially in hot weather or if you are more active than the average person.

Check your urine color to determine if you are drinking the right amount of water for you. You are adequately hydrated if your urine is pale yellow. Anything darker indicates that you are dehydrated.

Also, try to avoid getting thirsty. Feeling thirsty indicates that your body is already slightly dehydrated. If you have questions about your hydration needs while breastfeeding, talk to a healthcare provider or a lactation consultant.

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Ndikom CM, Fawole B, Ilesanmi RE. Extra fluids for breastfeeding mothers for increasing milk production. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Jun 11;(6):CD008758. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD008758.pub2 PMID: 24916640

  3. Rigaud M, Sevalho Corçao C, Perrier ET, Boesen-Mariani S. Assessing a tool for self-monitoring hydration using urine color in pregnant and breastfeeding women: A cross-sectional, online survey. Ann Nutr Metab. 2017;70 Suppl 1:23-29. doi:10.1159/000463000

  4. García-Arroyo FE, Cristóbal M, Arellano-Buendía AS, et al. Rehydration with soft drink-like beverages exacerbates dehydration and worsens dehydration-associated renal injury. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2016;311(1):R57-65. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00354.2015

Additional Reading

By Jennifer White
Jennifer White has authored parenting books and has worked in childcare and education fields for over 15 years.