How to Stay Hydrated When You Are Breastfeeding

Water and other fluids count when you are nursing a baby

Young Pregnant Woman.
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The total fluid consumption of breastfeeding mothers (from a combination of drinking water and consuming foods and beverages like tea, milk, and fruit juice) varies greatly from person to person. Although research has found that nursing mothers do not need to drink more fluids than what's already biologically necessary to satisfy their thirst, experts recommend about 1/2 to 3/4 of an ounce of water per pound of your non-nursing weight.

What this means is that if you are a nursing mother that weighs 160 pounds, then your aim should be to drink 80 ounces or 10 cups of water per day at the very minimum, in addition to the fluids found in your daily intake of your food.

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 for breastfeeding mothers on milk production, supply, and infant growth did not show that drinking more than your usual amount of fluids will increase milk supply. Getting too little liquids can cause milk production to lag, however.

Staying Hydrated: How to Tell If You Are Not

What's more important than meeting a goal of a set number of ounces, is making 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. When you're breastfeeding, you are hydrating your little one, while also needing to adequately hydrate your body to stay healthy yourself.

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

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

Are You Thirsty?

Your top indicator of whether you need more fluids is thirst. 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. Your thirst is triggered by the oxytocin released by your body during breastfeeding to naturally ensure that you are getting enough water to hydrate yourself and make breast milk.

Check Your Pee

A more telling clue is the color of your urine: If your pee is dark, it isn't being diluted enough by what you drink. Look for a pale yellow or almost clear color to your urine. But a word of caution on milk production if you are chugging too much water to get your pee to run clear:

Drinking too much water can actually harm your milk supply and a lack of it is probably not the reason behind the decrease in your breast milk. Your body works to restore the electrolyte balance in your body by dumping excess water in your urine. This diverts water away from your breasts, which can actually decrease your milk supply.

All Liquids Count

Your fluids don't have to all come from water, but water is the best place to start. It has no added sugars, caffeine, or calories. It's easy to come by, easy to tote around (especially given the myriad water bottles on the market these days) and if you spill it, it doesn't stain.

That said, any liquids you put in your body, along with any juicy foods you eat, will contribute to your overall fluid intake. Some examples include:

  • Milk or almond milk in your coffee, tea, or on cereal
  • Coffee or tea (although the caffeine in these beverages can also cause you to lose some water)
  • Fruit juice
  • Fruits
  • Soup
  • Tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and many other veggies

Drinks to Limit When Breastfeeding

It's true that while you're nursing you'll need to take in extra calories to support milk production, but those calories should come from foods and beverages that are dense in nutrients. 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 actually reduce the amount of fluid that your body actually retains. Further exacerbating dehydration, causing heat stress and putting pressure on the kidneys, according to a study that examined the effects of sugary, soft-drink like beverages.

If you are 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 a teaspoon of plain table sugar to your fruit infused water, versus drinking a can of soda, which has about 9.5 teaspoons of sugar per can.

Caffeinated Drinks

Aside from caffeine passing into breast milk and affecting your baby's mood and sleep, caffeine is a diuretic, which means it causes you to lose fluid and 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 gynecologist) 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, spike plain seltzer with a splash of non-sugar-added fruit juice and drink it from a champagne flute.

A Word From Verywell

Keep in mind that water intake varies per individual and your needs may be more than the recommended 10 glasses a day suggested above. Especially if you are nursing and more active than the average person. Drink to thirst and check your urine to determine the right amount of water for you.

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