How to Stay Hydrated When You're Breastfeeding

Water and other fluids count when you are nursing a baby

Young Pregnant Woman.
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Staying hydrated—getting plenty of water and other fluids throughout the day—is vital to your health no matter what stage of life you're in. But if you're breastfeeding, it's important to remember that you're drinking for two. What you put into your body will ultimately go into the breast milk you produce to nurture your baby.

You also need adequate fluid to stay healthy yourself—which is especially important with a family to care for.

If you don't get enough water and other fluids, you risk becoming dehydrated, which can lead to some unpleasant side effects. Here's how to make sure that doesn't happen, and that you're taking in enough fluids each day as a breastfeeding mom for your baby and for yourself.

How Much You Should Drink Each Day

There's no specific amount of fluid a woman who's breastfeeding should aim to drink. In fact, a 2014 review of studies looking at fluid requirements and breastfeeding found that it's not necessary for nursing moms to drink more than what's already "biologically necessary" for them.

What's more important than meeting a goal of a set number of ounces, then, is making sure you don't become dehydrated. Your last indicator that you need more fluid is, believe it or not, thirst. By the time you're physically craving water, your body is already depleted of fluid. 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.

Other signs of dehydration include a dry mouth, headaches, muscle weakness, dizziness, and constipation.

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, the review of studies mentioned above did not show that drinking more than usually increased milk supply.

At the same time, however, getting too little fluid can cause milk production to lag.

Does It Have to Be Water?

Your fluids don't have to be 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
  • Fruit juice
  • Fruits
  • Soup
  • Tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce

Drinks to Avoid When Breastfeeding

At the same time, there are fluids you should avoid, or at least cut back on, starting with sugary sodas and fruit drinks. 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.

The other thing to be careful about when nursing is alcohol. There are lots of misconceptions out there 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.

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

Nkdiom CM, Fawole B, Ilesanmi RE. Extra Fluids for Breastfeeding Mothers for Increasing Milk ProductionCochrane Database Systemic Review. 2014 Jun 11;(6):CD008758.