The Importance of Hydration While Breastfeeding
Staying hydrated is important for EVERYONE. It keeps us functioning and more importantly, alive! It's easy to dismiss headaches, tiredness, and brain fog as normal symptoms of everyday life, but these can all be symptoms of dehydration, and many of us experience these more often than we should. Being that hydration is so important, it's no surprise that it's especially important for nursing moms. Dehydration can have serious effects on your health and milk supply, so it's important for both you and baby to make sure you're adequately hydrated to help you breastfeed.1
Hydration and Breast Milk Supply
Breast milk is comprised of 87% water, so if you're properly hydrated, the better you can keep up with breast milk production.2 Breastfeeding women lose an average of 25 ounces of fluid a day. It's recommended that people who are nursing drink about 16 cups of water per day to keep up with the output of liquid.3 Many moms like to drink a large glass of water before and/or after breastfeeding.
Research on over-hydrating during breastfeeding has not shown a correlation with increased milk supply.4 Over-hydrating may not be the answer and comes with its own set of risks like disturbing the balance of electrolytes in your body,5 but avoiding dehydration is crucial for maintaining your health and breast milk supply. All of exclusively breastfed babies' nutrition and hydration comes from breast milk, so their hydration is dependent on mom's milk.6 If you feel that your supply is lacking, paying attention to your hydration is a good initial step to address it.
Easy Ways to Stay Hydrated when Breastfeeding
Always Keep Water Nearby
Having a water bottle on hand is always a good idea. There are even social media groups completely dedicated to #hydration and water bottles. There are so many trending, fun, and innovative water bottles out there that people swear by. Having multiple bottles in different areas can help some people remember to drink and take small sips throughout the day.
Pay Attention to Your Body
Mindfulness is tricky when you have a baby to worry about, but it's important to check in with yourself every now and again. Take a moment to notice how your body is feeling, and if you're thirsty, have something to drink! Drinking to thirst is one of the best methods to maintain optimal hydration. It's your body's natural way of alerting you when it needs water. This seems simple but it's easy to forget or ignore when life gets hectic.
People that are breastfeeding are naturally thirstier, too.7 The exact scientific reason isn't known, but it's logical that having a regular output of milk would cause your body to experience thirst in order to replenish itself.
Another way to gauge your hydration is urine color. If it's pale yellow, you're probably well-hydrated. If it's dark yellow, you may be slightly dehydrated.8
Mix Things Up
Water is the gold standard for hydration, but there are many other hydrating and tasty options out there. All liquids will add to hydration whether it's from drinks or food. Try eating fruits or veggies with high water content like watermelon, oranges, pineapple, cucumber, or celery for a snack.
Juice, smoothies, flavored water, and seltzer are also great for hydration and a welcome break from plain old water. Sports drinks and coconut water have also become popular among breastfeeding people. Coconut water is especially hydrating and contains natural electrolytes.
Drink While You Pump or Nurse
Use your pumping and feeding time to replenish your fluids. Breastfeeding causes thirst, so you might have the natural inclination to do this anyway.7 Most babies nurse 8-12 times a day, plus pumping sessions in between. If you remember to drink during these times, it can help keep you well-hydrated all day. Grab one of the many water bottles you're sure to accumulate or another fun drink, toast with baby, and the two of you can hydrate together.
You don't have to drink copious amounts of water to effectively breastfeed. Normal hydration should be enough to keep you and baby comfortable and satisfied. Dehydration is the real culprit when it comes to decreased milk production and feeling generally unwell. Symptoms include:9
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Dry mouth, lips, and eyes
- Passing small amounts of urine infrequently (less than three or four times a day)
Babies are also prone to dehydration. A baby may be experiencing dehydration if you notice these symptoms:9
- A sunken soft spot (fontanelle) on their head
- Few or no tears when they cry
- Fewer wet diapers
If you or baby experience several or all these symptoms, it's important to hydrate as soon as possible and contact a medical professional.
Hydrated Parent, Happy Baby
Stay hydrated not only to keep your breast milk flowing, but also so you can be present and feel your best. If your needs are met, you're in the best position to give baby everything they need. So, cheers to your health, and bottoms up!
- Shivani, Patel. 6 Factors That Won't Decrease Your Milk Supply. UT Southwestern Medical Center. 11 September 2018. https://utswmed.org/medblog/breast-milk-supply-confusion/ Accessed 13 July 2023.
- Camilia R. Martin, Pei-Ra Ling, and George L. Blackburn. Review of Infant Feeding: Key Features of Breast Milk and Infant Formula. 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4882692/ Accessed 5 July 2023.
- Gordon, Barbara, RDN,LD. Nursing Your Baby What You Eat and Drink Matters. Eatright.org Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 13 April 2022. https://www.eatright.org/health/pregnancy/breastfeeding-and-formula/nursing-your-baby-what-you-eat-and-drink-matters Accessed 5 July 2023.
- Chizoma M Ndikom, Bukola Fawole, Roslyn E Ilesanmi. Extra fluids for breastfeeding mothers for increasing milk production. 11 June 2014. https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD008758.pub2/full Accessed 5 July 2023.
- D J Farrell and L Bower. Fatal Water Intoxication. Journal of Clinical Pathology. October 2003. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1770067/ Accessed 13 July 2023.
- The physiological basis of breastfeeding. World Health Organization. 2009. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK148970/ Accessed 21 July 2023.
- R J James, D W Irons, C Holmes, A L Charlton, R F Drewett, P H Baylis. Thirst induced by a suckling episode during breast feeding and relation with plasma vasopressin, oxytocin and osmoregulation. September 1995. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7586595/ Accessed 5 July 2023.
- What the Color of Your Pee Says About You. Cleveland Clinic. 8 November 2021. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-urine-color-means/ Accessed 5 July 2023.
- Dehydration. NHS Inform. Last updated 13 February 2023. https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/nutritional/dehydration#symptoms-of-dehydration Accessed 5 July 2023.