Being a new mom makes you THIRSTY! The tales of having your baby latch on and then your mouth instantly feeling like the Sahara Desert are true. Water is an important staple for a breastfeeding mom and something you need to ensure you’re getting enough of.
How Much Water Do You Need to Drink While Breastfeeding?
Without factoring in pregnancy or nursing, it’s important for women to drink 8-9 cups of water per day, which can be a challenge to some. Now that you’re breastfeeding, that minimum jumps to 12+ cups per day. It’s important to note that both of these numbers are a measure used in general when in reality a woman’s hydration needs vary greatly by weight, climate, activity level and more. Even in scientific studies, they agree that the calculations for water requirements vary widely. That being said, proper hydration can be one of the first things that increase your milk supply.
Drinking good quality water is best (tap water is typically quite acidic, so having your water be a neutral pH is very helpful) and it’s good to remember that you also get hydration from eating foods high in water like fruit and vegetables. Generally, drinking to your thirst is enough, but if you know you’re not the best water drinker you may need to be more proactive with drinking water (see the tips on staying hydrated below!)
Why is Staying Hydrated as a New Mom Important?
Breastfeeding is a miraculous thing and one that also is very demanding on a mothers’ body. Not only do you need a substantial amount of extra calories, even more than during pregnancy, but you also need additional water. After all, breastmilk is mostly made up of water. While it would take significant dehydration to cause low milk supply, proper hydration is important for the health of every cell in your body, along with making the best milk possible for your baby. While rare, it is possible to drink too much water so you don’t need to force yourself to drink beyond reason either. If you were previously not drinking a lot of water, increase your intake gradually. Adequate hydration will not only help you feel and look better but will ensure you have everything you need to create an ample amount of milk.
Can My Milk Supply Drop if I Don’t Drink Enough Water/Fluids?
While proper hydration is important for a base level of health, restricting water does not have as much effect on milk production as one would think. However, long term water restriction would absolutely have a negative impact on milk production. In this study, breastfeeding women who were practicing daily fasting were studied and despite only drinking water in the evenings, breastmilk volume was not affected. These women were, however, drinking a lot in the evening to make up for fasting during the day which shows that the timing of water consumption isn’t relevant. The same study continues to say “It is widely assumed that milk production requires a high fluid intake on the part of the mother, yet the evidence suggests that lactating women can tolerate a considerable amount of water restriction and that supplemental fluids have little effect on milk volume.”
One exception where it is important to be diligent about drinking enough water is if you are living in a warm climate and during the summer months of the year.
Will your milk supply drop if you’re not drinking enough water? Most likely not. However, if you are already dehydrated and start to drink an adequate amount of water you may notice an increased milk supply.
How Do I Know If I Am Dehydrated?
The best way to easily tell if you’re dehydrated involves a little toilet talk. Yes, the color of your urine is a good way to tell how hydrated you are. If your urine is more yellow than lemonade, you likely need more water. If your urine is dark yellow or has a strong order, you definitely need more water. One note on urine color if you’re taking B vitamins, it is normal and healthy for B vitamins to make your urine bright yellow. This isn’t a bad thing but can make it a little harder to tell your hydration levels. Dehydration can also cause fatigue (yep, you can get more energy by drinking more!), headaches and dizziness. And of course, if you’re thirsty you are already slightly dehydrated. It can be a challenge to remember to drink enough with a newborn but here are some tips to keep your water intake up!
Tips to Stay Hydrated
1. Remember that water comes from fruit & veggies, too!
The foundation of your diet should be made up of mostly veggies and some fruit, too. These foods provide your body with fresh, high-quality water. Soups & smoothies are two great ways to get in high water foods.
2. Keep water near your nursing stations
Keep a glass or water bottle anywhere in your home that you sit down to breastfeed. Having a drink within arms reach makes it effortless to quench your thirst while feeding. A bonus? Ask your partner or support people to always make sure these glasses/bottles are full of water so you don’t have to worry about refilling them.
3. Keep water interesting
If water isn’t your favorite beverage you can try to flavor your water in a few ways. Add fruit, lemon/lime juice or cucumber slices. While sparkling water can be a nice option, it’s best to limit this as it is quite acidic and too many carbonated veggies can deplete calcium. You can also enjoy beverages like herbal tea and coffee.
4. Tie drinking water to a habit you already have
New habits are best formed when they are triggered by something you do daily anyway. Have a glass of water when you wake up in the morning (and during the night wake-ups, too!), drink a glass when you brush your teeth, walk into the kitchen, after a nap etc. Catching up on your water at a meal isn’t a good idea as it will dilute your stomach acid. Try not to drink more than a cup of water during meals and wait 15 minutes before and after eating to enjoy something more to drink.
Recommended Drinks for Breastfeeding Moms
Drinks to Limit When Breastfeeding
Just like anything as a new mom, keeping things simple is important. Finding the most effective and enjoyable way of drinking water provides many benefits to both you, your milk supply and your baby. Cheers, mamas!
If you’re confident that you are hydrating regularly and enough, but are still feeling symptoms like stress and fatigue, check out these blog posts for more information!
Effects of maternal caffeine consumption on the breastfed child: a systematic review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30294771
Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate Chapter 4: Water. 2005.
Institute of Medicine. Nutrition During Lactation