If you’re breastfeeding, you may have noticed that you feel more thirsty than usual. Oxytocin released in breastfeeding triggers your thirst. It’s your body’s way of making sure that you are getting enough water to produce breast milk. As a nursing mom, it’s important to stay well-hydrated. While being slightly dehydrated may not affect breast milk production, it can influence your mood, amount of energy, and skin health. Here is a guide to help you choose what to drink while breastfeeding, and what to avoid or limit.
How much water do I need while breastfeeding?
As a rule of thumb, experts recommend that you drink half an ounce of water per pound that you weigh when you aren’t breastfeeding. For example, if you weigh 140 pounds, aim for 70 ounces of water each day. So, when you are nursing, you need to drink even more water to stay well-hydrated.
If you feel thirsty, you’re already slightly dehydrated. When breastfeeding, your goal is to drink before you feel thirsty. Breast milk is composed of about 90% water. Let’s say your three-month-old baby is drinking 4-6 ounces of milk eight times a day, which is 32 ounces to 48 ounces of milk per day. You’ll need to drink about an additional liter (or four cups) a day to replace the water.
Of course, the needed amount of water varies for each woman and depends on her baby’s needs and stage of development. For example, six-month-old babies who are exclusively breastfeeding drink more than a newborn. The amount of water needed also varies each day. You’ll need to drink more when the weather is hot or when you’re exercising. Check the color of your urine as a quick hydration test. If your urine is dark yellow, increase your fluids.
Can I Drink Too Much Water While Breastfeeding?
When breastfeeding, don’t aim to drink gallons of water or chug your daily amount at one time. When you drink too much, your body tries to balance your body’s electrolytes by removing the excess water in the urine. When this happens, it causes the water to reroute away from your breasts, which can cause your milk supply to decline. Drinking when you are thirsty, drinking throughout the day, and checking the color of your urine are the best ways to get the right amount of water.
Tips to Increase Your Water Intake
It’s a good idea to drink a glass of water before or when you breastfeed your baby. Near your favorite place to nurse, set up a breastfeeding station with a water bottle that you fill between feedings and fruit with high water content (cucumbers, oranges, watermelon). To improve the taste of your water, add fruit, a small amount of juice, or a squeeze of lemon. You can also download an app to help track your water intake during the day.
What Drinks Should I Limit or Avoid?
In general, drink a moderate amount of caffeine and only occasionally have alcohol, if at all.
Alcohol. Limit your alcohol. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), an occasional drink is fine. The AAP recommends waiting two or more hours before nursing to make sure the alcohol isn’t in your breast milk. How much is an occasional amount? The two hours waiting time is for 12 ounces of 5% beer, 5 ounces of 11% wine or 1.5 ounces of 40% liquor. Pumping and dumping don’t speed the elimination of alcohol from your body.
Caffeine. Curb your caffeine to two to three cups of caffeinated drinks a day. Caffeine in your breast milk might disturb or disrupt your baby’s sleep (as well as your sleep).
Dehydration can cause headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and dry skin. In sum, while lack of water won’t affect your ability to provide milk, staying hydrated will help you feel energized and keep you healthy so you can keep nourishing your baby.
What to Drink While Breastfeeding
Do you have other questions about what to drink while breastfeeding, or what to limit or avoid? Call us at Creekside Center for Women at 479.582.9268 to set-up an appointment with one of our lactation consultants.