Hydration is one of the most important factors during pregnancy and after it. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, you should drink between 8 and 12 cups of water during pregnancy. What happens after delivery? Are you wondering how much water should I drink while breastfeeding?
You have probably noticed that breastfeeding makes you more thirsty than usual. This is because oxytocin released in breastfeeding triggers your thirst. It is your body’s way of making sure you are getting enough water and hydration. Without water, you cannot produce breast milk.
During pregnancy, water aids digestion and helps form the amniotic fluid around the fetus. Following childbirth, water helps you produce breast milk.
Any nursing mother should stay well-hydrated. Now, being slightly dehydrated may not affect breast milk production, but it can influence your mood and amount of energy.
Remember, breast milk is about 90% water.
How Does Hydration Affect Milk Supply?
Let’s repeat it once again. Breast milk is about 90% water. When you are dehydrated, it may affect the quality and quantity of your breast milk.
One sign you need to drink more water is when your milk supply starts to wane. Getting too little liquid can make you dehydrated. And this will negatively impact your health.
Make sure to get plenty of fluids so that your body can function at an optimal level.
Concerns About Low Milk Supply
This is a challenging topic to answer. Sometimes, women worry unnecessarily that their milk supply is low.
Sometimes, this is caused by your body and how it adapted to breastfeeding so that your breasts do not feel as full or leaky as before.
If your baby seems to be feeding more often than usual, it is not always an indication of a low milk supply.
But, if your doctor has told you that you have a low milk supply, then it is time to employ some strategies. And drinking more water is only one of them.
Other strategies include allowing the baby to nurse frequently so that your body knows it needs to step up and produce more to meet the greater demand.
Do not give your baby pacifiers or bottles unless directed to do so by your physician. Let milk be the only form of nourishment.
You can also try pumping to increase the rate at which your breasts empty and your body reacts by producing more milk naturally.
Last, but not least, you should take care of yourself. That means following a healthy diet, getting plenty of rest, minimizing stress, and more. Yes, this can be challenging with an infant, but you have to find a way.
Why Do You Want To Avoid Dehydration?
A lot of women and breastfeeding mothers make the mistake of meeting a set goal of ounces. But that is wrong. The key is to make sure you do not become dehydrated, not counting ounces. Why? Because there are plenty of unwanted side effects to dehydration. Here is what you risk if you do not get enough water and other fluids:
- Dry skin
- Muscle cramps
- Lack of energy
How Much Water Should I Drink While Breastfeeding?
Remember, when you are breastfeeding, you are hydrating your little one and yourself. As we said before, breast milk is 90% water. Experts recommend about 128 ounces of water for breastfeeding mothers.
That would be like 16 8-ounces cups. Yet, you have to remember, 8 ounces is a pretty small serving size. You can hit that 16 8-ounce cups by drinking a glass of water before and after each feeding, as well as with meals.
There is another way to look at it. The best way to look at how much water you need to drink is an ounce of water per pound. That is the way healthy people drink water. So, if you weigh 160 pounds, you aim for 80 ounces of water per day. This is how much water you need to drink if you are not breastfeeding.
So, increase that amount. And if you are feeling thirsty, that means you are already slightly dehydrated. The goal in pregnancy and during breastfeeding is to drink water before you feel thirsty.
Here is another math equation you can throw in. Your baby is probably drinking 4 to 6 ounces of milk eight times a day. That is 32 to 48 ounces of milk per day. So, you need to drink that much amount of additional water to feel hydrated.
Now, take into account that the needed amount of water varies for each woman and depends on the needs of the baby. Then, add in the stage of development, and you have a completely different equation. For example, six-month-old babies drink more milk than newborn babies.
Can You Drink Too Much Water?
How much water is too much water? Is there such a thing as too much water while breastfeeding? Do not worry. Even if you drink a little too much water, your body will balance it.
How? By removing the excess water in the urine. The extra water will reroute from your breasts to your urine. Yes, that might cause your milk supply to decline.
The best way to check is to look at your urine color. If it is a bit watery, you need to reduce the amount of water you drink.
How To Increase Water Intake?
Here is a dirty little secret you might not know. All liquids count toward hydration. Water is not your only source of hydration during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Yes, a glass of water before and after breastfeeding is great. But you can get enough fluids from other sources as well.
Your main indicator is thirst. There is a saying, drinking to thirst. That means you drink enough water so that you are not thirsty.
We know thirst is your body’s way of telling you that you need to drink more. Pay attention to it. When your body is craving water, it means it is already depleted of fluid.
Water is the best choice for hydration because it is sugar-free and caffeine-free. You can enjoy it at any temperature.
If you want to make it more drinkable and flavorful, you can infuse it with herbs or fruits. Even the water-rich foods you consume contribute to your overall fluid intake.
For example, nut milk, decaffeinated coffee, decaffeinated tea, fruit juice, vegetable juice, and more.
Are There Any Drinks You Need To Avoid?
Yes, there are beverages that breastfeeding moms should stay away from during lactation. We hinted at some. When we talk about decaffeinated coffee, it means staying away from regular coffee. Why? Because it contains caffeine.
We can classify the drinks you need to avoid into three groups.
The first group is alcohol. Not drinking alcohol is the safest way. Yes, you might read somewhere that waiting two or more hours before nursing to get a glass of alcohol is fine. Pumping and dumping will not sleep up the elimination of alcohol from your body.
The second group is caffeine. You should reduce your intake of caffeinated drinks, if not eliminate them entirely. Caffeine in breast milk might disrupt your baby’s sleep and your sleep as well. Caffeine will also cause dehydration, which results in fatigue, headaches, bad mood, dizziness, and dry skin.
And the third group is sugary sodas and fruit drinks. We consider store-bought fruit juices here. Yes, you can have a homemade fruit drink. But you should avoid sugar. If you are craving a sweet drink, add fruits or berries to your water. Now is the time to drink infused water.
Sodas are worse because they reduce the amount of fluid that your body retains. So, if you drink soda, you actually have to drink more water to avoid dehydration. Sodas also put pressure on the kidneys, so make sure to avoid them during pregnancy and breastfeeding.