One of the main things a person needs to do to live a healthy lifestyle and avoid health complications is to stay hydrated. It’s common knowledge that an average adult should consume around 8 glasses of water a day.
But what happens with the breastfeeding mom? Is the recommended amount of water intake enough, or should it be increased?
If you’ve asked yourself, “how much water should I drink while breastfeeding?” here are some guidelines to understand the importance of hydration during this period of your life.
Why do I need to stay hydrated?
About 70% of the human body is water, so it’s safe to say that your body needs it to survive and to allow the cells, tissues, and organs to work properly.
Also, water is responsible for flushing waste and toxins out of a person’s system through urine, sweat, or bowel movements, as well as protecting sensitive tissues. Water keeps your temperature at a normal level and lubricates and cushions joints in the human body.
Suppose a person has a sufficient water intake. In that case, a person is considered hydrated instead of dehydrated. Dehydration occurs when the water levels in your body are not adequate to function normally.
As we’ve said before, the common water intake goal is 8 glasses per day. However, this may vary depending on the health condition of the individual, if where they live has hot weather, the person’s health situation and if they’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
A person may be able to function with less than 8 glasses a day, but there are some cases where they will need to increase to around 12 glasses per day because their bodies demand more. One of those cases is while a person is breastfeeding.
Breast milk is around 87% water, and where does your body find the water for the milk supply? It comes from the water the breastfeeding mom drinks, so it’s essential that you stay well hydrated at all times.
Signs of dehydration
You will notice that breastfeeding leaves you feeling thirsty all the time, and that’s because the oxytocin released while breastfeeding sends the message to your brain that you need to keep up with your fluid intake in order to maintain a healthy milk supply.
However, if you’re feeling thirsty, it means that you’re already slightly dehydrated, and that’s not a good sign.
Other signs of dehydration include dark yellow urine (it normally should be pale yellow or colorless unless you’re taking medication that may darken the urine color. Some multivitamins make your urine fluorescent yellow or rusty orange), muscle cramps, dry skin, and chapped lips. Dehydration can also cause headaches, constipation, mood swings, low levels of energy, and tiredness.
How much water should I drink while breastfeeding?
Increasing the fluid intake by a few ounces a day may be enough, but you’ll need to do it consciously.
Caring for a baby and breastfeeding may take a lot of time and energy out of a person, which may lead to them not getting enough fluids. Insufficient fluids and dehydration have been proven to lower milk production and the overall quality of the breast milk.
During this time, you’ll want to make your life easier, so a tip would be to keep a full water bottle on hand at all times and drink water before and after breastfeeding your little one.
It’s believed that increasing your fluid intake up to 12 glasses per day could be enough for a breastfeeding mom, but always look for signs of dehydration or overhydration.
The human body is all about balance, and just as evident as the dehydrating effect may be, drinking excess water may cause a chemical imbalance.
Too much water can affect the electrolyte balance, affecting the breast milk quality while also lowering the milk supply. So balance is key to being adequately hydrated.
Should I only drink plain water?
The great news is that you don’t have to only drink plain water. Hydration doesn’t only come from water but from every liquid and food, you consume. It’s easier to track how much water a person consumes by counting water glasses, but it’s not the only way of staying hydrated.
There’s also a list of high water content foods that provide extra fluid to your body, such as watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, apples, celery, peaches, zucchini, and watercress, among others. If you eat foods with high water content, then you may substitute some of those plain water glasses.
What’s not recommended is drinking other beverages such as caffeinated drinks, concentrated or artificial juices, alcohol, and soda because these types of drinks may dehydrate you, and while nursing, you can pass some of the least desirable contents of those drinks to the baby.
If you don’t like the taste of water by itself, you can try flavoring it by adding fruit or cucumbers, some drops of lemon, or some herbs such as mint to make the taste more interesting while still taking care of your sugar intake.
Can you drink wine while breastfeeding?
According to the CDC, it’s safe to drink a small amount, about one glass of wine or one beer, while breastfeeding, as it’s not been proven to affect the baby and their health.
However, you should refrain from hard liquor and consuming more than one glass of wine or beer because this may not only be passed to the baby through breast milk, but it will also dehydrate you, and we’ve already established that this will decrease breast milk production.
The average human body’s hydration needs may vary depending on the physical circumstances of said person, but what’s undeniable is that we all need to drink plenty of fluids to function properly.
Breastfeeding mothers need to pay close attention to how often they drink water and how much they consume daily because their bodies rely on their drinking water habits to produce more milk and keep both them and the baby hydrated.
As a general rule, if you drink enough water, not only will your mind, body, and skin health will be impacted, but you’ll feel energized, and you’ll be able to produce enough milk to cover your baby’s demands.
Your body will let you know if you need to drink more water, it will send you signs, including thirst cues, but the best approach is to plan ahead and keep yourself hydrated at all times. If you feel thirsty, you’re already slightly dehydrated and not consuming enough fluids as it is.
That’s why it’s a good idea to keep a water bottle on you to drink water before and after breastfeeding, but you may also drink while breastfeeding to replenish the fluids that your milk supply takes away.
Some people would rather use a hydration app to track the amount of water they drink and as an automatic reminder to consume more fluids. These types of apps also alert you when you’ve reached your limit, so you avoid overhydrating.
If you still have doubts about how much water you should take to guarantee a good milk supply for your baby and stay healthy, you could seek professional medical advice to share your concerns and receive some guidelines.
The nursing journey can be tricky and scary at times, but it’s sure a beautiful bonding experience that should be enjoyed. Remember that taking care of yourself as a mother is just as vital as taking care of the baby. So pay attention to yourself, mama.