When you breastfeed, you are actually hydrating your baby and yourself. Your breastmilk contains almost 90 percent water. Research has shown that new mothers don’t have to drink any more than what’s needed to quench their thirst. Generally, experts do recommend that nursing moms get about 128 ounces of fluid each day.
In a sense, that is 16 eight-ounce glasses. However, eight ounces isn’t as much as you think. Drink an eight-ounce cup of water before you breastfeed, as well as after. Then, you should drink water with each meal, and you can easily hit your goal of 128 ounces. Remember, that amount also includes any other beverages that you might drink throughout the day, such as fruit juice, milk, or tea. Water-rich foods also count toward that consumption goal. Many vegetables and fruits have a lot of water in them.
Why Hydration and Milk Supply Go Hand in Hand
Many women believe that when their milk supply starts to go away, they should drink more fluids to give it a bit of a boost. While this is a smart way to look at it, research shows the opposite. Drinking more fluid doesn’t necessarily help with milk production or supply. Plus, infant growth can’t be increased by you drinking more liquid than usual. However, if you get too little fluid, milk production could lag. Therefore, the best approach is to stay hydrated just enough, and your supply of milk should remain the same.
Though you should aim for a goal of 128 ounces of liquid each day, it’s more important to ensure that you don’t get dehydrated. For example, if you drink your 128 ounces, but you only drink tea and soda, it can cause dehydration because caffeine is a diuretic. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water throughout your day to stay hydrated. You can drink other things, but water is often the best.
This is important whether you are trying to conceive, you’re pregnant, or you’re now breastfeeding.
Those who don’t get enough water risk getting dehydrated, which can have some serious side effects. These include:
- Dry mouth
- Chapped lips
- Muscle cramps
- Fatigue or lack of energy
How to Ensure You Get Plenty of Fluids
The best indication of whether you need to have more fluids is your thirst. Drink enough water so that you aren’t thirsty. This is often called ‘drinking to thirst.’ When you are thirsty, it is your body’s way of saying that you should be drinking more. Therefore, pay close attention to this signal. When you’re to the point of craving some water, your body is already dehydrated.
Once you start nursing, you’re going to notice that you are thirsty much more than normal. This happens because of oxytocin, which is a hormone that gets released while you breastfeed. Of course, it is designed to naturally affect the cue for thirst so that you drink enough to hydrate your body and make enough breast milk.
If you’re worried about your intake of liquid, check your urine’s color. When the pee is quite dark, you aren’t drinking enough, and it isn’t getting diluted. You want to aim for a pale yellow, but nearly clear urine is the best option. This ensures that you’re getting plenty of fluids.
Every Liquid Counts
Not all of the fluids you consume have to come from water, but sometimes, it is the best choice. There is no caffeine or sugar, and it’s easily accessible by almost everyone. Plus, you can enjoy it at room temperature, cold, or even warm. While it can be plain, consider adding herbs and fruit to it when you want to mix it up.
Regardless, all of the liquid you consume, as well as foods that have high water content, are going to contribute to the overall fluid intake. Examples can include:
- Vegetables (lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes)
- Fruits (watermelon, oranges, or berries)
- Vegetable and fruit juice
- Decaffeinated tea and coffee
- Up to two cups of caffeinated beverages each day
- Nut or cow milk in cereal or in a glass
Those who dislike cow’s milk don’t have to worry. It’s not a necessity to have it to create breast milk. Just make sure that you can get calcium from some other sources. These include green leafy vegetables, cheese, and foods that are fortified with calcium.
Drink Whenever Your Baby Does
Newborns usually breastfeed about eight to 12 times each day, so if you drink one glass of water after or before a feeding, you should reach your daily goal and not even think much about it.
Keep in mind, though, that you can consume too much liquid, as well. If your urine is completely clear, you may be overdoing it. This can harm the milk supply, also. When you over-hydrate, the body has to restore its electrolytes and keep things in balance. This requires it to dump the excess water in urine, diverting water away from the breasts.
What to Limit While Breastfeeding
You should be eating extra calories to help produce more milk while nursing, but these calories should ultimately come from things rich in nutrients. Therefore, you should limit or avoid these things:
Beverages with a lot of such, such as a soda, can reduce how much fluid the body retains. This could aggravate your dehydration, which causes more stress on the kidneys. That can also apply to fruit drinks, which have little fiber but a lot of sugar.
If you really want something sweet to drink, consider adding berries and other fruit to water. Sometimes, that isn’t enough, and you could add about a teaspoon of regular sugar to your fruit water. This is still healthier than drinking one can of soda since it has almost 10 teaspoons of sugar in each can.
Though fruit drinks sound healthy, they rarely contain fruit juice.
Remember that your water intake needs can vary based on your specific situation. Therefore, you could need more or less than the 128 ounces each day. For example, if you work out or it’s very hot, you are sure to need more water.