Why Staying Hydrated is Important for Nursing Mothers
Adequate hydration is essential to a healthy body and mind, and it’s important to consume more water than you lose through your body’s natural processes. For nursing mothers, who produce about a quart of breast milk each day, staying hydrated is even more important.
How Much Water Do Breastfeeding Mothers Need?
The general, well-known rule of thumb for most people is to consume about eight 8-oz. glasses of water a day, or 64 oz. total. Some people require more and some less, but this is a good starting point for the majority of people.
However, a breastfeeding mom loses more fluids than the average person and thus needs to drink more water. When nursing an infant under 6 months of age, most mothers produce about 25-32 oz. of breast milk each day. To account for this extra fluid loss, you should drink at least an additional 32 oz. of water daily to stay hydrated, for a total of about 96-104 oz.
On top of this recommendation, it’s best to drink whenever you feel thirsty. You should also increase your intake above this suggested level if:
- You notice symptoms of dehydration (see below)
- You exercise frequently or live in a hot climate
- You are nursing more than one child, or are pregnant while nursing
Tips for Staying Hydrated While Nursing
It’s important to note that, contrary to popular belief, consuming large amounts of extra water while nursing does not increase milk supply. While nursing moms should increase their daily intake from about 64 oz. to about 100 oz. to account for fluids lost due to lactation, drinking excessive amounts of water or “forcing fluids” will not make you produce more milk. Being dehydrated, however, is detrimental to your health and well-being.
So it’s essential to drink plenty of water in order to maintain good health and stay hydrated while breastfeeding. Many nursing moms report feeling thirstier than normal, but if you tend to have trouble drinking enough water, here are a few tricks you can use to stay hydrated:
- Keep water handy. Keep a large water bottle accessible near your favorite nursing location(s)—the larger the better, so you don’t have to worry about refilling it very often. It’s also a good idea to keep one in your baby’s diaper bag so you don’t forget to stay hydrated while out and about.
- Enjoy purified water. Water that is free of impurities is not only better for your health but it’s also better tasting, making it easier to drink more water. Add a Primo Water Dispenser to your home to make palatable, high-quality water more accessible.
- Drink when baby drinks. Drink a glass of water every time your baby nurses or every time you pump. Depending on their age, infants nurse about 6-10 times a day, so this rule of thumb is a good starting point for avoiding dehydration.
- Track your intake. Tracking how much water you drink is a great way to ensure you’re staying hydrated. If you find yourself passing time on your phone while you nurse your little one, a water-tracking mobile app could be a good option.
- Limit caffeine. Caffeine can have a dehydrating effect, so it’s best to limit your consumption to about 2-3 cups of coffee a day. If you need more caffeine to get through the day, just be sure to balance it by drinking a little extra water.
- Enjoy fluid-rich foods. Water isn’t the only way your body gets fluids. Vegetables, fruits and foods such as soup are rich in fluids and a good way to supplement your water intake.
Signs of Dehydration in Nursing Moms
In general, the symptoms of dehydration in nursing mothers are the same as the symptoms for other people. These include:
- Dark-colored urine
- Abnormal fatigue
- Dry mouth
- Muscle cramps
- Frequent headaches
In cases of chronic or serious dehydration, your milk production or milk composition may even be affected.