how much water should i drink while breastfeeding

How much water a breastfeeding mom should be drinking

As a new mom who’s breastfeeding, you may have noticed that you get extremely thirsty, especially during feedings and you may be wondering what’s going on.

You may have also heard many different opinions and guidelines on how much water you should be drinking as a breastfeeding mother. You may have heard that drinking too little or too much water can affect your breast milk production or milk supply. So, you may have the question of how much water should I drink while breastfeeding?

The recommended amount of water intake for the average person

You will hear many different opinions and guidelines on how much water people should be drinking. Some may recommend 8 glasses of water per day; some may suggest 2 or 3 liters of water per day. How much is it really?

There are many factors at play when deciding how much you as an individual may need. Things like sweating, exercise, gender, pregnancy and breastfeeding all play a role in determining how much water you need to drink.

According to research, the recommended total daily fluid intake of 3,000 ml for men and 2,200 ml for women is more than adequate for most. But this will greatly vary between individuals, some may need less, and some may need more.

Higher fluid intake does not have any convincing health benefits, except perhaps in preventing recurrent kidney stones.

The recommended amount of water intake for pregnant women

Water and adequate hydration play an important role during pregnancy. Not only does it assist in delivering nutrients to your baby, but it helps support the development of amniotic fluid as well as the increases in your blood volume.

More fluids are lost through sweat and urination during pregnancy due to natural hormonal and physiological changes. This makes drinking enough fluids even more important.

Fluids are also important to help prevent or reduce constipation during pregnancy, as dehydration will make pregnant women struggle with constipation even more.

The fluid recommendation during pregnancy is around 8 to 12 cups of fluids per day.

The recommended amount of water intake for breastfeeding mothers

The same recommendations apply to for breastfeeding mothers, just like they need extra calories, they’ll need extra water on top of what they usually need too, as producing breastmilk will take a lot of water from the body.

Research recommends that breastfeeding mothers should be encouraged to drink enough water to quench her thirst or a little more.

A common recommendation for the mother is to drink a glass of water with meals and whenever she breastfeeds (although this can get a lot if your baby is feeding frequently or cluster feeding, so do keep this in mind so you don’t try to force yourself to drink too much water).

Drink water frequently throughout the day, keep an eye on signs of adequate hydration or dehydration such as the color of your urine.

Drinking more water than what your body needs will not result in more breastmilk being produced, as many people may believe. The only time water may boost your milk supply is if you weren’t hydrated enough and your milk supply was already reduced because of it.

Drinking too little, or too much water can both reduce the milk supply. Therefore, it’s recommended to drink to thirst. More frequently if you don’t really get thirsty frequently. Drink water throughout the day rather than big amounts at once. Never force yourself to drink more than what your body needs.

Drinking too much water can result in water toxicity; however, water toxicity is rare in normal adults.

Factors that influence how much water an individual needs:

Exercise or activity levels

Your activity level will have an immediate impact on how much water or fluids you need. The more active you are, the more you will sweat. This means someone who may be exercising more frequently will need more fluids than someone who isn’t as active.

The environment/humidity

A hot climate makes you sweat more than you normally do. Some people may sweat much more than others. This will cause your body to become dehydrated much faster than it normally will. The higher the heat and/or humidity, the more fluids you will need.

Overall health

When you’re ill, you tend to become dehydrated very quickly, especially if you have severe vomiting or diarrhea. Someone who’s sick will need much more fluids than someone who’s overall healthy.

Your size

Your size and metabolism will also have an effect on how much fluids you need. Someone who’s very small will need much less water than someone who’s bigger.

Your diet

It’s estimated that around 20% of our fluid intake comes from food if you’re eating a healthy and balanced diet with a variety of foods such as fruits, vegetables and lean meats. So, not all fluid comes from the drinks we have. If you’re someone who eats food high in water content, you’ll need much less fluids than someone who doesn’t consume a lot of water-rich foods.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

During pregnancy, you will need to keep well hydrated as this will help with your overall health and it will also help reduce many pregnancy symptoms.

When you’re breastfeeding, you will naturally need more water as you’ll be producing around 700-1000ml of breastmilk per day.

Signs that you’re well hydrated

  • Smooth elastic skin
  • Pale yellow urine
  • Urinating frequently throughout the day

Signs of dehydration

  • Your skin isn’t smooth and elastic
  • You’re feeling thirsty
  • You have dark yellow urine
  • Not urinating frequently throughout the day
  • Sunken eyes
  • You have a dry mouth, lips and tongue
  • Dry eyes
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • You feel fatigued
  • You get a lot of headaches
  • Dry or flaky skin
  • Muscle weakness

Tips for better hydration

Some of us struggle with water intake, we may either not realize that we’re thirsty, or we just don’t like drinking water. The good news is, there are a lot of ways that we can remind ourselves to drink fluids in a way we enjoy it.

Get yourself a big water bottle

One of the best ways to get enough fluids in is to keep a big water bottle with you at all times, reminding yourself to drink small amounts frequently all throughout the day. This is especially a good idea for those who forget to drink fluids during the day.

Drink different types of water

Drink bottled water, sparkling water, infused water, water with a squeeze of lemon, flavored water or water with some flavor enhancing drops. Be wary of sugar in some bottled waters and drinks.

Drink different types of fluids

It’s not just water that counts as a hydrating drink, fruit juices, milk and cordials also count. Water will always be the best and healthiest option for you, but if you struggle with drinking water, don’t be afraid to mix it up.

Sports drinks and fruit juice are both great ways for keeping hydrated and to keep your electrolyte balance in check but do keep it to a minimum as most sports drink and fruit juices are very high in sugar.

Eat hydrating fresh fruits every day

Not only is fruit healthy for you, but some fruits contain a lot of water. Some fruits with high water content include watermelons, oranges, plums, pineapples, melons, strawberries and cucumbers.

Watch your caffeine intake

Caffeine has the opposite effect on hydration and too much caffeine can negatively affect your hydration levels. Things like coffee, tea, energy drinks and some soft drinks all contain caffeine, some if it more than others.

Watch your snacking habits

Sometimes when we’re thirsty, we may think we’re hungry and grab a snack instead of a drink. So next time you feel like you may be snacking a bit too much, grab a drink instead.

Important notes on water intake while breastfeeding

The good news is that your hydration goals should not be about a huge amount of water or fluids, but rather about drinking to thirst, keeping an eye on your hydration levels and listening to your body’s needs.

The general recommendation is to drink around 2000-3000ml of water per day. But it greatly varies between individuals depending on different factors. Some may need less, and some may need more.

It is recommended that breastfeeding mothers drink to thirst and keep an eye on their hydration levels. Drink small amounts frequently all throughout the day, before you grab a snack, grab a drink first. Chances are if you’re breastfeeding, you will be very thirsty, especially during feedings. Listen to your body.

Carry a bottle of water around with you whenever you can as we tend to drink more when we have water easily accessible.

If you’re worried about dehydration or the health of you or baby, contact your healthcare provider for medical attention and treatment as needed.

If you ever need evidence-based information or support related to anything breastfeeding, consult with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).

Additional information and resources

How much water do we really need to drink?

Nutrition Column an Update on Water Needs during Pregnancy and Beyond

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