Throughout your whole life, you’ve probably been hearing about the important role hydration plays in your health. Then, during pregnancy, it was once again a key component to your wellness. And now that baby is here, if you’re breastfeeding, guess what? It’s even more important than ever!
For breastfeeding moms, you’re working to take care of yourself while also providing complete nutrition for your baby. And yes, taking care of yourself is incredibly important. If you’re not caring for yourself, it will be more challenging to properly care for your baby.
Hydration is an important element. A minor dip in hydration doesn’t necessarily mean your milk supply will be impacted, but it can impact you.
Dehydration plays a role in your mood, your energy, and your skin health. As a busy mom, you’re likely struggling to keep it all together. Maybe you can’t make it to the gym, getting a balanced meal is a challenge, and you can’t remember the last time you did a face mask. It’s nice to know that something as simple as drinking water is doing a lot of good.
How much water do you really need?
There isn’t necessarily a set number of ounces you need to hit daily; it will be different for everyone. Kate Arquilla, MS, RN, CBC of bumblebaby shares that to keep an adequate supply, your intake must equal your output. “You may be making anywhere from 20-40 oz of breastmilk a day, so in addition to your requirement for daily function without breastfeeding, your body will require more intake to keep up with the milk that’s being removed,” explains Arquilla.
If you’re the type that does better with exact numbers and goals, according to the Mayo Clinic, a non-breastfeeding woman should aim for 11.5 cups per day. So if you’re breastfeeding, your intake should be higher based on your milk output. This number may need to be even higher if you live in a hot climate or are exercising. Remember, your body will give you other signs you’re well hydrated; like rarely feeling thirsty and having colorless or light yellow pee.
Tips to stay hydrated
Before you go chugging a gallon of water, know that it’s best to drink smaller amounts more often. Breastfeeding can make you feel thirsty, and your goal is to drink enough water to avoid that feeling in the first place. Listen to what your body is telling you.
Find a water bottle or glass set that you love and keep in handy so you can drink moderate amounts of water throughout the day. And if a straw helps you keep to your water goals, have a few of those handy as well. Your goal should be to stay ahead of your hydration to avoid getting to the point of dehydration.
A good rule is to have an 8 oz glass of water every time you breastfeed or pump. It seems easy, but in the first foggy weeks of parenting, filling your water bottle is probably the last thing on your mind.
And once you get started pumping or nursing, good luck trying to get over to the sink (talk about advanced mom-moves!). There are plenty of ways friends and family can help you as a new mom. Add the simple task of keeping your water bottle filled to the list—a tiny but impactful way they can help.
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Hydration options beyond H2O
Water is a great option, but don’t discount other hydration sources like soups, fruits, and vegetables. Top water-containing fruits and veggies include watermelon, oranges, strawberries, cucumbers, zucchini, and celery. You can also keep things interesting with flavored seltzers, fruit-infused water, and coconut water (though keep an eye on the label to avoid added sugars).
What about coffee?
Caffeinated drinks count too (exhausted moms around the world rejoice!), but this is another one you’ll want to keep an eye on. Too much caffeine may impact your baby’s sleep and make them agitated. Moderate amounts of caffeine are totally fine. The CDC recommends staying under 300 mg of caffeine a day (equivalent to approximately 2 to 3 cups of coffee).
Don’t forget to eat
And finally, while hydration is important during breastfeeding, so is an increase in daily calories. So, while you’re grabbing that glass of water, make yourself a nutritionally dense snack full of breastfeeding superfoods to hit the extra 300 to 500 calories you need a day.
If you are having issues with breastmilk supply, Arquilla shared, “Increasing your water intake may increase your breastmilk supply, but that’s not always the case. Many factors including genetics, stress, a poor latch, and more can affect your supply. If you’re having issues, make sure to reach out to a lactation professional to get to the root of the issue.”
This article was originally published in November 2019. It has been updated for timeliness.