If you saw the title of this post and expected to see yet another article screaming at you to drink 5 gallons of water a day or else you and your baby will shrivel up and die, rest assured that isn’t the case. Hydration while breastfeeding, like so many other aspects of motherhood, seems to be a simple concept made complicated by the wealth of information available on the internet.
Nursing mothers do indeed need more fluids to offset the amount lost while breastfeeding babies, but most research shows that letting biological indicators (like thirst) guide your water consumption will be your best bet in maintaining milk supply and staying hydrated. After all, as the Institute of Medicine points out, everyone’s water needs can vary: “Given the extreme variability in water needs that are not solely based on differences in metabolism, but also in environmental conditions and activity, there is not a single level of water intake that would ensure adequate hydration and optimal health for half of all apparently healthy persons in all environmental conditions.”
That said, it can sometimes be tricky to consume the extra water you need while taking care of your baby and juggling all the other tasks that mothers deal with on a daily basis. Below are some tips to help you stay hydrated while also staying sane:
Drink when baby drinks
If you have a rocking chair or certain area where you usually go to nurse your baby, keep a water bottle or glass of water in that spot. When baby is nursing, use that as an opportunity to take in some extra liquids too.
Find a water bottle you love
This one is especially important if you find yourself on the go a lot. Keeping a water bottle in your diaper bag or your car ensures that you always have some water on hand if you get thirsty, which is especially applicable in these hot summer months. My personal favorite water bottle is the Hydro Flask. It maintains the temperature of your drink for a full 24 hours (great if you like your water ice cold) and is available in a wide variety of sizes and colors. The straw lid is a must.
Another great option, especially if you’re a bit more Type A about your water consumption, is the hydr-8 bottle:
This one is marked with lines indicating how much water you should drink by each time of day. It also mimics the design of the hospital-issued water bottles that so many new moms love.
Add some flavor to your water
Water is the best choice for new moms (and people in general), but it can sometimes get a bit boring to drink it exclusively. If you find yourself craving more flavor, try simply adding a splash of fruit juice or natural flavoring packets to your water. Flavoring my water with a little bit of cranberry juice made all the difference when I was nursing my first baby.
Listen to your body
As mentioned above, it is impossible to nail down a specific number of ounces that each woman needs to stay hydrated and maintain milk supply. Most sources say that as long as you drink when you’re thirsty and your urine is light-colored, you should be good. There’s no need to force yourself to chug tons of water or make staying hydrated a full-time job. In fact, overdoing it may have a detrimental effect on your milk supply. According to Dr. Sears, “Drinking more water than you need won’t produce more milk. In fact, by a strange biochemical quirk, forcing fluids has been shown to diminish milk production.” That very thing happened to a woman I know who took the “drink lots of fluids” advice a little too far and ended up with a very hungry newborn. So be sure to drink the water you need, but don’t go too nuts J
Happy hydrating, mamas!