How Much Water Should Breastfeeding Moms Drink?

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Question: Does Drinking Lots of Water Increase Mothers' Breast Milk Supply?

I was wondering how much water nursing moms should drink. Will keeping well-hydrated encourage mothers' breast milk supply to increase?

Answer:

It certainly is important for breastfeeding mamas to make sure they are taking care of themselves, and that includes making sure they are drinking to their thirst. The problem is that because moms, in general, tend to be busy people sometimes, well, they forget about being thirsty and start to become dehydrated.

Obviously, that's something to avoid.

Breastfeeding moms (and everyone else) should simply make sure that they are taking in fluids appropriately by drinking regularly. Some early signs of dehydration include a dry mouth, dark urine, constipation, dizziness, headaches, and muscle weakness. To avoid dehydration, I encourage moms to keep a water bottle around, stow it in a diaper bag pocket when you are out and about, and do your best to be aware of your thirst level. I also made it a rule of thumb to always grab a glass of water before I settled down to nurse my baby, to have it nearby and it's a great idea to ask your partner to help keep you hydrated too! 

How Much Water Should A Nursing Mother Drink?

Luckily, this answer is an easy one -- you don't need anything "extra" as a nursing mom, as long as you are staying hydrated. Basically, if you don't feel thirsty, you should be good! And of course, pay attention to your urine as a good indicator of how hydrated you are.

The more diluted it is, the better hydrated you are. A review of all the studies on fluids and breastfeeding in 2014 found that it's not necessary for breastfeeding moms to drink anything beyond what's already "biologically necessary" for them. 

Will Drinking Excess Water Increase Milk Supply?

Sometimes you might hear people say that nursing mothers need to drink extra water in order to increase or maintain their milk supply.

However, for most healthy women there is no need to drink extra amounts of water. Research shows that increasing water amounts had no effect on building milk supply. (Although not getting enough water did decrease supply.)  However, if you are concerned about your milk supply, don't despair as there are many ways you can boost breast milk production.

Will Other Fluids Adversely Affect Mother's Breast Milk?

The bottom line: water is good for you. It doesn't have added sugars, caffeine, or calories. It's generally plentiful and easily accessible. It can be drank warm or cold. It doesn't stain when spilled. Not to mention those new water bottles make you look awfully trendy.

Water is clearly (pardon the pun) an exceptionally healthful choice. BUT... For healthy women, the idea that it has to be water and nothing else just isn't true. There are plenty of other options for fluids - from nutritious juices to comforting teas, these fluids will keep you hydrated as well.

And what about alcohol and breastfeeding?

There are lots of misconceptions out there regarding drinking alcohol. While the occasional beer or glass of wine is fine, despite the old wives' tale, drinking alcohol won't boost supply, but rather inhibit the letdown reflex. So if a mom is concerned about her milk supply, it certainly is best that she avoid drinking.

Related Reading:

Resources:

Nkdiom, CM, Fawole, B., Ilesanmi, RE. (2014). Extra fluids for breastfeeding mothers for increasing milk production. Cochrane Database Systemic Review. Accessed online January 12, 2015: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24916640. 

Becker G. Nutrition for Lactating Women. In: Walker M, editor. Core Curriculum for Lactation Consultant Practice, Sudbury, Massachusetts: Jones and Bartlett; 2002. p 61-83.

Morse JM, Ewing G, Gamble D, Donahue P. The effect of maternal fluid intake on breast milk supply: a pilot study. Can J Public Health. 1992 May-Jun;83(3):213-6.

Hamosh M, Dewey, Garza C, et al: Nutrition During Lactation. Institute of Medicine, Washington, DC, National Academy Press, 1991:p 6, 12, 101-102.

Dusdieker LB, Booth BM, Stumbo PJ, Eichenberger JM. Effect of supplemental fluids on human milk production. J Pediatr. 1985 Feb;106(2):207-11.

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