Although water requirements vary among individuals, many women become more thirsty when they breastfeed. MayoClinic.com says that if you’re healthy, you only have to drink enough fluids to keep your body hydrated. As long as you don’t feel thirsty or have a medical condition that affects your fluid intake, and you produce at least 6 cups of urine a day that is light yellow in color, it’s likely you are drinking enough of the fluids your body needs.
Because the amount of water you need to drink varies depending on your activity level, rate of metabolism and climate conditions, drinking to satisfy your thirst usually is enough to keep you adequately hydrated, notes Kelly Bonyata, an international board-certified lactation consultant. Your body lets you know when it’s short on fluids, so watch for the signs. Generally, if you become constipated and your urine is darker than normal, you aren’t drinking enough fluids. Nursing mothers who exercise vigorously need to drink more water than those who are less active. Intense physical activity increases the amount of fluids your body needs.
Rule of Thumb
A general rule to follow is to drink a glass of water each time you nurse your baby. It’s important to drink before you feel thirsty; otherwise, you could already be dehydrating. MayoClinic.com recommends drinking at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water or other fluids throughout the day. Dehydration occurs when the body doesn’t get enough water or other fluids to maintain critical life processes. You can also become dehydrated if you lose too much fluid. Early signs of dehydration include dry mouth, fatigue, dizziness, headache and urinating less frequently.
Sources of Fluids
Your total daily fluid intake doesn’t include only the amount of water you drink. In fact, the food you eat counts toward about one-fifth of your total fluid intake, points out the University of Rochester Medical Center. Broth soups, fresh fruits and vegetables count because of their high water content. Juices, milk, tea and coffee are other beverages you can drink, although you should limit drinking beverages that contain sugar or caffeine. Caffeine in your breast milk could make your baby fussy or cause him sleep problems.
Although drinking more water won’t increase the amount of breast milk you produce, not drinking enough water could affect your milk production. Your body needs to be adequately hydrated to produce milk. But drinking too much water can have the opposite effect and decrease milk production, reports the California Department of Public Health. You may notice that you get extra thirsty when you’re nursing your baby. That’s because your body is releasing the hormone oxytocin, which causes the milk-producing cells to push milk out.