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5 Signs You're Not Drinking Enough Water While Breastfeeding

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Nursing can be really hard on new moms, both emotionally and physically. Since so much physical energy is being used during the process, staying hydrated is key and it's important to be on the lookout for signs you're not drinking enough water while breastfeeding.

Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule on how much water a nursing mom should be drinking on a daily basis. Lactation consultant Kristin Gourley, IBCLC, tells Romper that the amount "varies" from person to person, but generally "most women need at least half as many ounces [of water] as their body weight, if not more." However, you don't need to get out a measuring cup to ensure you're staying hydrated. "Healthy bodies signal for fluids on their own," lactation consultant Danielle Downs Spradlin, IBCLC, agrees, telling Romper that breastfeeding women should "always drink to thirst."

Staying hydrated is essential to a nursing mom's overall health and will help her to maintain her milk supply. Still, it's important to note that while dehydration can cause a decrease in milk supply, drinking more water than the body needs will not increase supply.

"There is no research to support that excess hydration does anything more [for breastfeeding women] beyond increasing bathroom trips," Tera Hamann, BSN, RN, IBCLC, tells Romper. In fact, Spradlin says, "families who see an increase in [pumping] output after drinking more water were likely dehydrated" prior to drinking the water in the first place, and the extra water simply brought the supply back to normal.

So, how does the body let a nursing mom know it needs some fluids? Here are a few things the experts tell you to be on the lookout for.

1. Increased Thirst

Hamann says, "The most important sign to watch is thirst. If you are feeling thirsty, you are not drinking enough." Many women "get thirsty every time [they] sit down to breastfeed," according to Gourley, which is the body's prompt to replenish fluids.

Moms should try to be proactive and grab a glass of water before sitting down to nurse. Since many babies aren't exactly patient when they're hungry, breastfeeding moms can fill up a few water bottles at a time to make it easier to grab one and get to the baby quickly.

2. Dry Lips And/Or Mouth

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It's often said that drinking enough water is the key to glowing skin. As it turns out, it's also the key to healthy-looking lips. Hamann says breastfeeding moms may notice "dry lips or mouth" if they are becoming dehydrated.

3. Infrequent Bathroom Trips

Another thing moms can pay attention to is how often they're going to the restroom. Spradlin says, breastfeeding women "should urinate about as frequently as [their] baby does." In general, this means a trip to the bathroom, with a full bladder, every few hours.

4. Urine Color

Breastfeeding moms should also pause before flushing during trips to the bathroom because urine color is a good indicator of hydration. According to Gourley, "dark urine" is a sign of dehydration. Sradlin notes if the urine is a pale color, that usually indicates adequate hydration.

5. Headaches

Headaches can be another signal to drink more water, according to Gourley. As Healthline explained, dehydration headaches "typically have symptoms similar to those of other common headaches" and often feature a "pulsating ache on both sides of the head that’s aggravated by physical activity."

Tips For Staying Hydrated

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Aside from just drinking water, Gourley says moms can help themselves stay hydrated by eating "foods with high water content, like fruits and vegetables". She also notes that "some people find they drink more if they mix in flavors to their water or drink carbonated water". Spradlin adds, "things like soups, smoothies, and other liquid foods..can help maintain proper fluid balance". She also mentions caffeinated and alcoholic beverages can dehydrate the body, so breastfeeding moms should be mindful if they indulge in them.

All three experts emphasized that while staying hydrated is good for mom's health, it will not increase supply. Still, it's important for breastfeeding women to take the time to prioritize their health and wellness because failing to do so can affect supply. Hamann says, "Stress, lack of sleep, and inadequate carbohydrates" are causes for low supply. New moms may not be able to do much in terms of sleep, but they can help keep their stress level down by making sure they're getting enough to eat and drink.

Experts:

Danielle Downs Spradlin, IBCLC, CLC, NOMAS, BRMT, Oasis Lactation Services

Kristin Gourley, IBCLC, IBCLC Manager at Lactation Link

Tera Hamann, BSN, RN, IBCLC