Does Breastfeeding Cause Dehydration?

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Dr. Deepinder Kaur (Obstetrician and Gynaecologist)
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Does Breastfeeding Cause Dehydration?

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When you breastfeed your little one, you’re hydrating him and providing them with the necessary nutrients and antibodies they need for their proper growth and development and to fight off infections. Breast milk also contains human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) that help an infant make up good gut bacteria to aid in digestion. The HMOs also assist in preventing infectious diseases. Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for a baby for the six months of his life, but it is also about 90% water. This means you should keep yourself hydrated to ensure that you produce sufficient breast milk for your baby.

Why Is it Important For Nursing Mothers to Stay Hydrated?

Nursing mothers need to stay hydrated and increase their fluid intake because breast milk comprises about 90% water. When an infant feeds, the mother’s bodily fluids deplete. Therefore, nursing mothers need to drink more than the recommended quantity of water.

That said, a breastfeeding mother need not force herself to drink excess water. Instead, it would be best if you drank enough to satisfy your thirst. You can drink water enough to quench your thirst, but you can also drink other fluids to make up for lost fluids. To maintain milk supply, other than keeping yourself hydrated, you should also eat healthy foods.

Can Breastfeeding Dehydrate You?

Many first-time moms ask, ‘if breastfeeding makes one dehydrated?’ The answer depends on your fluid intake. Breastfeeding your baby won’t dehydrate you if your fluid intake is regular and you are healthy. But if you are busy with your newborn and forget to drink water or are ill, you are at risk of getting dehydrated. While drinking to thirst is really important, it is not just water from drinking ample amounts of water that fuel you but also from fruits, vegetables, and other foods. So eating watermelon or cucumber also help! Being dehydrated can cause a temporary decrease in your milk supply, making sure you are drinking enough and continuing the frequent removal of the milk from your breasts to maintain your supply.

How Much Water Should Lactating Mothers Drink Per Day?

Most health authorities suggest that an average adult woman should drink over 2 to 2.5 litres of water every day. That being said, if you’re a breastfeeding mother, you should drink enough water to satisfy your thirst and not more. Drinking water and other fluids from foods can keep you healthy and hydrated.

What Can Cause Dehydration When Breastfeeding?

If you are breastfeeding and not drinking enough water to quench your thirst, you may get dehydrated. Apart from that, other possible reasons can dehydrate you while breastfeeding, like the ones mentioned below:

1. Diarrhoea and Vomiting

If you suffer from diarrhoea or are vomiting due to food poisoning or any other illness, your bodily fluids may get depleted rapidly. To prevent dehydration during breastfeeding, avoid eating unhealthy food and street food that may be contaminated.

A mother holding her baby and drinking water

2. Inadequate Intake of Fluids

As a first-time mom, you may get so preoccupied with your baby that you can forget to pay attention to yourself. If you forget to take care of your bodily needs and do not drink water in adequate amounts, you may get dehydrated.

3. Dieting or Fasting

It is not good to diet or fast when breastfeeding, as this can deplete your bodily fluids. To prevent your body from dehydrating, eat nourishing foods and drink plenty of water.

4. Caffeine Intake

Too much caffeine intake in the form of tea, coffee and cola can lead to dehydration. So, avoid caffeinated drinks, have water or fresh fruits instead.

Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration While Breastfeeding

Here are the signs and symptoms of dehydration when you are breastfeeding:

  • Fatigue
  • Cramps in muscles
  • Giddiness
  • A decrease in milk production
  • Headaches
  • Breasts feeling lighter
  • Dryness around the lips and inside your mouth
  • Nausea  

Can Dehydration Due to Breastfeeding Affect the Health of the Mother and the Baby?

Dehydration due to breastfeeding can lead to serious health problems in a mother and her baby. If the mother is dehydrated for more than two days, her composition of breast milk can change, and the quantity of milk produced may not be enough for the baby. As a result, the baby’s health will be affected. Dehydration can also cause muscle cramps in your body when you hold your baby while nursing.                                       

How to Treat and Prevent Dehydration During Breastfeeding

One can prevent dehydration by eating healthy food, exercising regularly, and drinking plenty of fluids. Here are some ways to treat dehydration when breastfeeding:

1. Drink Plenty of Fluids

Drink plenty of fluids like water, fresh fruit juices, tender coconut water, whole milk, and fruit smoothies.

A mother holding her baby and drinking water

2. Eat Hydrating Fruits and Vegetables

You can also replenish your bodily fluids by eating hydrating fruits and vegetables like cucumber, lettuce, watermelon, tomato, zucchini, radish, spinach, cabbage, strawberries, pineapples, carrots, honeydew melon, muskmelon, oranges, peaches, raspberries, apricots, and blueberries. Eating hydrating fruits and vegetables will help you avoid toxic chemicals like bisphenol-A found in plastics that hold bottled water.

3. Try ORS

If you have vomiting or diarrhoea, visit a doctor. He/she will probably recommend some oral rehydration solution (ORS) to remedy your dehydration. Along with taking ORS, you should also eat hot, home-cooked meals made from fresh produce to avoid the risk of dehydration from food poisoning. Also, drink purified water from trusted sources to prevent water-borne diseases.

When to Visit a Doctor

If you suffer from long-term health conditions and show symptoms of dehydration such as a headache, dizziness, fatigue or muscle cramps, rush to a doctor. You may need intravenous fluids to restore the fluids that you have lost immediately. Do not take medication, electrolyte solutions, or oral rehydration solutions without speaking to your doctor. If you have not been drinking enough water and yet feel dizzy, overtired, or have muscle cramps and cracked lips, it is a sign that you are dehydrated. Visit your physician immediately.

Dehydration can be dangerous for both the breastfeeding mom and the infant. It can result in insufficient production of breast milk, which may make a baby malnourished and dehydrated. Adopting a healthy lifestyle where you eat nutritious foods, exercise regularly, and drink plenty of fluids will prevent dehydration. Try the suggestions in this article to avoid getting dehydrated while nursing your infant.

Also Read: Breast Pain during Breastfeeding and Their Remedies

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