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Drinking Water While Breastfeeding: Too Much of a Good Thing?

Moms often ask, how much water should I be drinking while breastfeeding?  What they are really asking is how much water do I need to make more milk.  The answer:  water does not make milk.  Breastmilk is made from blood and while your body does not function well at any task if dehydrated, drinking too much water can have several negative effects on breastfeeding.

The first was over-hydration can negatively effect breastfeeding is actually reducing milk supply.  Not only is there no data to support the assumption that increasing water intake significantly increases milk supply, there are actually studies showing the opposite. One significant study by Illingworth and Kilpatrick tested 210 postpartum mothers.  Half of which drank an average of 69 oz daily and the other half exceeded 100 oz daily.  The mothers forced to drink beyond normal amounts produced less milk and their babies gained less weight.  

Another disadvantage to too much water while breastfeeding is the increased elasticity in the nipple tissue.  This can negatively effect latch as well as cause the nipple to be swollen and draw too far into the breast flange.  While some mothers naturally have more elasticity to their nipples and need a smaller breast flange or a flange that grasps the tissue better such as a silicone breast flange to prevent the nipple from drawing too far into the flange, over-hydration can actually exacerbate this problem increasing the need for smaller and smaller flanges to be used.  

This over-hydration often begins at delivery as many insurance companies are insisting that patients receive IV fluids to prevent dehydration during delivery even if it is not indicated in that particular patient.  

What is the answer?  First of all drink to thirst rather than force fluids.  If you are taking in more than 70 oz per day postpartum, reduce your intake to one 8 oz glass when you are feeding your baby so 8 times per day.  You should notice the elasticity in your nipples return to normal after 10 days.  

How do I know if I am drinking too little?  If your mouth is dry and you are licking your lips, chances are that you are not drinking enought.  Your urine should also be pale and not dark if you are properly hydrated.

What about milk supply?  First, know what your baby actually needs - not what the mom next door produces.  An infant needs 2.5 oz per lb of body weight.  Between 3 weeks and 6 months should be gaining 5-7 oz per week.  If your baby is gaining this amount without supplementation, then your milk supply is good.  After all, the proof is in the pudding!
If you need additional help with increasing milk supply, please visit our website and contact us with your questions.  Make sure to give us your baby's date of birth, birth weight, current weight, feedings and any other pertinent information so that we can assist you.

Here is to drinking to thist!


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