Dehydration while breastfeeding: risks, causes & prevention tips

Staying properly hydrated can be a problem at any time in your life, but especially when you’re breastfeeding. During a time when you’re trying your hardest to provide all the proper nutrients to your growing baby, it can be a challenge to stay on top of hydration for yourself.


But what causes dehydration breastfeeding? Does breastfeeding make you thirsty? What are the best ways to combat decreasing hydration levels while nursing? All of these questions can weigh heavily on the minds of new mums as they navigate their nursing journey.


In this comprehensive article, we outline the common causes of dehydration while breastfeeding, as well as prevention tips for avoiding it and the risks that you can encounter during bouts of dehydration.


Continue reading to find out more and to learn the answer to the common question of how much water should I drink while nursing?


​​Can breastfeeding cause dehydration?

The short answer is yes. Because you are expending so many fluids and nutrients to your child through the act of nursing, dehydration from breastfeeding can happen. Even if you feel that you are on top of your fluid consumption, there are other ways feeding your baby can cause hydration levels to decrease quicker than you thought it would.

In addition, you may also find that you become thirsty while breastfeeding. Many women find themselves reaching for water while nursing or pumping due to the intense thirst that they experience.

Experiencing breastfeeding dehydration is a result of your fluid levels depleting at a quicker rate. During this significant time in you and your baby’s life, it is essential to increase your water intake while breastfeeding as much as possible, which you can do in various ways.


How much water should I drink while breastfeeding?

The amount of water that you consume at other points in your life is different from how much water should a breastfeeding woman drink. Whereas you should aim for at least eight cups (about 2 litres) of water each day while not pregnant or breastfeeding, the amount is much higher when accounting for how much water to drink while nursing.

So how much water should you drink a day while breastfeeding? The recommendation is to consume up to 13 cups, or 3 litres, each day with a mixture of fluids and foods with a significant hydration level.

It is important to note that this can be different depending on your lifestyle and your overall health.


Causes and risks of not drinking enough water while breastfeeding

While drinking enough fluids may not increase your breastmilk supply, it’s important to make sure you have an adequate intake of water consumption daily to support your breastmilk supply.


Hot Weather

In excessive heat, your body will lose more fluid through increased sweat. This can become heightened if you are performing activities outside in the heat, such as exercise, hiking, gardening, or just walking in general.

When you are in situations like this where you are losing water more quickly than you can replace it, there is a risk of dehydration. As a result, you can feel weak, experience headaches, or have inconsistencies with your milk supply.



When our bodies fall victim to sickness, we often experience symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and fatigue. These symptoms can lead to a reduction in fluid levels, and make it more difficult to replenish, which can result in dehydration.

These situations can be challenging for maintaining adequate fluid levels that are essential for breastfeeding.



A mode of survival in the motherhood journey is caffeine, though you likely have cut back while nursing.  A low, consistent amount of caffeine daily, if at all, may be a better way to not impact your nursing baby while not negatively affecting your hydration levels.

Caffeine has a mild diuretic effect, which can cause you to urinate more than you typically would. Therefore, getting enough caffeine to navigate your daily tasks without taking in too much to hinder your supply is a balancing act. It’s important to balance your intake of caffeinated beverages with other hydrating liquids. 


Three signs of dehydration while breastfeeding

It can be hard to pinpoint the signs of dehydration in nursing mothers or the side effects of low electrolytes. Part of the reason for this is the vast number of symptoms you can have that you wouldn’t typically correlate with dehydration.

Here are three signs that you may be heading towards dehydration levels while nursing.


Reduced milk supply

This symptom can be one of the first that you discover. If you see that your breastmilk output is lower than it typically has been, you may be nearing dehydration. Because it is necessary to consume at least another 70 ml to a litre of fluid when you are breastfeeding, it can be easy to fall behind.

Although there are many other reasons associated with a low supply of breastmilk, it is essential to take note of your recent fluid intake at the first sign of reduction.



When you become dehydrated, you can suffer from headaches and migraines due to not having an appropriate water intake. These headaches can become quite painful and are often made worse by movement.

In addition to headaches, you can start to feel overly tired or have a general feeling of malaise. All of these are signs that your fluid levels might not be where they should be.


Muscle cramps

When you find yourself with odd cramps and pains in your muscles that come on out of the blue, you may be experiencing a symptom of dehydration. Having a low amount of fluids and electrolytes in your system can lead to your muscles overcompensating and trying to make do without the appropriate hydration.

When this occurs, you will experience cramping and pains that resemble what you might feel after a rigorous workout. At other times, it may be a feeling of minor irritation instead of intense pain, but it is still an indicator that you need to increase your water consumption.


How to avoid dehydration while breastfeeding

Taking the steps to avoid becoming dehydrated while nursing your young child is vital to your well-being and your baby’s. While there are other factors that can lead to dehydration, there are many things that you can incorporate to help you maintain a healthy hydration level.


Consume fruit

It’s not only water and beverages that can help with achieving the appropriate fluid intake. Some fruits and vegetables have high percentages of water and will help you reach the correct hydration levels.

Although you should not eat these in place of water, you can incorporate them into your diet to supplement your water intake. Some of the best produce items to consume for this purpose are:

  • Watermelon
  • Cucumbers
  • Strawberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Peaches
  • Oranges
  • Lettuce


Carry around a water bottle

With all that motherhood has for you to focus on, be sure that drinking enough water isn’t something you need to put extra effort into thinking about. One easy way to get the appropriate amount of fluids without exerting much mental energy is to carry a water bottle around with you wherever you go. With this, drinking your water will be top of mind at all times.

Additionally, you can place glasses or bottles of water in the areas of the house that you are in most frequently. You will be reminded to take a drink of it each time you pass through those areas when you do this.


Add water enhancers

Are you getting tired of just drinking water? Is the taste of it becoming monotonous? There are ways to continue getting appropriate consumption without chugging straight water. Try adding cut-up fruit to your water glass for a subtle hint of flavour. This addition will help to give you a change of taste every so often.

In addition to fruit, you can add a water enhancer with electrolytes to change up your hydration routine and make all that water a little less boring. There are also water-based beverages available for purchase that come in various flavours, some with the added benefit of electrolytes. Just be sure to watch out for artificial ingredients and excessive sugar.


How to treat breastfeeding dehydration

 If you find yourself in the woes of breastfeeding dehydration, do not stress. There are ways to combat this area effectively and with minimal impact on you and your baby.


Incorporate electrolytes

Many sports drinks on the market contain electrolytes, which are minerals that help your body perform its daily functions and tasks. When you find yourself facing dehydration, increasing your intake of electrolyte-inclusive beverages can help your body retain water.

Some of these drinks do have large amounts of sugar, so it is best to limit the amount you take in. Although you want to overcome dehydration, it is best to do so in the healthiest way possible for you and your little one.

It may help to drink electrolyte-based beverages right after a nursing session. Drinking it at this time will help you stay on top of replenishing the fluid and nutrients expended during breastfeeding.


Avoid caffeine and rest

As we previously mentioned, caffeine can have a negative effect on your hydration levels. When you drink coffee, soda, or caffeinated tea in excess, it can act as a diuretic and cause you to expel fluid instead of intake them (and can affect the baby too).

When you are dehydrated, it is best to refrain from excessive caffeine consumption. During this time, you should prioritize consuming water and electrolyte-based drinks and rest as much as possible.

Take dehydration as a sign to rest, relax, and hydrate with your little one.


Seek medical assistance

If your dehydration is persistent and becomes more severe, it is best to communicate with your primary care provider for further treatment.

Additionally, it is essential to pay attention to signs of dehydration in your baby and get medical assistance if you have concerns about their wellbeing. Some of these signs to keep an eye out for include:

  • Fewer wet nappies
  • No tears when crying
  • Sunken eyes
  • Dry tongue and lips


Final points on dehydration and breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is a time that should be cherished, as it provides so much to both mum and baby and is but a brief time in your life. However, the breastfeeding journey can be challenging.

Dehydration is one of the top concerns that nursing mothers run into during the first years of life with their little ones. Drinking water and breastfeeding go hand in hand, but with all the activities going on in motherhood, water intake while breastfeeding can be tough to balance.

At times it can be challenging to know how much water to drink while breastfeeding, and it can vary by individual based on daily activities, weight, medical conditions, etc. However, when you find yourself perplexed about how much water should you drink while breastfeeding, be sure to maintain an intake of around 13 cups each day.

In conclusion, it is wise to keep an eye out for the common symptoms of breastfeeding dehydration, including:

  • Reduced milk supply
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Muscle cramping or pain
  • Fatigue
  • General discomfort


If you find yourself experiencing any of the above symptoms, you should take steps to increase your fluid intake immediately, especially as it relates to water consumption. It is important to remember the different forms that you can take:

  • Water
  • Electrolyte-specific drinks
  • Flavoured water
  • Infused fruit water
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Skim milk
  • Fruit juice
  • Decaffeinated tea or coffee


With proper prevention and care, it is likely that bouts with dehydration while breastfeeding will be few and far between. If symptoms of dehydration are not remedied by increasing your fluid intake alone, be sure to contact your primary care provider. Take the time to continually reference this guide for suggestions on how much water to drink when breastfeeding as you continue on your nursing journey.

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