Does breastfeeding make you feel like you’re on a long trek through the Sahara Dessert? You’re not alone. Breastfeeding triggers the thirst sensation, but the exact reasons why remain unknown. There are two likely causes identified by researchers:
Suckling by baby sends nerve impulses to the brain, which in turn, stimulates the central nervous system to trigger a thirst response as soon as the oxytocin release happens. Oxytocin is the magical hormone that triggers the let-down response, and is also responsible for making you and baby feel sleepy and relaxed during nursing sessions.
Your body develops a learned response to anticipate increased fluid needs in conjunction with fluid loss during breastfeeding.
Okay, so, whatever the cause is that might make you feel like you should fill up the tub and grab a straw, there are some things you can do to help you meet your fluid needs while breastfeeding. Fluid needs increase slightly during lactation, although it is not necessary to over-hydrate; just drink to satisfy your thirst! According to the Institute of Medicine, breastfeeding moms drink, on average, almost a whole liter more per day than non-breastfeeding women (13 cups versus 9 cups).
All fluids count. Naturally, water is the best drink option, but other beverages and foods count toward your total fluid intake too. While caffeine was once thought to count against fluid intake because it can have a diuretic effect, that notion has long been dissolved, so your cup of coffee in the morning counts as a cup of fluid intake. Foods with high water contents, such as popsicles, gelatin, and soup, can also count toward fluid intake.
Make a conscious effort to drink during the day. This is especially important for moms who may be spending time away from their babies and are pumping. Pumping does not always trigger the same type of thirst response, and if you are pumping because you are at work all day, or for whatever reason, it is possible your busyness results in forgetfulness to hydrate.
Watch the weather. Warm weather, or any activity/exercising that causes sweating will also mean you must drink more to replace additional fluid loss.
Keep water nearby. Before you sit down to nurse, have a drink handy. Helpful partners are another great resource to remind you to drink and/or bring you a glass of water while you’re breastfeeding.