As a breastfeeding mother, taking good care of your health helps to ensure the health of your baby. Dehydration due to illness, weather or your busy lifestyle can lead to problems in the breastfeeding relationship with your baby. Fortunately, dehydration is preventable with careful attention to your fluid intake and treatable with increased fluid intake.
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Your milk supply might decrease while you are dehydrated; if your baby does not take in enough fluids, he could become dehydrated as well. While you are dehydrated, you might notice that your breasts do not feel as full of milk as they usually do. Due to the dehydration, you might develop cramps in your muscles while you hold your baby as he nurses. Your dehydration could worsen after a nursing session, as your baby depletes your fluids when he receives milk from you.
Eating food contaminated with bacteria or viruses can cause food poisoning, resulting in dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea. Breastfeeding mothers not only need the recommended amount of water for adults, but additional fluids to make up for what your body uses in milk production. Forgetting to drink enough fluids can also lead to dehydration, especially on hot days. Fasting for religious purposes can cause mild dehydration, although many religions allow for modified fasting practices for nursing and lactating women.
The nutritional content of your milk might change while you are dehydrated, explains the Kellymom website. This could lead to adverse health effects for you and your baby if the dehydration lasts for more than one or two days. Your baby might want to nurse more frequently for one or two days after your dehydration resolves, so that he can catch up on needed nutrition.
Most of the time, you can treat dehydration at home by increasing your fluid intake. Taking small, frequent sips treats dehydration better than drinking a large amount at once, as quickly consuming a large amount of water could cause you to vomit, advises the National Library of Medicine. Fill a water bottle to keep at your side and drink from it each time you nurse. Another option is to drink an electrolyte solution, or consider a nutritional drink if you find it difficult to take in enough calories while breastfeeding. If your dehydration is severe, emergency treatment with intravenous fluids can resolve your symptoms.
Drink more water than usual if you exercise or spend time in hot weather, in addition to the extra fluids you take in due to lactation. If you contract an illness that causes vomiting or diarrhea, replace fluids as soon as possible to avoid getting dehydrated. If you have older children, assign one to be your water bottle filler to ensure you drink plenty of water, and make big brother or big sister feel important and helpful while you rest and nurse the baby.