The Relationship Between Heat and Breastfeeding

babel · June 8, 2023
This article has been written and endorsed by the dermatologist Maria del Carmen Hernandez
Heat can be a determining factor in achieving comfortable breastfeeding, so it's good to offer the breast on demand and freely.

Heat can have uncomfortable effects on breastfeeding women. Therefore, hydration plays a fundamental role in preventing edema and hypotensive conditions. Are you interested in knowing more about it? Here are the details.

The relationship between heat and breastfeeding

During the breastfeeding period, a woman’s body changes, and her metabolic requirements increase. Likewise, temperature and environment are key to being able to experience the sensation of well-being during this stage.

Heat and breastfeeding mothers

Breastfeeding mothers suffer an increase in body temperature for two reasons:

  1. The heat of summer itself
  2. Constant close contact with the infant

Even the production of breast milk, with its high percentage of water, causes an increase in the sensation of thirst and the desire to ingest even more liquid. In addition, perspiration increases, reducing natural hydration and, therefore, that of breast milk.

This may increase the risk of venous thrombosis. In addition, heat can lead to increased irritability and fatigue due to high temperatures.

A woman breastfeeding under a tree.
In hot weather, it’s best to breastfeed in cool places that are protected from the sun.

Heat and infants

Newborns are at greater risk of dehydration, as their metabolism is faster than that of adults. Therefore, to maintain the correct level of hydration, it’s advisable to breastfeed on demand and reduce the time between feedings.

However, there are symptoms and signs that show that a baby is thirsty. Some include the following:

  • Frequent sticking out of the tongue and bringing the hand to the mouth.
  • Head nodding.
  • Urine in concentrated form or less frequent urination.
  • Urinating with a strong odor.
  • Drowsiness or irritability.
  • Their sweat is cold.

Recommendations for coping with heat while breastfeeding

It’s important to note that if the infant is less than six months old and is breastfeeding on demand, there’s no need to offer water with a bottle. Also, take note of the following recommendations.

Hydration in the mother

Heat can cause changes in the woman’s body that indirectly alter breastfeeding. Also, proper hydration, especially in the summer months, is essential to prevent the loss of body fluids due to high temperatures.

The recommended intake of water is between 2 and 3 liters per day, although it’s always essential to listen to the body’s signals. In addition, you can also introduce foods that contain high water content, such as watermelon, cold soups, or broths.

Infant feeding on demand

Much of breast milk is composed of water, which makes it unnecessary for the baby to drink between daily feedings. Consequently, according to a publication by the American Family Physician, breastfeeding on demand should be preferred, especially in the hot months.

Babies’ metabolism is faster than that of adults, so they’re at greater risk of dehydration in the heat. For this reason, you should do away with controlled feedings and strict schedules and offer the breast on demand and freely.

A mother breastfeeding her child on the beach while her parther plays with their other child.
It’s important to eliminate strict schedules and offer the breast on demand. This will ensure proper nutrition and hydration for the baby.

Appropriate and cool places

If coping with the heat of the summer months is difficult, it can be even more challenging for the breastfeeding mother and the infant. This is because rising temperatures have direct physical consequences on both.

While anywhere is a good place to breastfeed, on hot days, cool, sun-protected places are recommended. At the same time, always remember to wear a hat and cover the child’s head.

However, if the environment has an air conditioner, the baby shouldn’t be directly exposed to the airflow. The child and the mother should also wear clothes made of fresh, light, and natural fabrics.

The mother’s diet

Breastfeeding mothers should eat 5 meals a day and rely on a varied diet that includes all types of foods.

In fact, in the hot summer months, seasonal fruits and vegetables are great allies because they provide sufficient nutrition and hydration. Stimulating drinks (tea, coffee, colas) and sugary juices or soft drinks should be avoided.

Final considerations regarding heat and breastfeeding

High temperatures can affect breastfeeding and make it difficult for the baby and mother to enjoy the beautiful experience in a relaxed and comfortable way.

Follow these simple tips and you’ll get through the hot months in the best way.

  • Westerfield KL, Koenig K, Oh R. Breastfeeding: Common Questions and Answers. Am Fam Physician. 2018 Sep 15;98(6):368-373. PMID: 30215910.