Breastfeeding: Your Nutritional Needs (cont.)

Not coincidentally, these are the same foods recommended for nursing mothers by the American Academy of Pediatrics. One extra benefit: this type of diet can also help you shed those post-pregnancy pounds. "If you look at the Weight Watcher's diet for lactation, it's all about complex carb loading. It's one of the most successful long-term lactation weight loss programs for women. It helps them lose weight without sacrificing milk production," says Hanna.

Other Essential Nutrients When Nursing

In addition, Hanna says it's also important to get enough protein and fat in your diet. Aim for at least three to five servings (1 ounce each) of fat a day. These could be vegetable oils, butter, or even mayonnaise. This, she says, will help your body to make a good supply of the super-fatty and satisfying "hind" milk that is expressed during the later half of each feeding, Hanna says. "In the end we are talking about eating a balanced diet, with complex carbohydrates, protein, and fats, and with as little sugar and sugary snacks as possible," says Hanna. Among the most important nutrients you need while breastfeeding is calcium -- a minimum of 1,000 mg daily is a must. While dairy foods are a great source, you don't have to drink milk to make milk. To meet your calcium needs, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests five daily servings of any calcium-rich food, including low-fat yogurt and cheese, as well as nondairy foods such as salmon, broccoli, sesame seeds, tofu, and kale.

Do You Need Nutritional Supplements While Breastfeeding?

As long as you are eating a healthy, nutritious diet, neither you nor your baby are likely to fall short of any vitamins or minerals. If you also continue to take your prenatal vitamins after birth -- which many obstetricians now recommend -- then you and your baby are in even better shape. The one supplement your baby might need is vitamin D, necessary to absorb calcium into the bones, says Carol Huotari, IBCLC, manager for the Center for Breastfeeding information at La Leche League International in Schaumburg, Ill. Vitamin D is in breast milk, but in low amounts. What can you do? The sun naturally converts certain body chemicals to vitamin D, so Huotari suggests taking baby outside for about a half hour each day. "If your baby gets about 20 minutes of sun exposure on their cheeks once a day, then they are probably getting enough vitamin D," she says. But be careful about exposing your baby to too much sun, which can cause sunburn and raise baby's risk of skin cancer in later life. If you're uncertain about what to do, talk to your pediatrician about this issue, and ask about the proper dose and type of vitamin D supplements for your baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises daily drops of vitamin D for all breastfed babies. In addition, if you are a strict vegetarian, your breast milk might be missing adequate stores of vitamin B-12. Ask your pediatrician if your baby needs supplements of this nutrient as well. Finally, while the water supply in most U.S. cities and towns is boosted with fluoride -- a chemical that can help teeth and nails grow strong -- the levels can be low in certain rural areas. As your local water company how many parts per million of fluoride is in your drinking water. If the level is below 3 ppm, ask your pediatrician if your baby should take fluoride supplements after 6 months of age. Under 6 months old, your baby should not take fluoride supplements, even if levels are low in your water supply.