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Danica McKellar Talks Pregnancy, Childbirth -- and Algebra

The math whiz and Wonder Years star has added a new role to her impressive résumé: mom

Danica's Pregnancy

McKellar, 36, says she's a firm believer that "every woman has an inner sense that guides her" when it comes to pregnancy, labor, and breastfeeding, and "that we should never judge another woman's choices." She says that a strict approach to nutrition before and after birth, the goal of natural labor, and exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months was right for her.

After a miscarriage in October 2009, McKellar and husband, composer Mike Verta, decided to keep mum when she found herself pregnant again just months later -- even when Maxim magazine asked her to do a sexy lingerie shoot timed to when she was 11 weeks along. "I wasn't really showing yet, but I couldn't suck in my stomach," she laughs about the photos. "Let's just say no one asked me if I'd had any work done," she adds, referring to her suddenly swollen breasts.

Her discipline translated to other areas: She gave up sugar, white flour, gluten, anything artificial, caffeine, and alcohol during pregnancy and continues with the same diet now that she's breastfeeding.

But not every woman needs to follow McKellar's choices. "Many women think they need to eat a 'perfect' diet to make nutritious milk," says Marianne Neifert, MD, a pediatrician, national breastfeeding expert, and author of Great Expectations: The Essential Guide to Breastfeeding. "I like to keep it simple," Neifert says. "Maintain your good eating habits from pregnancy while you nurse, and keep taking your prenatal vitamins."

Danica on Breastfeeding

McKellar used her own advice to conquer her initial challenges with breastfeeding. Her books address the mental blocks that can stall potential math stars before they even attempt to solve that first equation. "So many girls say ‘I can't do math' before they even try it. They have to build their confidence and know that by sticking with it, they can have success."

The same holds true for nursing, McKellar believes. Some women and babies face physical challenges that make it impossible, while others simply need support and professional help to get over the initial hurdles: difficult latching, sore nipples, low milk supply, and mastitis, a painful breast infection, all of which McKellar had.

If a woman can breastfeed, there are significant health benefits for both mother and baby, says Neifert, including a lower risk of ear infections, asthma, and type 1 and 2 diabetes for babies, and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes as well as breast and ovarian cancers for women, she says.

Still acting (McKellar has done TV guest spots on ABC's How I Met Your Mother and CBS's The Big Bang Theory, and voices an animated character on Young Justice for Cartoon Network) even as she celebrates her third best-seller, she's loving motherhood so much that she and her husband are already planning for baby No. 2.

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