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BOISE -- A report this week from the Centers for Disease Control ranks Idaho as the top state in the nation for breastfeeding.

It's real exciting, said Cindi Bennett, a nurse and lactation consultant at St. Luke's Children's Hospital.

The Breastfeeding Report Card says Idaho is number one in the nation, with 91.8 percent of newborns, at least starting to breastfeed. Idaho is also number one in the nation, with 74.5 percent of infants still breastfeeding by 6 months.

There's many factors, I think, that have gone into that, said Bennett. Supporting these moms in their pre-natal care... Once the babies are born, then they have their nursing care, and then the lactation nurses are there as well... From there, the moms also get support once they're discharged.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says breast milk has disease-fighting antibodies that help protect infants from germs and illness. And in moms, breastfeeding is linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and postpartum depression.

It makes sense to provide human milk for human babies, and breastfeed, said Bennett.

Samantha Hofland is a mother who breastfeeds her son. I would never judge a mother for not breastfeeding, but for me, it's been the most rewarding experience.

Hofland has always breastfed her son, even though he was born at just 29 weeks, and started in the NICU.

His digestive system was really under-developed, so the absolute best thing for him was my milk, said Hofland. That mother's body is able to adjust the milk to give that baby the correct nutrients for their development at that time.

Hofland and Bennett are also encouraged by the report because breastfeeding isn't just increasing in popularity in Idaho, it's up around the nation. 77 percent of all U.S. newborns are breastfeeding now, as compared to 71percent 10 years ago.

Not only are we understanding the health benefits, but we're educating our friends and family, and exposing people to it more, said Hofland. So, it becomes more the norm, because it is the best thing for mom and baby.

Saint Luke's is also spreading the word right now about their new milk bank depot. It's a place where women can donate milk to help feed babies in the NICU. For more information, and how you might be able to help, click here.

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