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Moms in Mississippi are breastfeeding at a rate lower than a

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Moms in Mississippi are breastfeeding at a rate lower than any other state
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Keleigh Williams is feeding 9-week-old Penelope
MPB News

Breastfeeding in public is now protected by law in all 50 states. But, as MPB's Ashley Norwood reports, protected or not- almost half of moms in Mississippi aren't breastfeeding.

Keleigh Williams is waking 9-week old Penelope from her midday nap. She says she believes breastfeeding is the healthiest option for her little girl.

"Because she was born early, I wanted her to get the most natural source of nutrients so she would start growing and gaining weight faster. I don't have anything to compare it to, but I think it helped," said Williams.

In 2016, 52 percent of women in Mississippi ever breastfed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's the lowest rate in the country.

Getty Israel is a population health specialist and founder of Sisters In Birth, Inc., a nonprofit childbirth education group. She says there are benefits to breastfeeding.

"Breastfeeding as we know can reduce the likelihood of the mom and the baby experiencing a diverse number of conditions, from infections to pediatric cancer, diabetes, and other diseases," said Israel.

Israel says she believes its up to the medical experts to encourage and educate mothers early on.

"She is relying on him for advice, for guidance. And so for him being the expert to step up and say this is going to be good for you, this is going to be good for your baby, I want you to breastfeed, I want you to be successful with breastfeeding so we're going to make sure you have a certified lactation counselor who can come to my office or who can come to your home... how often does that happen, says Israel.

The Mississippi State Department of Health declared August breastfeeding awareness month. Ashley Norwod, MPB News.