In the Junior League of New Orleans (JLNO), members are often called upon to make donations. From dropping off a Bacchus dress at Bloomin’ Deals to sending cans of soup to Second Harvest Food Bank, JLNO gives back. Building on this spirit of giving, JLNO’s Diaper Bank is serving women and families in need across the New Orleans community. “Advancing the wellbeing of women,” doesn’t stop at diapers, and JLNO is making strides to support the Milk Bank at Ochsner Baptist Medical Center to extend the reach of support. Just as the Diaper Bank provides mothers in need with clean diapers across the area, according to Dr. Harley Ginsberg of Ochsner, the Milk Bank provides “liquid gold” for premature infants in New Orleans.

As the champions of New Orleans’ first and only collection service – or “depot” – of breast milk, Harley and his wife Sue decided after Hurricane Katrina to give back to the community. After over 30 years of medical practice in the New Orleans (Harley is head of Ochsner’s Neonatology division, and Sue is a nurse) they realized that connecting the 500 premature babies a year that come through the Ochsner Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to breast milk could make a difference between life and death. As Harley stated, “If I’m going to be a zealot and I’m going to have a cause, I’m tired of Louisiana being first and second in infant mortality ranks.”

With the nearest milk bank in Austin, Texas, premature infants in the New Orleans region were lacking access to the nutrient-rich breast milk vital to their delicate digestive systems. As many mothers of premature babies are not yet ready or able to breastfeed, and premature infants are not able to suckle, Harley said the Milk Bank “becomes a bridge for these moms,” until a baby can transition to formula. Thanks to Harley and Sue’s efforts, Ochsner’s Baptist campus now operates as a “depot” where nursing mothers can drop off excess breast milk to be shipped and processed in Texas.

Diaper Bank and Milk Bank Partnership
Susan Ginsberg, Ochsner Milk Bank volunteer, removing the donated breast milk to prepare for shipment to Austin Milk Bank for processing. 

Through the JLNO’s Community Assistance Fund, the Ochsner Baptist Milk Bank was given $7,000 for a new freezer but through the foresight of the 2015-2016 Board of Directors, an additional $3,000 was added to investigate and fund meaningful collaboration between the Milk Bank and JLNO’s Diaper Bank. JLNO Volunteers have been meeting with the statewide Milk Bank team to best determine how to make an impact on the most vulnerable children. Initial plans are to take a mother jointly from the prenatal stage through the diaper ages with the assistance of both organizations. “Children who are born under adverse circumstances will be given the best chance at a healthy start with the assistance of the Milk Bank and Diaper Bank. We share the goal of improving children’s lives by working with their mothers in advocating for healthy families,” stated Maria Pardo Huete, JLNO President. As the Ginsbergs continue advancing the collection service from a depot to a full-service milk bank, they look forward to the support of JLNO in fundraising, promotion and community education. As Harley stated, the Milk Bank allows community members to “really help out those in need from different walks of life.”