New Orleans Background

Louisiana breastfeeding rates are far below rates across the United States, with only 70% of infants ever having breastfed, compared to the national average of 83%. The rates of breastfeeding fall even lower when examined within minority populations in Louisiana, with only 44% of Black infants exclusively receiving breast milk in the hospital, versus 68% of white infants. For New Orleans, a city where over half of the population is Black or African-American, this is incredibly troubling, particularly when considering the racial and ethnic disparities in birth outcomes and infants born at very low birth weight (VLBW). For these vulnerable infants, the benefits of breastfeeding are especially significant, and as such, addressing disparities in breastfeeding is critical to addressing the persistent health disparities facing in the city and the state as a whole.


Express Yourself New Orleans consists of eight level III and IV neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) in the greater New Orleans area focused on understanding the origins of these disparities and finding ways to help mothers and the medical teams that support them to decrease these disparities. There are many barriers to breastfeeding for mothers of VLBW infants, including access to pumps and breastfeeding supplies, transportation to the hospital, lack of education/resources about breastfeeding benefits, and a myriad of social and cultural determinants. Together with our community partners, we expect to combat these barriers, improve breastfeeding rates, and reduce disparities. Working together, we can ensure the healthiest possible start to our most vulnerable infants in Louisiana. 

The next-generation Milk Truck! 

As part of this effort in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, New Orleans now has its own Milk Truck. This Milk Truck provides free transport of human milk to infants in southeast Louisiana NICUs and helps get the best quality breast pumps to moms who need them, wherever they are. In addition, for NICUs contracted with the Mother's Milk Bank of Louisiana, the Milk Truck will provide free transport of donor milk to the NICU for times when mom’s milk isn’t available. The Milk Truck and the Express Yourself Collaborative, together with our community partners and our family team members, are the best possible team to increase community, family, and hospital support and improve each mother’s ability to provide breast milk to their babies, ensuring the healthiest start possible for every Louisiana baby. This work is funded by a W.K. Kellogg grant.

New Orleans Staff

Stacy Drury, MD, PhD is a child psychiatrist and P.I. of the New Orleans Express Yourself QI Project. She is the Chief Research Officer of Children’s Hospital New Orleans, the Vice Chair of Pediatrics Research at Tulane University, and a Professor of Child Psychiatry at Tulane University. Dr. Drury’s clinical and translational research in her Behavioral and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Laboratory (BANGL) at Tulane focuses on improving outcomes for at-risk children by providing an enhanced understanding of the interaction between early life experiences, stress response systems, and neurodevelopment. She has conducted numerous studies investigating health disparities affecting children in the New Orleans area. Dr. Drury has an extensive track record in partnering with statewide community stakeholders in breastfeeding education and follow-up care for high-risk infants.


Sofia Cabrera is a coordinator for the New Orleans Express Yourself Project. She received a B.A. from Swarthmore College and has previous experience working as a Medical Assistant in the city. A New Orleans-native, she is delighted to be a part of a project aimed at reducing disparities in her hometown. 

Renee Tristano is a coordinator for the New Orleans Express Yourself Project. She received a B.S. in Public Health from Tulane University and has been involved in Dr. Drury's projects for several years now. She is specifically interested in women and children's health as well as decreasing racial and ethnic health disparities. She is excited to be pursuing these interests through her work with Express Yourself.

Participating Hospitals

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Contact the QI lead: Amy Waldrup

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Contact the QI lead: Demitra Minetos

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Contact the QI lead: Omotola Uwaifo

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Contact the QI lead: Shari Lepine

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Contact the QI lead: Michelle Roberts

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Contact the QI leaders: Portia Williams and Ivy Rouzan

Contact the QI lead: Katherine Calcagno

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Contact the QI lead: Kelli Arnold

Community Partners

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