Children's

Children’s of Alabama Celebrates The Women of the Executive Team

March is Women’s History Month. At Children’s of Alabama, 86 percent of our workforce is female. And you’ll see that reflected in hospital leadership as well.

This group of women has nearly 250 combined years of service at Children’s. Their leadership stretches from patient care, nursing and operations to customer service, finance, risk management and government relations.

Pictured here, left to right, are Heather Hargis, vice president, Operations; Lori Moler, vice president, Customer Service; Jamie Dabal, vice president, Operations; Suzanne Respess, vice president, Government Relations; Delicia Mason, vice president, Nursing Operations; Heather Baty, vice president, Ambulatory Operations; Stacy White, senior executive leader, Behavioral Health; and Sandy Thurmond, vice president, Primary Care Services. Not pictured, Vickie Atkins, vice president, Risk Management, and Dawn Walton, chief financial officer

Children's, Health and Safety

World Hearing Day

World Hearing Day (March 3) is a global observance of the World Health Organization (WHO) that is championed by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).

In 2022, the theme for World Hearing Day is “To hear for life, listen with care.” Hearing loss is among the most common chronic health conditions that American adults experience. Although not all hearing loss is preventable, noise-induced hearing loss is—simply by reducing exposure to excessively loud noise. This is true for people of all ages.

Here’s how you and your loved ones can avoid noise-induced hearing loss:

  • For Infants and Toddlers — Parents and caregivers should pay attention to how loud toys are—especially because young children tend to hold their toys very close to their faces. Many popular products on the market exceed safe noise levels. Make them safer by taking the batteries out or putting tape over the speaker to dampen the sound. Parents should also put well-fitting earmuffs on kids when they will be in a noisy environment such as a sporting event or a fireworks display.
  • For Older Children and Adolescents — Wearing earmuffs or earplugs in noisy environments remains very important, given that WHO says 40% of teens and young adults ages 12–35 are at risk for hearing loss from loud leisure activities. Children at these ages also should be taught to listen safely to their personal technology devices, especially when used with earbuds or headphones. This means keeping the volume to half and taking listening breaks every hour.
  • For Adults — Certain professions—such as jobs in the airline, restaurant, or landscaping and construction industries—pose added risks to hearing, as do many everyday activities such as loud fitness classes, noisy coffee shops, and noisy hobbies. Adults should wear hearing protection in loud environments, limit exposure to noise, and see a certified audiologist if they are experiencing any symptoms of hearing damage.

Signs to pay attention to include experiencing ringing, buzzing, or pain in the ear; having difficulty following a conversation when more than one person is talking; having trouble hearing in noisy places like a restaurant or on the phone; noticing that sounds frequently seem muffled—or people often sound like they’re mumbling.

Hearing loss is far from being just a nuisance: Left untreated, it is associated with a variety of serious health conditions in adults—including cognitive decline, falls, and social isolation and depression. Hearing loss also can impact career success, mental health, and quality of life. In children, untreated hearing loss can lead to academic, social, and behavioral problems. For infants and toddlers, if hearing loss is unaddressed, it can affect their speech and language development—so it’s always important to pay attention and to get a hearing evaluation from a certified audiologist if you have concerns.

What’s a great way to observe World Hearing Day? Anyone with concerns about their hearing (or a loved one’s) should seek a hearing evaluation from a certified audiologist. Evaluations are generally covered by insurance. A searchable database of these hearing professionals can be found at http://www.asha.org/profind or by calling the ASHA consumer line: 800-638-8255.

The Charity League Hearing and Speech Center at Children’s of Alabama provides diagnostic and rehabilitative speech-language and audiology services to the pediatric population in both outpatient and inpatient settings. Our goal is to maximize your child’s communicative potential so that the individual may better adapt to home, school, and social environments. Visit https://www.childrensal.org/hearing-and-speech to learn more.

Children's

Children’s of Alabama Celebrates Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month. At Children’s of Alabama, 86 percent of our workforce is female.

Children’s of Alabama is here today because, more than a century ago, a group of dedicated women saw the growing need for quality health care for children. In those early days at Children’s, an all-female group of volunteers did whatever was needed to operate the charity hospital, from scrubbing floors to sitting with sick children. The hospital’s first trustees were all women.

Today, women are involved throughout our hospital – from the board room to bedside. The women featured here all have very different roles at Children’s, but all are key to fulfilling the promise of the hospital’s original founders.


LaDonna Gaines
Manager, Alabama Poison Information Center

What led you to a career in healthcare?
I always wanted to be a nurse, even as a child. I wanted to help people. I did a clinical rotation at Children’s when I was in nursing school, so I knew it was a great organization and I was glad to come here when the opportunity arose.

Who are some women who have impacted your life?
My mother has definitely impacted my life. She is a very hardworking woman and can always figure out how to handle difficult situations. Ann Slattery, my director, has also greatly impacted my life. She’s a great leader and has always been so encouraging.

What message do you have for women trying to make their mark on the world?
Always be yourself. You don’t have to fit a specific mold to make change in the world. The world needs YOU, just as you are. Do what you love and enjoy. Be of service to others.


Lou Lacey
Director, Emotional Wellness

What led you to a career at Children’s?
I always had a sense I would end up at Children’s. I wanted to be involved in the mission and the history of this amazing place. I wanted to be connected to others who were invested in making the world a better place for our children.

Who are some women who have impacted your life?
I’ve had too many women mentors to count but my grandmother was my guiding light. She grew up poor in rural Alabama but pushed herself beyond that to get her college degree in a time when that was highly unusual. She went on to start a school for children where differences were celebrated and those who were vulnerable were protected.

What message do you have for women trying to make their mark on the world?
Don’t become a reduced version of yourself in order to fit into the mold of the expected. Have the courage to be thoroughly yourself and do it all with great love.


Kadambari Naik
Coordinator, Lab Education

What led you to a career at Children’s?
After graduation, I started working for a reference laboratory. Someone I knew from school highly recommended Children’s of Alabama. I accepted a position here as a Medical Technologist in 2008 and haven’t looked back since then. I find my work satisfying and enjoy working with my team. There is never a dull day!

Who are some women who have impacted your life?
My grandmother and my mom have always been the two women I’ve looked up to.

After my grandfather passed away, my grandmother took over our family’s farm and single-handedly managed it well for several years. She was very hard-working, energetic and always had a plan when things at the farm did not go well, whether it was broken equipment or staffing problems. She always told us that if you work hard good things will happen; and if they don’t, then at least you know you gave your 100 percent.

My mom has always been here for me! She is a great cook and taught me to cook at a very early age. After all these years, I realized that while teaching me to cook, she was actually giving me important life lessons…organization, patience, multi-tasking, maximizing resources and persistence.

What message do you have for girls trying to make their mark on the world?
I would tell them what I always tell my daughter. The one person who can help you is YOU! Always advocate for yourself, be your own voice.

Do not shy away from challenges whether it is at school, work or in your personal life. Focus on the big picture, don’t let minor setbacks hold you back, and remember it is never too late to follow your dreams!


Sherry Scarborough
Director, Volunteer Services

What led you to a career at Children’s?
I joined the staff at Children’s Hospital in 1978 as an executive secretary. I transferred from Baptist Medical Centers with my then boss, Jim Reed. Once at Children’s I knew I had found my career track of serving children and families. I loved the mission then. I love the mission now.

Who are some women who have impacted your life?
My Mother was an at home Mom who raised five children and then became a professional floral designer in her late 40s. Mama taught us to work hard, believe in ourselves, look for the good in others, and “if you don’t have something nice to say, just keep it to yourself.”

I always admired Surpora Thomas, a previous VP of nursing (at Children’s). Mrs. Thomas was a strong leader with concern for young women at Children’s. She set the standards high for her nursing staff as well as the rest of us.

I always have admired Mother Teresa! Her selflessness and love of others is an inspiration.

What message do you have for women trying to make their mark on the world?
Young girls should first learn to respect themselves and then others. Live by the golden rule. My advice to young women is to learn to live on their own without the help or assistance from parents or others before stepping into marriage or any other committed relationship. Then they will always know they can be independent and strong.


Val Slater
Nurse Clinician, Clinic 8

What led you to a career in healthcare at Children’s?
Since I was 7 years old, I always wanted to become a nurse, and that desired dream never changed. I just had a love for caring for people. What led me to Children’s in 1990 was after my Pediatric rotation on 4West. The nurses there were so loving and passionate toward the kids, and I have such a big heart for children. Prior to my rotation, I had put in applications at Children’s but never got a call back. On my last day of my rotation, I mentioned to Mrs. Johnson (one the nurses) that I had put in applications but never got a response, and I really want to work at Children’s. She took my name and phone number and told me that she would give it to her director (Bonnie Barnett). The next day I received a call from Mrs. Barnett, had my interview and was hired the very next day. That is God putting the right people in my space, and I knew then this is where the Lord wanted me to be and still going strong 32 years later.

Who are some women who have impacted your life?
The first woman who had the most impact in my life would be my mom, Bettie Montgomery. No matter how hard nursing school got for me, she was always in my corner being my cheerleader and pushing me forward. There was one quote that she would say that always stuck with me: “Good, better, best, never, ever rest. Until your good is better and your better is best.” This is one quote that I still use today. Other women who had an impact on my life, I call them my “hospital moms.” Their names are Mrs. Wilma Kenon (Griffin), Mrs. Mary Jones, Mrs. Sheryl Tyus, Mrs. Helen Wren and Mrs. Ruby Moncrief. These ladies took me under their wings, nourished my passion for nursing and developed me in the individual I am today. Last is my weekend mentor, Michell Gresham. She really taught me everything about critical care bedside nursing. I will truly be grateful and thankful for these ladies being in my life.

What message do you have for girls/women trying to make their mark on the world?
The message that I would give to girls/women is to never, never give up on your dream. No matter how hard things might appear, continue to keep pushing forward no matter what. If God has planted a passion in your heart, just know that He will give you the tools you need to fulfill it, but you have to be committed to the dream. Two of my favorite poems that PUSH me FORWARD and I still recite today are “Don’t Quit” and “Our Deepest Fear.” Remember if you can Dream IT, you can Believe IT, you can Achieve IT.


Myra Waddell
Staff Nurse, Critical Care Transport

What led you to a career in healthcare?
I always enjoyed helping people even as a young kid. A childhood accident eventually led me to the medical field. Working with kids interested me as got older after my experiences with hospitals and medical staff.

Who are some women who have impacted your life?
At the risk of sounding super cliché, my mother, grandmother and sister have been the most influential women in my life. They are not famous, but they are my superstars! All three have taught me unconditional love and compassion, the value of hard work and to never give up regardless of the difficulty of the task. They are three of the strongest women I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. I am grateful for them.

What message do you have for women trying to make their mark on the world?
Let your light shine as bright as possible. You define yourself. Do not let anyone else define you or put you in a corner. There will be failures along your way. Learn from those failures and come back stronger. Never give up!

Health and Safety, News

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week: Feb. 21-27, 2022

An estimated 28.8 million Americans experience an eating disorder at some point in their lives. The Eating Disorders Clinic at the Adolescent Health Center at Children’s of Alabama offers specialized medical, psychological and nutritional care for young people with eating disorders. The National Eating Disorders Association’s NEDAwareness Week (Feb. 21-27, 2022) is an annual campaign to educate the public about eating disorders and to provide hope, support, and visibility to those affected. If your child has signs of an eating disorder or needs further management, visit childrensal.org/adolescent-health-center or call at 205-638-9231.

The majority of those with eating disorders – 95 percent – are between the ages 12 and 25.

Eating disorders are complex illnesses that may lead to severe medical and mental health complications due to inadequate nutritional intake. For children and adolescents, this could significantly impact their performance in school and recreational activities.

Eating disorders are more common than most people realize.

Eating disorders can affect people of all ages, races, genders, and body sizes. Signs and symptoms can appear as physical, mental and behavioral changes. Talk with your child’s provider if you notice any changes in eating habits or other concerning behaviors.

The optimal period to develop strong bones is in the teenage years.

Nearly 100 percent of bone density is acquired in adolescence. Teenagers require four cups of dairy each day, which can be challenging. Adequate calcium and vitamin D intake is important for all individuals, especially those with concerning eating habits.

Families are essential to the recovery process of patients with eating disorders.

Preparing and eating meals together is a great way to foster healthy nutritional habits. For more tips on how to support your child’s recovery visit www.feast-ed.org.

Children's

Children’s of Alabama Celebrates Black History Month

February is Black History Month, a time to honor the accomplishments and contributions of African Americans. At Children’s of Alabama, we are united in our mission and dedication in providing the finest pediatric healthcare to all children. Each of the employees featured here contribute to our core values of trust, teamwork, compassion, innovation and commitment. We thank them for sharing their stories of inspiration and impact.


Dexter Cunningham
Security Manager

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama? 
The opportunity to work in an organization whose primary mission is the care and comfort of sick children piqued my interest. Having spent almost 30 years in law enforcement (University of Alabama at Birmingham Police Department, retired Birmingham Police sergeant), being the security manager here at Children’s of Alabama has been a great fit.

What other African Americans have inspired you?
Colin Powell has inspired me as I am a retired veteran as well. I served 21.5 years in the United States Naval Reserve. The opportunity to work with the present Children’s Security Director Michael McCall has been an inspiration also.

What kind of impact do you hope to have? How do you hope to inspire others?
I hope that others would not dwell on the adversities, but see those situations as possibilities and opportunities to grow and excel. To believe in yourself and never give up on your dreams, but to put written plans to those dreams is what I hope to inspire.


Reggie Hope
Practice Manager, Pediatrics East

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?
After retiring from the military and moving back to Alabama, it was divine guidance that directed me to my new mission of compassion, commitment, teamwork, trust and innovation at Children’s of Alabama.

What other African Americans have inspired you?
My initial source of inspiration can be found in the wise, loving words of my mother, Dollie Mae Hope. Her encouraging words empowered me to grow and fully realize my potential. In addition to my mom, Charles Richard Drew, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barack Obama are among countless African Americans that continue to inspire me.

What kind of impact do you hope to have? How do you hope to inspire others?
Through my words and actions, I hope to empower and inspire others to raise the bar of excellence in their professional and or personal life.


Delicia Mason MNHSA, RN, NEA-BC
Vice President, Nursing Operations

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?
My family relocated to Birmingham from Montgomery in 1998. I worked as a pediatric medical surgical nurse at a hospital in Montgomery, and I wanted to continue working in pediatrics, so I applied to work in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at Children’s of Alabama. At that time, there was a hiring freeze for nursing positions in the PICU. I called the director of the PICU every month, sometimes twice monthly, inquiring about a position. Five months later, after the hiring freeze ended, she called and offered me a nightshift position.

What other African Americans have inspired you?
My parents Jessie and Bernice Posey are lifetime supporters who taught me and my siblings that this world and the people in it owe you nothing. Work hard to earn what you deserve. Be committed to your undertakings and be unshakeable in honoring your commitments.

Delois Spencer is a dear friend, mentor and coach. She is a nurse leader who helped to shape me into the leader I am. 

I admire Maya Angelou for her spirit, intelligence and peaceful presence. I am inspired by Cicely Tyson for her strong will, achievements and success despite tremendous social and political barriers rooted on her path. Michelle Obama is a role model of a mother, wife and leader. I admire her poised strength and energy that enables her to endure the tough talk aimed at her and still give positive messages that inspire others.

How do you hope to inspire others?
I hope to inspire others by:

  • Role modeling the behaviors expected of others
  • Being optimistic and keeping a positive outlook
  • Empowering others – building others to be their best professionally and personally
  • Keeping a level head – remaining composed even when under pressure
  • Being consistent in who I am – not sacrificing my integrity or character
  • Being an active listener – my silence can be powerful for others


Dorothy McKinney
Customer Support & Provisioning Manager

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?
I relocated to Birmingham from Georgia where I was employed at a local hospital. My experience in healthcare and taking pride in providing top-notch customer service/patient care is what I wanted to bring to Children’s of Alabama. I applied for a job with the Customer Support Desk and thankfully was hired. Fifteen years later, I still thoroughly enjoy my job. Children’s of Alabama is an organization that values diversity and offers room for growth.

What other African Americans have inspired you?
I would have to say my maternal grandmother.  She was someone who instilled values in me that I hold dear today. She taught me to be kind, respectful and treat everyone I encounter the way I wish to be treated.

What kind of impact do you hope to have? How do you hope to inspire others?
I hope to have a positive impact. I try to show kindness, love, compassion and understanding toward everyone I encounter. I want to lead by example in every way.


Delphene Noland
Manager, Infection Prevention and Control

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?
My route to Children’s of Alabama was roundabout. When I first decided I was going to be a nurse, my goal was to be a pediatric nurse at Children’s. When I graduated, there were no openings so I was hired at another hospital. Then, 26 years later I was given the opportunity to join the infection control team, and after the interview, I knew this was the right move for me. I still believe it was the right decision.

What other African Americans have inspired you?
The African American who has inspired me most would have to be my Mother. Growing up, I watched her work as a maid at night and go to LPN (licensed practical nurse) school during the day. She was forced to work two jobs my entire life, and I knew her struggles as a single Black mother. There were many conversations about how there will be many people who will judge you by the color of your skin, but don’t let anyone tell you that you are less than. She was always very honest with us about her struggles with racism in healthcare. She would always tell us that she did not have the educational opportunities we had but she wanted all of us to do more, see more and achieve more.

What kind of impact do you hope to have? How do you hope to inspire others?
I would like people of color to know it is not where you start, but how you finish. Do not let society determine your future, and never let anyone dictate your worth. With each generation, we must strive to make change. I hope I exemplify what a poor little Black girl, who should have been a statistic, has accomplished in life.


Alexis Sankey, MS
Development Operations Coordinator

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?
I love supporting nonprofits and foundations because they provide specialized needs for the most vulnerable in our community. However, the way Children’s of Alabama embodies its mission by addressing and prioritizing the needs of patients for our region was something that has always stood out to me.

What other African Americans have inspired you?
Professionally and artistically, I would have to say some notable African Americans I continue to be inspired by are Shirley Chisholm, Langston Hughes, Michelle Obama and Issa Rae.

What kind of impact do you hope to have? How do you hope to inspire others?
I hope to be able to show people unique ways to be of service to organizations as well as one another.


Dorothy Turner
Food Service Supervisor

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama? 
I came to Children’s by a way off Sherry Scarbrough, volunteer services director. I met her when I was working as a manager at Arby’s in Tarrant City, Ala. She would come by for coffee and a croissant every morning on her way to work at Children’s.

What other African Americans have inspired you?
I am inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., because of his simple acts of selflessness. He always thought of what was best for his community, no matter what the cost.  And he did it peacefully and freely.

What kind of impact do you hope to have? How do you hope to inspire others?
I hope to inspire others by being present for people, when I am needed and called on, no matter what the cost, in a very positive way. I always believe the greatest gift we can give each other as mankind is to be present for one another in a very genuine way.


Reggie Wilson
Information Technology CyberSecurity,
HIPAA Coordinator

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama? 
In 2002, Children’s was embarking on implementing a new EMR system, and I wanted to bring my IT skill sets and experience to contribute to the solution of that project.

What other African Americans have inspired you?
There are many, many, many, African Americans who have inspired me along my life and career journey. Some are internationally known and here locally in Birmingham.

What kind of impact do you hope to have? How do you hope to inspire others?
There are some things I keep in my heart to help me impact someone in a positive way, two of those I will share:

  • “Let my work speak for me.” I must always remember someone is watching me, so I must work hard and positive and hope that impacts their life.
  • “If I can help somebody, as I pass along, If I can cheer somebody, with a word or song, If I can show somebody, how they’re travelling wrong, Then my living shall not be in vain.” These lyrics from this Mahalia Jackson song stick with me and describe as how I would like to impact someone’s life with love and laughter.
Children's

Is Your Child’s School a Heart Safe School?

Did you know that thousands of school age children nationally die from sudden cardiac arrest every year? Only 5 to 10 percent of these children survive without some type of immediate treatment. This is why having automated external defibrillators (AED) available on school campuses can make the difference between life and death. It is simply a lightweight device that can help bring back a normal heart beat, and can increase the survival rate of cardiac victims by 50 percent.

All 13 Auburn City Schools now qualify as Project ADAM Heart-Safe Schools. Children’s of Alabama representatives John Stone and Adam Kelley presented ACS with the designation.

In an effort to ensure that schools are equipped and trained to use AEDs, Children’s of Alabama offers Alabama LifeStart, a program modeled after the Adam Project. Alabama is one of the many states that have adapted this program, which is currently led by co-medical directors Dr. Austin Kane and Dr. Khalisa Syeda of UAB. Because of Alabama LifeStart, Children’s of Alabama, and the financial support of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, approximately 400 schools in Alabama have received an AED device. Every public middle, junior and senior high school in the state is equipped with at least one AED. One of the many companies Children’s partners with to provide the equipment to schools is AED Brands. Like others, they offer information that can be helpful when purchasing an AED. 

In Alabama, AEDs on school campuses have helped save the lives of several students. One example of a lifesaving story is that of a student at John Sparkman High School in Morgan County who collapsed during a basketball game. Due to the quick response of trained school personnel, she was brought back to life with an AED.  

Unfortunately, not all faculty, staff and students know how to use the devices quickly in a sudden cardiac emergency. Most schools also do not provide more than one device, which may not be easily accessible where an incident may occur. With training resources readily available from Alabama LifeStart, more lives may be saved by improving the ability to respond quickly and effectively to a cardiac arrest. Those schools that meet special requirements are named a Heart Safe School by the program. They install the recommended number of AED devices on campus and utilize Alabama LifeStart’s free resources to incorporate the training into their student health or physical education curriculum. To date 62 Alabama schools have accomplished this honor.

If your school is interested in becoming a Heart Safe School by Alabama LifeStart, please email alabamalifestart@childrensal.org or call Program Director John Stone at Children’s at (205) 638-6769.  

Children's, Health and Safety

Safe Sleep

Statistics reveal 3,500 sleep-related deaths occur each year among infants under 12 months. Alabama has the highest rate of sleep-related deaths across the nation — approximately one hundred or more babies die each year due to unsafe sleep environments.

Dr. Erinn Schmit, a pediatric hospitalist at Children’s of Alabama and assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), says soft bedding and babies co-sleeping with a parent or sibling are two of the most common causes of sleep-related deaths. The highest risk for sleep-related deaths in infants is between 1 and 4 months old, but Dr. Schmit recommends parents keep exercising safe sleep practices up to 12 months.

Dr. Erinn Schmit

ABCs for Safe Sleep Practices

Dr. Schmit suggests using the “ABCs” of safe sleep to remember these practices. This stands for: Alone, Back and Crib.

Alone: Babies should be in their own sleep environment every single time. This means using an approved consumer product safety-rated device, like a crib, Pack ‘n Play or bassinet.

Back: Babies should be on their backs every single time.

Crib: The crib should be empty except for a crib mattress rated for infants (a firm mattress with just a fitted sheet). There should be no loose blankets, stuffed animals, pillows or bumpers –they pose a suffocation risk.

Safe Sleep Environments

“We know that co-sleeping greatly increases their risk for suffocation. We also see some deaths from suffocation due to soft bedding, such as pillows, blankets, sleeping on an adult mattress, or sleeping in a chair or couch. These environments are not meant for babies to sleep in,” Schmit said. “Babies should be sleeping on a firm sleep surface that doesn’t allow for any air pockets where their faces can get stuck.”

For every sleep session, babies should be placed on their back until they can roll over by themselves. Swaddling is helpful for newborns who have a startle reflex that wakes them up; however, parents should swaddle their baby only until they are about 3 to 4 months old, when they begin showing signs of rolling over.

“When they’re showing signs of rolling over, you could either go cold turkey — stop swaddling them altogether—or swaddle just one arm in at a time. But we do know that swaddling while babies are trying to roll can actually increase that risk of suffocation,” adds Dr. Schmit.

Dr. Schmit also cautions against nearby cords from a baby monitor or windows with blinds near the crib. Ensure the crib or Pack n’ Play is away from the window so babies can’t pull on strings connected to the blinds. In addition, make sure baby monitors are mounted on a wall or placed on a bookcase nearby, but not directly by the edge of a crib. “Unfortunately, every year we see strangulation deaths when babies get strings stuck around their necks,” Schmit said.

Sleep sacks are well known among parents with babies and are recommended.  These wearable blankets have a hole for the neck and arms, and either zip or snap in place. Due to the design, sleep sacks don’t have loose material that can get in a baby’s face. 

Sleep sacks for younger babies swaddle with Velcro and sleep sacks for older babies have arm holes and no swaddle. Around three to four months, parents should stop swaddling and switch to a sleep sack without a swaddle.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends parents share a room, not a bed, with their baby for up to 12 months. Sharing a room can help parents hear noises and be alert to their baby’s needs which can reduce Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related deaths.

Tummy Time and Acid Reflux in Babies

Tummy time is when babies lay on their stomachs for a brief time period while they are awake and supervised. The AAP recommends supervised tummy time for babies each day to help with head and neck strength which further improves motor development. For more information on how long babies of different ages should practice tummy time, refer to this resource from KidsHealth. While babies should practice tummy time, they should not while they are sleeping. Once they can roll themselves onto their tummy, it’s okay to let them roll into that position. Nevertheless, parents should still put them to sleep on their back.

One misconception is that placing babies on their backs may aggravate acid reflux or interfere with proper digestion. This has been scientifically disproven – when babies are laying on their tummies, the food pipe is above the windpipe.

According to the AAP and the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition (NASPGHAN), sleeping on the back is safest for all babies, even those with reflux. The only situations when babies should sleep on their tummy are if they have an unrepaired surgical airway or some other serious issues—in which the doctor may recommend otherwise.

Safe Baby Devices

Parents may try to calm their fussy baby by driving around the neighborhood. Dr. Schmit said this practice is fine, but once the baby is back in the home they should be placed in the crib—not left in the car seat to continue sleeping. Dr. Schmit also urged any parent using a device such as the “Rock ‘n Play” to stop doing so immediately.

“The Rock ‘n Plays—an inclined sleeper that rocks—were recalled a couple of years ago due to being linked to multiple infant deaths around the country. Primarily, this was in situations where babies were strapped in and then rolling over and suffocating. It led to us recommending against all inclined sleepers because of that risk.”

For a list of approved baby devices, Dr. Schmit recommends parents discuss options with their pediatrician or visit websites such as healthykids.org or safetosleep.nichd.nih.gov.

Health and Safety

Is My Child Too Sick to Go to School?

Being sure that a child is well enough to go to school can be tough for any parent. It often comes down to whether the child can still participate at school. Having a sore throat, cough, or mild congestion doesn’t always mean kids can’t handle class and other activities.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, though, health experts ask that families keep sick kids home. Even mild symptoms like sore throat, cough, or a headache can be signs of a COVID-19 infection that can spread to teachers or other kids. During the pandemic and after it’s over, kids should stay home when they have symptoms like a fever over 100.4°F, diarrheavomiting, or trouble breathing.

When in doubt, check with the school. Schools have guidelines about what families should do during the pandemic if their kids get sick. It’s also important to report that your child is sick, so the school staff can check to see if others might have been exposed to your child.

As for other types of infections, chickenpox sores should be dry and crusted over before kids go back to school (usually this takes about 6 days). Kids with strep throat need a dose or two of antibiotics first, which can mean staying home the day after diagnosis (or possibly longer). Other contagious infections — like rubellawhooping coughmumpsmeasles, and hepatitis A — have specific guidelines for returning to school. Your doctor can help you figure this out.

Licescabies, and ringworm shouldn’t keep kids out of school. If the problem is found by the teacher or school nurse, the child should stay in school until the end of the day. Kids who get their first treatment after school should be able to return to the classroom the next morning.

You know your kids best. A child who has the sniffles but hasn’t slowed down at home is likely well enough for the classroom. But one who coughed all night and had a hard time getting up in the morning might need to take it easy at home.

Children's, Health and Safety, News

Answers for Parents about the COVID Vaccine for Children Ages 5-11

The recent news approving Pfizer’s vaccine for emergency use authorization for children ages 5-11 by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may leave you with a lot of questions about what is best for your child.

Children’s of Alabama pediatricians Dr. Peily Soong and Dr. Gigi Youngblood have provided information that may help.  We asked the questions, and they provided these answers.

Why do we need to vaccinate children ages 5-11, and why is it so important to make sure they are vaccinated?

Dr. Youngblood: It’s definitely important to vaccinate children in this young age group. First and foremost, receiving vaccines are how we end this pandemic. They’re crucially important for everyone affected by the pandemic. We’re losing kids. There’s a significant portion of pediatric COVID deaths that were in the 5-11 age group. We’re also seeing long term issues with these young children, including multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C), which is a really potentially dangerous inflammatory condition that happens after someone has had COVID. Different body parts can become inflamed, and it often includes inflammation of the heart muscle or myocarditis. We feel children deserve protection from these things just as much as everyone else.

How is this vaccine different from the vaccine that may be offered to people 12 years of age and older?

Dr. Soong: It is different because it is a smaller vaccine dose, about a 1/3 of the dose given to the 12-year-old to adult group. The 12-year-old to adult dosage is 30-microgram. The smaller dose for children 5-11 years old is 10-microgram. Although it is a smaller dose, it has been shown to be just as effective in terms of antibody titers, which measures the antibodies in the blood. They compared the studies for the children in this younger age group to the older group, and the antibody levels were about the same in each. Researchers felt the dose should be just as effective at preventing COVID, and a very effective vaccine for all involved.

What are the potential side effects of the vaccine, and what should we know about them?

Dr. Youngblood: Clinical trials show that the vaccine is well tolerated in children. The potential side effects for younger children were fever, fatigue, headaches, and pain at the site of the injection as well as redness and swelling. These side effects are very similar to what we are seeing in adults, but probably even better tolerated in this young age group. We have also seen that the lower the vaccine dose, the lower the side effects, and about half as many children were getting side effects to the vaccine. It seems parents are most concerned about the side effect of getting myocarditis, which keeps making the news. Keep in mind that the only vaccine that’s going to be available for children 5-11 years old is the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine, and there has not really been an increased risk with that particular vaccine. The main thing to remember about any age group and post vaccination is even though people seem to be concerned about such things as clotting risk and myocarditis, people are at a significantly lower risk of these conditions than if they were to get the virus itself. Your child may feel a little under the weather for a day or two after the vaccine, but in terms of scary things, the vaccine there is less of a risk of developing long term side effects than taking a chance with getting COVID itself.

What is some good information for parents when making the decision to vaccinate their children, and staying healthy as we approach the holiday season?

Dr. Soong: We’re anticipating that there could be another surge of the Coronavirus as a result of holiday gatherings. Last year after holiday gatherings and through the winter months, we started seeing peaks in the spread of the virus. Children can easily spread COVID, and so it’s important to get them vaccinated to help protect, not only themselves, but others with weak immune system, the elderly, and those who are not vaccinated.

Getting the vaccine is of course a very important way of protecting your child against COVID-19, but as you’re going through the process of getting vaccinated, do parents need to take other measures, at least to a certain point in time?

Dr. Youngblood: Absolutely. When your child receives the vaccine, there are two doses of 10 micrograms given 21 days apart. It is obvious that those vaccinated do not have magical protection as soon as they receive the shots. You’re not going to reach the most effectiveness until you are fully vaccinated. The body has to build protection against the virus somewhere between one to two weeks after your child receives the second dose. This is why it’s so important that children begin the series as soon as possible before the holidays to prevent another pandemic peak. Until your child has reached that maximum effectiveness, they should continue to use a mask in social settings, and wash their hands constantly. We hope that all of us have developed the habit of washing hands as a result of this pandemic and that frequent hand washing will stay with us anyway. Also, if you or your child is not feeling well or family members are not feeling well, make sure you give full disclosure to those you love, and stay away from others until you know more about what’s going on with your child or with that loved one.

Where can people go for vaccinations?  As it becomes known that Children’s of Alabama and UAB are offering the vaccine to the 5-11 age group, are there also other places you would recommend for parents to take their children to receive the vaccine?

Dr. Soong: We are always the ones that you can trust, and we take care of your children. We are very knowledgeable and a viable resource to what has been going on through this whole pandemic. Keep in mind that a good choice is also your family pediatrician. Your pediatrician sees your child on a regular basis and offers other vaccinations as well, so it is always good to ask their opinion. They may also refer you to one of the nationwide pharmacies that will be offering it to children as well.

For the more information about COVID-19, visit childrensal.org.

Children's

Holiday Food Safety

During the holidays we love gathering with family and friends and enjoying great holiday meals. But it’s important to take precautions to prevent food poisoning. 


Becky Devore is a Nurse Educator with the Alabama Poison Information Center. She offers some helpful tips to make your holiday celebrations more enjoyable. Starting with the turkey, Devore says it’s not necessary to wash your turkey before cooking it. “Don’t wash your turkey, wash your hands,” she says. “The only thing that will take care of bacteria that might be in the turkey is to cook it to the proper temperature which is 165 degrees Fahrenheit.”


It’s important to use a meat thermometer when cooking a turkey. As Devore says, “You cannot tell if a turkey is done by the color. The color is not enough.”


Devore advises to plan your holiday feast several days in advance. If a turkey is frozen and needs to be thawed the best way to safely do so is in the refrigerator. “It takes 24 hours per 4-5 pounds of turkey to thaw in the refrigerator, so it may take several days,” she says.


Other tips include washing your hands throughout meal preparation. Before, during, and after handling all food. She also reminds home cooks to use different cutting boards and utensils for handling raw meat and all other foods. “Be sure to use only non-porous cutting boards made out of glass or plastic for raw meat,” she says.
After the meal is over, be mindful of your leftovers. Put everything away that needs to be refrigerated within two hours. Devore says leftovers should be kept in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. “If in doubt, throw it out!” she says.
The symptoms of food poisoning include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever

If you believe you or someone in your family has suffered from food poisoning or any other type of poisoning call the Alabama Poison Information Center toll free at 1-800-222-1222. A registered nurse or pharmacist will take your call and can advise you on the best response. Keep in mind that children, pregnant women, the elderly, or anyone in poor health is most at risk from food poisoning. 
This holiday season, keep these tips in mind to avoid food poisoning and focus on enjoying this time with friends and family.