Winter Wives’ Tale

The University of Maryland Children’s Hospital sets the record straight…

Put on your hat since you lose most of your body heat through your head.”
This is not necessarily true! Your body heat escapes from any exposed area- so if you had on snow pants and a T-shirt and you forget your hat and jacket, the most amount of heat would escape through your arms- since that would be the largest exposed part of your body. Putting on winter accessories such as hats, mittens and scarves is still a very good idea to avoid the outside dangers of frostbite and hypothermia.

You will get sick if you go outside with wet hair.”
This is another winter wives’ tale. While your kids may be cold, they won’t actually catch a cold by venturing outdoors with a wet head. Germs are spread by people, and temperature simply doesn’t play a part.


“No Screens Under 2” Q&A with Dr. Brenda Hussey-Gardner

brenda-hussey-gardnerHi, my name is Dr. Brenda Hussey-Gardner. I am a developmental specialist who works with the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital. I attended the American Academy of Pediatrics conference in San Francisco to share the results of research that I have done with colleagues here at the University of Maryland and to learn what other researchers are doing across the nation in order to bring this new knowledge back to the hospital to better serve our children and their families. At this conference, the American Academy of Pediatrics released their new guidelines regarding screen time and children.

Please see the Q&A here for more information on these guidelines.

Q: What is the “No Screens Under 2” rule and in what ways is it changing?

A: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) previously recommended no screen time for children under 2 years of age. In its new guidelines, the AAP offers slightly different recommendations for children less than 18 months and those 18 to 24 months of age.

Children less than 18 months

The AAP discourages parents from using digital media with one exception: video-chatting (e.g., Skype, FaceTime). This form of interactive media can be used, with parent support, to foster social relationships with distant relatives.

Children 18 to 24 months

The AAP recommends that parents, who want to introduce their child to digital media, do the following:

  1. Only use high-quality educational content.
  2. Always watch shows or use apps with your child. Talking about what the child sees helps foster learning.
  3. Never allow your child to use media alone.
  4.  Limit media to a maximum of 1 hour per day.
  5. Avoid all screen time during meals, parent-child playtime and an hour before bedtime.

Q: Can you provide some insight into how the decision was made? What research was taken into account?

A: The AAP Council on Communications and Media reviewed research on child development, television, videos and mobile/interactive technologies to develop their current recommendations. Research shows that children under the age of 2 years need two things to develop their thinking, language, motor and social-emotional skills: (1) they need to interact with their parents and other loving caregivers, and (2) they need hands-on experiences with the real world. In fact, researchers have demonstrated that infants and toddlers don’t yet have the symbolic, memory and attention skills needed to learn from digital media. Importantly, research also shows evidence of harm (e.g., delayed thinking, language and social-emotional development; poorer executive functioning) from excessive media use with young children.

Q: Why do these new guidelines matter to parents, and should they affect the ways parents and their young children interact with technology?

A: AAP guidelines matter because parents want their children to be well adjusted and smart, and they don’t want to do anything that may harm their child’s development. As such, parents should try their best to avoid screens with their children who are less than 18 months of age and realize that it is their interactions with their child that are the most important. Then, from 18 to 24 months of age, parents should strive to use only the highest quality educational technology with their child. As hard as it is, parents should try to avoid using technology as a babysitter and try to understand the negative impact that it can have on their child’s development.

Q: What is your biggest take-away from the session?

A: A parent’s lap is always better than any app!

Q: What is your opinion on the new guidelines and do you think it will affect your clinical practice? If so, how?

A: I believe that the new AAP guidelines, while a little more flexible, may still be difficult for parents to adhere to, as screen time is so pervasive in our society. However, it is very important for parents to make smart choices about digital media and screen time if they want to help their infant and toddler develop into a child who is healthy and ready for success in preschool. It is my goal to develop a pamphlet summarizing the research findings and AAP guidelines to help parents make the best choices for their child and family.


For more information about media, screen time, and child development, parents are encouraged to read the AAP recommendations located within the publication “Media and Young Minds,” and to read the “Early Learning and Educational Technology Brief” published by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Walkthrough of the New NICU


The new Drs. Rouben and Violet Jiji Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) has that new hospital look and feel. Everything in the space is new, from the lightbulbs to the intercoms, and smells like it just came out of the box.

NICU_huddleThe Jiji NICU is almost ready to welcome its first tiny patients, but with the lengthy checklist of pre-opening touchups, the nurses haven’t been allowed much time to see their new workspace. The agenda for today: familiarizing the nursing team with the new unit. Across a 48-hour span, every two hours, each of the unit’s 125 nurses will attend an orientation session like this one to get to know the Jiji NICU from the inside.

After a morning huddle in the spacious and bright team room, the nurses continue on for a physical orientation of the rooms. As everyone files into one side of an adjoining twin room, you can only hear the voices in the room itself. Noise absorbing windows, ceilings and floors blanket the unit and offer a respite from the outside Greene Street bustle. With the door closed, it is nearly impossible to hear voices from the hallway.

Twin_Room_AEach of the 52 rooms is thoughtfully designed, featuring fold-down couches for overnight guests and a designated breastmilk refrigerator. A grey provider zone and a white family zone are demarcated on the floor. These soft boundaries are representative of the team effort that will undoubtedly go into each patient’s care. Knowing that infants at the NICU may not see the outside world for some time, each room is equipped with circadian lighting to acclimate each baby to a standard sleep-wake cycle.

Concern for patient safety is also apparent in the design plans. Situated near each quad of rooms is a nursing station, at which patient vitals will be displayed and carefully monitored. Each nurse has been assigned to one of five neighborhoods, color-coded regions of the NICU that correspond to each of the five wings. Each neighborhood was also assigned a facilitator, a person in charge of monitoring the alarm system and making sure help goes to where it is needed.

The nurses then start training on the escalation alarm system. Colored lights sit above each door and throughout the hallways of each neighborhood. Each alarm has a different protocol. The three flashing orange lights for an urgent call are accompanied by a persistent “ding-dong” and are sent to all neighborhoods, whereas the single white light for a nurse call remains in one neighborhood. By the time the first patients come through the doors, nurses will know how to respond to each of the alarms.

Next up on the agenda: trips to different places in the hospital, including walking the most efficient route to labor and delivery. Floor plans and detailed way-finding maps line the hallway for reference, but everything is different in practice. Little details like time spent going to and from the elevator add up, and if the nurses know the best way to get from place to place, they can provide the most effective and attentive care for babies.

Scavenger_HuntThe final activity for this session is a scavenger hunt. To make sure the nurses know where to find things in their units and throughout the NICU as a whole, they divide up into groups and tick off items like the circadian light switches, EKG machines, bathrooms, stairwells and supply closets. As everyone finds their way around the unit and cross items off their lists, the confidence begins to build—within no time these professionals will be in the best shape to take care of the NICU’s most in-need patients. Pretty soon this place will be put to good use.

Watch Dr. Cynthia Bearer, division head of Pediatric Neonatology, give a virtual tour of the Jiji NICU:


The 52-room unit, specially designed by clinical staff, will open September 15th.

“These Presents are Unbelievable!”

A mother of a patient in the  University of Maryland Children’s Hospital said to her husband at the child’s bedside, “Honey, you’ve got to go down and see Snow Pile. These presents are unbelievable!”

Imagine spending Christmas in the hospital with your sick child. Perhaps you are separated from your other children who are at home and well, missing their sibling. One parent stays with the sick child, the other parent is at home with the healthy children. Parents feel torn as they try to care for their entire families in different locations.

This scenario is not uncommon during the holidays for parents at University of Maryland Children’s Hospital. So the Child Life team established Snow Pile, a surprise shopping experience for parents of inpatients.

Now in its third year, Snow Pile fills empty room after empty room with presents for children of all ages. Generous corporate and individual donors graciously give presents so that families may “shop” at Snow Pile during the holidays and get a much needed break from the stress of holding vigil at a sick child’s bedside. Snow Pile enables parents to do their Christmas shopping without having to leave the hospital.

Snow Pile is just one example of how the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital tries to treat the whole family by acknowledging the needs of not just the patients, but also the parents and siblings who are all affected when a child is sick. Each year, Snow Pile serves 30-40 families. Parents are surprised to receive an invitation to come to Snow Pile, and many are in disbelief that they can “shop” without limit, for free, and have the gifts wrapped for their child. Snow Pile even provides stockings and stuffers for siblings of patients. This year Panera Bread catered the event, providing goodies for parents to enjoy while their presents were wrapped.

A special husband and wife couple, Bob and Mandy, volunteered this year at Snow Pile, wrapping presents and talking with parents of patients. In 2010, they were on the receiving end of Snow Pile when their son was a patient. They were blown away by the unexpected joy they felt from participating in Snow Pile. Since then, they have volunteered at Snow Pile each year and have turned Christmas into an opportunity for their extended family to donate gifts to the Children’s Hospital instead of buying gifts for each other.

For information on how to donate gifts for children throughout the year, visit