The Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professions is home to the Tiny Cubs Community Baby Shower, an event which has gained an international following.

Small Idea Becomes Genesis of Big Change

Dec. 26, 2023

Ella G. Stephenson , at

In the Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professions at the University of North Alabama, Dr. Melissa DeFoor and Dr. Ann-Marie Irons had an idea that would improve perinatal education in the community, and, as it turns out, well beyond the Shoals. 

Their idea – the Tiny Cubs Baby Shower – would grow to be recognized across the United States and the globe for its educational and societal impact. 

In 2021, the Alabama infant mortality rate was 7.6 deaths per 1,000 live births, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. Defoor and Irons sought to decrease the infant mortality rate by educating the public on infant and perinatal care. 

“Dr. Irons and I received grant funding from the Alabama State Nurses Association and planned our first event in the Fall of 2021,” DeFoor said. “The event was well-received, and it was decided that we would continue this event each semester.” 

At Tiny Cubs shower events, maternity nursing students choose a perinatal or neonatal topic and create educational materials to be presented in a fun baby shower atmosphere. 

After its first semester, Tiny Cubs expanded when the need for a sibling class was identified. Pediatric nursing students host a sibling class during which siblings-in-waiting learn how to care for their new brother or sister. 

“Tiny Cubs is the absolute best community experience of this nursing program,” said Alexandria Malone, a Level 4 nursing student. “Being a student who gets to be the change and educate not only future parents but the future big siblings as well on the excitement, scares, and expectations that come along with expanding their family is something you don’t get to do often.” 

November 18 of this year marked the fifth Tiny Cubs Community Baby Shower at UNA, and, since its start, the event has now extended well beyond the community and region it was originally intended to educate. DeFoor and Irons have been consulted twice to help create similar events in other states. 

In the Spring of 2024, 16 undergraduate nursing students as well as one graduate nursing student are expected to travel to Cleveland, Ohio, to host a Tiny Cubs Community Baby Shower in collaboration with Lamaze International to increase participation in the Black Birthing Initiative. 

According to the Creating Healthier Communities Organization, the goal of the initiative is to “reduce the effects of racism, stress, and unmet social determinants of health to decrease the incidence of preterm birth among Black women and birthing people.” 

A blog posting by Lamaze International gained recognition for Tiny Cubs, and the event’s founders have since presented at a Lamaze International conference to birth workers from across the world. 

“Dr. Irons and I presented preliminary findings regarding the impact of the [Tiny Cubs] shower on nursing students at the 33rd Congress for Sigma International in Edinburgh, Scotland,” said DeFoor. 

Further, Tiny Cubs created Project MEEM: Minority Education for Equity in Maternal Care to increase minority representation in the perinatal field. Project MEEM scholarships are awarded to underrepresented students to assist with the cost of nursing school in the hops of increasing diverse representation in the obstetrical/gynecological/neonatal nursing profession. Already, Tiny Cubs has awarded $10,000 to four senior-level students. 

“This scholarship was so beneficial for me in my last semester of nursing school,” said MEEM scholarship recipient McKenzie Gordon. “I started the semester so overwhelmed and working two jobs while trying to complete all my clinical requirements for graduation. This scholarship was truly a blessing and allowed me to focus more on school, so I didn’t have to worry about how many hours I would have to work.” 

Tiny Cubs aims to continue to provide perinatal education to the community, offer scholarships to increase minority representation in perinatal nursing fields, and team up with Lamaze International to host the baby shower in Cleveland, Ohio, to help increase research participation with the Black Birthing Initiative.

Tiny Cubs’ work is sure to continue changing and saving lives and current and former UNA nursing students use their Tiny Cubs experience to educate others. 

“I graduated from UNA and accepted a job as a labor-and-delivery nurse, and I still use the things I learned from school and the community baby shower and sibling boot camp to educate the mothers that come into the hospital,” said Lexie Duca Gentle. “Overall, the community baby shower and sibling boot camp were such a joy to be part of, and I am forever thankful for it.”

About The University of North Alabama

The University of North Alabama is an accredited, comprehensive regional state university offering credential, certificate, baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral programs in the colleges of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering; Business and Technology; Education and Human Sciences; and the Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professions. The first-choice University for more than 10,000 on-campus and online students, UNA is on a bucolic campus in Florence, Alabama, part of the historic and vibrant Shoals region. Lions Athletics, a renowned collegiate athletics program with seven (7) Division II National Championships, is now a proud member of the NCAA Division I’s ASUN Conference. The University of North Alabama is an equal opportunity institution and does not discriminate in the admission policy on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, disability, age, or national origin. For more: and