Nurses Hold Adorable ‘Graduation Day’ for Preemie Babies Leaving the Hospital

Congratulations to the tiniest (and cutest!) Class of 2017!

Courtesy Lauren Naldzin, Bella Baby PhotographyIntroducing: the newest Class of 2017. That’s right! These proud cuties just reached a huge milestone—and they only arrived a few months ago.

For neonatal nurse Melissa Jordan and her colleagues at Caromont Regional Medical Center in North Carolina, graduation season lasts year-round. The staff at this Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) holds mini ceremonies for babies leaving their unit. The result? Absolutely precious—and heartwarming. You’ll want to take home these babies, too!

Courtesy Lauren Naldzin, Bella Baby PhotographyEvery one of these teeny tiny graduates was born six or more weeks premature. When newborns are admitted to the NICU, they often require intensive medical care due to a severe illness or prematurity.

“We make sure these babies are being fed and cared and loved for, and of course that the parents get to bond with them while they’re in the NICU,” Jordan told BuzzFeed Health.

Courtesy Lauren Naldzin, Bella Baby PhotographyAnd that’s just being humble; in reality, these doctors and nurses save their tiny patients’ lives every day. But this NICU staff does another important thing for its little ones. When the infants are healthy enough to go home, Jordan and her colleagues hold a small graduation ceremony for baby and family.

What do the preemies get for their achievement? A one-of-a-kind graduation cap and a professional portrait to capture the special day.

The nurses make the tiny caps out of colorful foam sheets and label each one with its own unique message—“X days behind me, a whole lifetime in front of me”—inserting the number of days they spent in the ICU.

Courtesy Lauren Naldzin, Bella Baby PhotographyAs if the infant-sized caps aren’t cute enough, let’s talk about these precious portraits by Bella Baby Photography. Not only are these snapshots “coo”-worthy, but they also capture a cherished memory for the family. And that’s not all! When Jordan recruited the company for her program, they decided to give parents the pictures for free.

“It is very rewarding to provide images that serve as timeless memories to celebrate the incredible milestone of graduating from the NICU,” said Lauren Naldzin, Director of Operations at Bella Baby Photography.

Courtesy Lauren Naldzin, Bella Baby PhotographyJordan started the program six months ago, thanks to one baby who stayed in the NICU for over two months. When he was discharged to go home, his family brought a onesie that said “NICU grad,” and Jordan had a flash of inspiration. She immediately went home and made a personalized graduation cap out of construction paper.

“The day he got discharged, we gathered staff and we went in singing and dancing and gave him his cap—and his parents just smiled ear to ear—that’s when we knew it was something we wanted to keep doing for other families,” Jordan said.

The parents loved it, the nurses were hooked, and so a tradition was born. Since then, 14 babies have graduated from the NICU, including three sets of twins.

Crazy about babies? Next, check out these adorably cute baby pictures that everyone needs in their lives.

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