Health

These Nurses Are Holding Graduation Ceremonies For Babies Leaving The NICU

Congrats, teeny tiny graduates!

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Graduation season might be over for schools, but it's still in full swing for neonatal nurse Melissa Jordan and her colleagues at CaroMont Regional Medical Center in Gastonia, North Carolina.

Courtesy of CaroMont Health

The staff at Birthplace, a birthing and family care center at CaroMont, are doing something very special for some of their youngest patients.

The staff has been holding mini ceremonies for babies leaving the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) who were born 6 or more weeks premature.

Bella Baby Photography / Via bellababyphotography.com

Newborn babies are admitted to the NICU when they require intensive medical care, which can happen for a number of reasons but often because the baby is born premature or ill. The NICU is staffed by a team of doctors and nurses who take care of the infants until they are healthy enough to go home.

"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. When the babies are finally discharged, Jordan and her staff hold a small graduation ceremony for the baby and their family.

Each NICU grad gets sent home with ~full honors~ and receives a personalized graduation cap and portrait.

The graduation caps are made out of foam sheets and come in a variety of colors, each with the message, "X days behind me, a whole lifetime in front of me," with the number of days they spent in the ICU.

And the portraits of these grads and their tiny caps are seriously cute...

Bella Baby Photography / Via bellababyphotography.com

"When I started the program, I called Bella Baby Photography — they take pictures of all our babies going home — and asked if they could come photograph the NICU grads, and the photographer actually offered to give these pictures to the parents free of charge," Jordan said. Now each family can go home with a graduation portrait of their NICU grad to cherish.

Jordan said she was inspired to start the program 6 months ago, when she wanted to do something special for a baby who had been with her the NICU for 62 days.

Courtesy of CaroMont Health

"We had a baby born at 29 weeks gestation so he was in the NICU for over two months, and when he was finally ready to discharge, the family came and brought this onesie that said 'NICU grad'," Jordan said. After seeing the onesie, Jordan said she wanted to make the day even more special — so she 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 response from families was overwhelmingly positive, so the staff at CaroMont decided to start an ongoing NICU graduation program.

Courtesy of CaroMont Health

"It's just for babies born at 34 weeks of gestation or earlier — or 6 weeks premature — so they've been at the NICU for a while and when they leave it's a huge accomplishment not only for the baby but parents as well," Jordan said. The program was started as a way to celebrate this milestone in the babies' lives.

"Eventually, we hope to make a wall of graduates with these photos because it can also help give new parents in the NICU a little hope and reassurance," Jordan said.