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Nurses honor tiny 'graduates' leaving the NICU

Courtesy CaroMont Health(GASTONIA, N.C.) -- A North Carolina hospital is celebrating babies who are ending their stay in the neonatal intensive care unit.

The staff at CaroMont Health in Gastonia, North Carolina, honor their tiny patients with a special photo shoot and a graduation cap.

About six months ago, Nurse Melissa Jordan began the "graduation ceremonies" after she helped care for an infant who spent 62 days in the NICU.

On the day he was leaving, the baby's parents dressed him up in a "NICU Grad" onesie, which inspired Jordan to continue the tradition.

"It's an emotional roller coaster for a preemie," Jordan, 28, told ABC News. "One day could be really happy and then another day there can be several setbacks. You have to be there emotionally for the parents and celebrate every single, teeny milestone."

On the last day of the NICU stay, each baby gets a professional photo shoot and a foam cap with a message written by Jordan.

Bella Baby Photography takes the photos of each graduate free of charge.

"We thought it'd be a great experience for us to give back to the families and be a part of that milestone as the babies are being discharged," said photographer Amanda Meixsell.

Jordan will display the pictures of all the NICU grads on the walls of the unit to give hope to preemie parents, she said.

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