Having a baby is a miraculous thing, but when complications arise and the baby needs special care, it can be hard on families, as they struggle to balance the joy of having a child with the emotional upheaval of caring for that baby in the hospital. And when all of that happens during the holiday season, all of those emotions are magnified exponentially.

The staff at the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) at St. Luke's hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, decided to help the families of their patients celebrate the season with a special photo session of their babies dressed up as holiday presents. The babies were decked out in festive knit hats and felt gift wrapping and bows and then photographed with a little help from volunteers at the March of Dimes and photographers from Faces You Love Photography.

The photographers, NICU moms themselves, knew just how important it is for the babies' families to have these milestone mementos of their little ones.

Gift wrapped baby Families of NICU babies were treated to a special holiday surprise this season. (Photo: March of Dimes and Faces You Love Photography)

The families also received a "Twas a Night Before Christmas" card that included a mouse made with of their child's footprint, a small Santa bag filled with candy, a crocheted Santa hat or bow cap and a book for the family to read together.

NICU baby holiday photo shoot Each baby's family was sent home with a card featuring their baby's footprint, a hand-knitted cap, some holiday treats, and a holiday book they can share with their child. (Photo: March of Dimes and Faces You Love Photography)

This isn't the first time that the NICU team pulled off a holiday miracle to surprise their patients' families. A few months ago, the NICU staff dressed their patients in Halloween costumes that the parents picked out to match their babies' personalities. They also gave the parents hand-crocheted trick-or-treat bags along with “trick or treat, smell my feet” cards with their newborns’ tiny footprints.

NICU baby holiday photo shoot The photos were taken by photographers who were NICU moms themselves. (Photo: March of Dimes and Faces You Love Photography)

NICU families who celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanzaa were given photographs and gifts that more closely aligned with their holiday festivities.

NICU baby holiday photo shoot NICU babies whose families celebrate Kwanzaa were dressed in green, white, gold and black and given gifts appropriate for the holiday. (Photo: March of Dimes and Faces You Love Photography)

"The holidays can be an especially emotional time for families in the NICU," said Jennifer Hamblin Robinson, marketing director for the March of Dimes. "Babies here are usually born premature or sick, and they may spend weeks or months growing healthy enough to go home. So providing these special families with an opportunity to celebrate the holidays in a memorable way allows them a sense of normalcy, and an opportunity to celebrate their babies’ first milestones — even in the hospital — which is what every family wants to do!"

NICU babies make precious holiday gifts
Photo sessions at St. Luke's hospital in Kansas City, Missouri capture the magic of each baby's first holiday season.