Alexis Carter-Cook watched with a big smile on her face as Santa Claus strolled into her daughter’s room at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

“I really want a picture with Santa for her first Christmas,” she said.

Sitting beside the crib where her baby girl, Mi’Asia Merriweather, snoozed contentedly, Alexis watched as Santa stopped at each crib.

“I think it’s amazing that people would do that for the children,” she said. “It’s so nice people have such holiday spirit.”

Santa, played by retired neonatologist Craig Kinney, MD, made the rounds Sunday in the NICU at Gerber Foundation Neonatal Center at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. At parents’ request, he visited each child and posed for photos.

Alexis didn’t expect to have a Christmas baby. Her daughter was due in February, but she arrived ahead of schedule on Dec. 2.

“This is the best Christmas present ever,” she said, gazing at her little girl.

When Santa arrived, he cuddled the 3-pound, 11-ounce baby, navigating around the tubes and monitors with practiced ease. Years of experience caring for fragile newborns made Dr. Kinney the perfect Santa for the NICU.

He posed for photos with Mi’Asia, and with Alexis and her fiancé, Brandon Boersma.

“I love it,” Alexis said. “This just makes me smile. I am going to frame this picture.”

Santa moved onto the next room, spreading holiday cheer—while taking care not to disturb the sleeping babies.

“Ho, ho, ho, merry Christmas,” he said quietly as he entered each room.

As expected, the infants melted the hearts of Santa and the staff members who helped arrange the photos.

Dressed for the holiday, they were little bundles of cuteness—wearing fluffy bows, green bibs, red hats and reindeer outfits. One baby girl was tucked in a pink Christmas stocking. A little boy sported suspenders and a bow tie.

Some babies twirled their hands in Santa’s fluffy white beard. Some smiled. Some squawked.

The tiniest of babies remained in their cribs. Santa leaned close for a photo.

Twins Bennett and Dawson Skutt were ready for his visit, wearing elf hats that read “My First Christmas.”

Parents Jordan and Koddy Skutt beamed as nurses tucked one twin into each of Santa’s arms. The babies’ eyes flickered open and then they slept again.

“They’re beautiful,” Santa said.

His visit with Alicia and Danny Thomas’ family brought triple joy.

As Santa sat in an armchair, a nurse helped arrange the couple’s 2-day-old triplets. She tucked Theo in his left arm and Malia in his right arm. She settled Zara in the middle.

The parents smiled at their three newborns.

“The best Christmas present ever,” Danny said.

With their 2-week-old son, Hugh, in the NICU, Vanessa and Brent Hartley have not had much time to think about holiday celebrations.

“I kind of forgot about Christmas,” Vanessa said.

Just anticipating Santa’s visit gave them a boost.

“This is really nice,” Vanessa said, as she watched her son cradled in Santa’s arms. “I’ve been telling him all week you better be ready for Santa.”