When Alaska teen Kaleena Pysher learned she was pregnant at 18, she knew firsthand what it would take to have a baby so young—her sister had a child at 14—and decided adoption was best. The now-19-year-old wanted to give her child good parents and a good education, something she felt she couldn't do, and when she learned a former babysitter was looking to adopt, she knew she had found the right fit. She spent her pregnancy sending the adoptive parents updates. "I would tell them, 'Oh, she has the hiccups today,' or, 'She's moving around a lot today,'" Pysher tells TODAY Parents. But there was something else the teen wanted to give: breast milk. After learning from a home health nurse that "when a baby is fed breast milk, they are just way ahead of the game" she realized she wanted to pump and mail the milk to the baby girl.
Raylie Brooke (Pysher got to choose the middle name) was born in November, and Pysher held her for much of the first 48 hours. But she let her go after 2 days, wanting the baby to bond with her new parents, and spent the next 2 months suffering through cracked and bleeding nipples to pump. "I just sucked it up and kept going," Pysher tells Alaska Dispatch News. Her supply was huge—at one point she was pumping 12 ounces every 2 hours—and one shipment hit 80 pounds. She's now down to pumping twice a day and plans to donate her extra supply to a milk bank in Colorado (Alaska doesn't have one) that sends it to a NICU. She expresses worry about losing touch: "As long as I’m still giving them breast milk, they still need me for something. [The baby] still needs me. But now that I’m tapering off..." But the adoptive parents assure Pysher that there will be birthday visits and video chats in the years ahead. (Another touching story: A man's wife left him, but he won't give up his baby with Down syndrome.)