A mother sheepishly confided “To be honest, I don’t really like breastfeeding.” It did not feel blissful. She actually felt despair in anticipation of breastfeeding. She knew it was good for her baby and it’s what she wanted to do. Yet, whenever she breastfed, she felt “weird.” She was describing D-MER: Dysfunctional Milk Ejection Reflex.
D-MER is when you feel strong negative emotions: sadness, anxiety or irritability that arises with letdown or during breastfeeding. It’s due to a hormonal fluctuation of dopamine. For some women, it is momentary. For others, it is incapacitating, making it difficult to breastfeed. Dysfunctional Milk Ejection Reflex is a real condition.
To be clear, this is different than painful nipples, engorgement or mastitis.
What can you do about D-MER?
As always, reliable naps, wholesome diet and companions who understand this will be important. Here are a few options for alleviating the symptoms.
• Some prescription anxiety medications may help.
• Acupuncture can help rebalance your hormones.
• Some herbs are helpful. Confer with someone trained in herbal medicine, a naturopath doctor or an acupuncturist.
This D-MER.org website is an excellent resource.
The point is this.
You are not crazy, you are not a bad, you are not sick. It may decrease over time, it may not. You need to know that and also, what will work for you. Let the IBCLC know how you feel, what is happening, so she can be most effective in helping you.
At the beginning of a consult, a mother described her feelings to me. When she began pumping, she immediately felt a wave of depression, became pale and began to cry. This mother felt nauseous and sad just looking at the pump and anticipating letdown. She and her husband were perplexed. When she stopped pumping or feeding, she slowly recovered.
I was very glad for her honesty. Pumping would have been helpful to maintain her supply. Yet imagine if I’d been encouraging a pump routine while all along she just felt sick? I explained that D-MER is a real concern.
We reviewed her options, starting with what was working. It did help her to enjoy her baby resting skin-to-skin on her chest. That was comforting to the whole family.
A surge of nausea and depression, rather than bliss, is not your fault and need not be your shame. Parenting is a job with so much feeling… from the heart and the gut.
Talk with an IBCLC so you can find a healthy, comfortable resolution.