For those of you who breastfed your babies, did you ever feel sad, melancholic, anxious, or panic while nursing? How about that feeling that can only be described as some sort of homesickness? If you did, then you most likely suffered from Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER). This “homesick” feeling affected me while breastfeeding both of my children and I often wondered if the brief, yet overwhelming sadness I felt was a product of postpartum depression or the “baby blues”. My curiosity prompted me to Google “sad while breastfeeding” and I was surprised to find that other women experienced this as well, and that what we were experiencing even had a name! I mentioned this to a couple of moms I know and they had felt it, too. I was amazed at how common this “condition” was and confused as to why moms weren’t warned of it or talked to about it. As with so much related to motherhood and childbearing, information did not appear to be readily available or in necessary abundance.
During my research I discovered www.d-mer.org
and it made me feel at ease and comforted to know I wasn’t the only one experiencing D-MER. As the information on the home page states, D-MER occurs at the onset of letdown and only lasts a brief period of time – usually up to a couple of minutes or less (although the duration can be longer). It is caused by a significant drop in dopamine as reported here: http://d-mer.org/Mechanism_of_D-MER.html
As noted in D-MER.org, it’s important to be aware of the following which are not related to D-MER:
D-MER is not a psychological response to breastfeeding.
D-MER is not nausea with letdown or any other isolated physical manifestation.
D-MER is not postpartum depression or a postpartum mood disorder.
D-MER is not a general dislike of breastfeeding.
D-MER is not the "breastfeeding aversion" that can happen to some mothers when nursing while pregnant or when nursing older toddlers.
The Australian Breastfeeding Association says this about the severity of symptoms: “Some mothers with D-MER have mild symptoms. For example they may describe it as a ‘sigh’. Other mothers with D-MER may experience severe symptoms of D-MER (eg suicidal or thoughts of self-harm).”
Again I am amazed at the lack of resources and information available from doctors, OBGYNs, lactation consultants and breastfeeding classes with respect to a condition that affects so many breastfeeding mothers and could be a direct or contributing cause to severing a breastfeeding relationship, sadness, depression, lack of enjoyment and detachment in the nursing bond. As I’m sure many other moms can attest to, there seems to be great pressure from hospitals, doctors, and other moms to breastfeed and we are consistently advised of the benefits of breastfeeding. What boggles my mind is why this relationship is not encouraged in a realistic and informed manner. In other words, why aren't we more well-informed of the possible problems and disappointments we might face while breastfeeding so that we may be better equipped to persevere? I have heard from so many new moms that they wish they would have been advised about how difficult breastfeeding can be and that armed with this knowledge they might have been better prepared to face their nursing challenges.
I am sure that my feelings are biased based on my personal experiences as I felt quite alone, isolated, uneducated, and in despair when I began my breastfeeding journey with my firstborn. Through determination alone I was able to continue breastfeeding past the first 2 months of bleeding nipples, mastitis, engorgement, and consistent 2-hour nursing sessions. I realize there are resources I could have utilized, such as La Leche League and various breastfeeding buddies groups, however I was shy and socially awkward as a first-time mom and felt great anxiety with just the thought of reaching out. There has to be a better way to encourage a breastfeeding bond between mother and child than just listing off the benefits. We need to know the hurdles we might face and the tools we can use to overcome the disappointments and difficulties.
I wanted to write this post to help spread the knowledge about D-MER and my hope is that at least one mom will feel better about her breastfeeding experience knowing that this is a natural bodily process and she is not alone in how she feels.