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From the moment I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I had visions of rocking and nursing that baby for hours upon hours. Looking down upon my child while he lovingly nursed would secure the strong and permanent bond that so many new moms gush over experiencing. Breastfeeding problems were at the bottom of my expectations list after carefully reading What To Expect When You Are Expecting and pouring over weekly emails regarding my baby’s development.
My labor and birthing experience were fortunately quite positive. After my water broke in a slightly similar fashion to the Coneheads “The Birth Spasm Has Begun“, I quickly realized that I had to push a baby out of my body. Yes, that should not have come as a shock…but it wasn’t until that moment that I truly contemplated the miracle of birth. Seven hours later and Connor Robert was born.
After the skin-to-skin, the weighing, and the cleaning, it was time to nurse. Because it takes a few days for a momma’s milk to drop, and the baby latched just fine and dandy, my husband and I went to sleep tired and excited for this new journey. The hospital stay passed quickly with my milk coming in right before taking our baby home. Everything was right on track.
When Connor refused to latch, I attributed the dread I experienced every time I attempted nursing to the anxiety of not being able to breastfeed. This firstborn quickly realized that a bottle was more efficient than nursing driving me to pump before each feeding. I did not know what I was doing and this was before the blessed pumping bra was invented. So every time my baby would scream, I hooked my chest up to a machine holding the cones in my hands, rocking my baby with my knee, and found myself crying. Chalked it up to first time parenting.
Fast forward to baby number two, Brendan Patrick, and I jumped on the anti-depression meds quickly after his birth. Once I stopped nursing and had a few months of medicine, I was back to myself. It wasn’t until baby number three (Maura Grace) that I was able to correlate these negative feelings of dread and anxiety with the timing of my milk dropping. A quick google search gave me a name for this breastfeeding problem: Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex or D-MER for short.
What Is D-MER?
According to the D-MER.org website, Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex is defined as “a condition affecting lactating women that is characterized by an abrupt dysphoria, or negative emotions, that occur just before milk release and continuing not more than a few minutes”. Directly under this definition, the website states that this condition is most often found when googling “breastfeeding problems” or “sadness when breastfeeding” which is exactly how I discovered the name of my breastfeeding problem.
For me, the main symptom was an overwhelming feeling of dread or anxiety right before my milk would come down. Additionally, I sometimes experienced uneasiness and a knot in my stomach which I attributed to anxiety. From what I’ve read, this is typical and it can continue with each let down throughout the feeding.
Breastfeeding Problems That Are Not D-MER
D-MER is a relatively new breastfeeding problem that can be difficult to distinguish from everything else. To further help moms pinpoint the issue, the website goes on to describe what D-MER is not:
- Postpartum depression. While I did additionally have postpartum depression with my second child, after experiencing it, I can confidently say that I did not have postpartum with my third. I did however experience the feelings of dread and anxiety when getting ready to nurse my daughter.
- Psychological response to breastfeeding. Yes, there is such thing as a psychological response but that is a different breastfeeding problem. D-MER is physiological as it deals with dopamine not dropping properly.
- Dislike of breastfeeding. Because D-MER is a physiological issue, it is not a dislike of nursing. If you do dislike breastfeeding, that is OK! It does not mean you are a bad mom. As moms, we were not physically or mentally built the same. Breastfeeding is no different. Whether you experience a breastfeeding problem or not, you may still just not like breastfeeding.
Treatment and Correction of This Breastfeeding Problem
Because it is a newly identified breastfeeding problem, I didn’t find that many if any clinical treatments exist. Information and community is key. If you believe you suffer from D-MER, read up on D-MER.org and join the Facebook group created specifically for moms going through the same thing.
Additionally, try to log your breastfeeding journey in association with what you are eating, drinking, and your exercise habits. You might find that this breastfeeding problem can be helped with shifting the amount of caffeine you consume, water hydration, or sleep (or lack there of). Another suggestion I found if you have D-MER symptoms and want to continue feeding your baby breastmilk is to pump vs. nursing. This way, you are not associating negative feelings with nursing your baby.
Being a mom is hard. And when breastfeeding problems enter the picture, the role of newborn mom becomes even more difficult. If the symptoms described above sound familiar, start investigating and speak with your physician. Ask questions and talk to other moms. While I didn’t realize what was affecting me until later down the road in my mothering journey, hopefully, this helps at least one of you mommas out there feel a little less alone.
WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out this article on 6 Foods To Avoid While Breastfeeding.
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