This is a strange association to have with breastfeeding and often mums won’t discuss it with anyone, as they feel there is something wrong with them. Having spoken to a few mums, who all have the same symptoms, I knew there had to be an explanation – but couldn’t find one. That is until now!
Mums, if you are experiencing feelings of anger, anxiety, sick in the tummy feeling, down, drained and just not enjoying breastfeeding during the feed, but feel totally fine as soon as the feed ends, you are probably suffering from D-MER, dysphoric milk ejection reflex. This is not the same as baby blues or post natal depression – no, it is a short lived feeling which is triggered by let-downs.
As you will have a number of let-downs in quick succession during a feed, it is more noticeable. However, as mums often have let-downs during the day, triggered by baby crying or a fullness in the breast, these short bursts of feeling down are also noted in between feeds.
There is still a lot of research that needs to be done in this area, but it is important to know that these feelings are caused by hormonal fluctuations – dopamine to be precise. So how does it work?
“Milk release itself isn’t caused by dopamine dropping; it’s caused by oxytocin rising. In D-MER, the MER (milk ejection reflex) is a result of rising oxytocin (needed to move the milk out of the breast) but the D (dysphoria) is a result of inappropriately falling dopamine. Dopamine gets involved because it inhibits prolactin (which is what makes the milk,) so dopamine levels need to drop for prolactin levels to rise in order to make more milk. Normally, dopamine drops properly and breastfeeding mothers never knew it even happened, in D-MER mothers however, it doesn’t drop properly and causes a negative emotional reaction.” (taken from www.D-MER.org)
D-MER is a very new term to something I have come across many times. Many mums have also stopped breastfeeding as they felt that stopping breastfeeding would be the only way to resolve this awful feeling they experienced while nursing.
There are a number of things a mum suffering from D-MER can do. Firstly, check your diet, get some sleep, be aware that the feelings you are experiencing are not true emotions, but emotions brought on by hormonal changes during the feed. Distracting yourself with the onset of feelings will help you recover quicker, watching TV, reading a book, planning a holiday/party.
I am so pleased that these symptoms are finally being taken seriously and researched. Breastfeeding is such an emotive experience and comes hand in hand with a lot of pressure. Pressure to feed the baby enough so that he/she grows, caring for the baby so that he/she sleeps and allows the family to sleep, learning to feed without pain, feeding through pain (unnecessarily, I dare add).
So next time somebody tells you that they don’t like breastfeeding, before bombarding them with the many benefits and reasons the should continue, it would be worth asking a few more questions or simply mentioning D-MER.org, so that they can find solutions and get back to enjoying breastfeeding as much as they possible could.