Breastfeeding bub can make your heart soar but for some mums, it can actually dig up negative feelings. D-MER or Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex is a condition that makes mums feel sad for a short time just before let down and it’s the reason why some mums struggle with feeding their little ones.
Mum’s Grapevine expert, lactation consultant Lynne-McKensey Hall explains what D-MER is, how you can get through it and how long it’s likely to last.
Do you feel sad or even irritated or angry when you breastfeed your baby? You may be experiencing D-MER, Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex. D-MER is characterised by a dysphoric or sad feeling you experience just before you have a let down or milk ejection. It is difficult to say how many mums actually experience D-MER because more scientific research is needed about the condition.
Also, mums may feel they are imaging things, concerned they may be labelled with depression and, perhaps embarrassed to admit they feel sad or ‘dysphoric’ while breastfeeding. This is especially challenging when ‘everyone’ is saying you should feel the opposite – ‘euphoric’ and happy.
While I personally haven’t consulted with a mother who has experienced D-MER I have heard mothers speak at conferences about their experiences of D-MER. It’s a real chemical reaction in the brain. The important message I want anyone who feels they may be experiencing this condition is to know that you are not ‘imagining things’. You are not experiencing postnatal depression and you don’t have to be embarrassed.
What is D-MER
D-MER is a physiological condition with an emotional response. It occurs because of a ‘sea-sawing’ of hormones and in particular an inordinate drop in dopamine when the milk ’lets down’. The feeling or symptoms you may experience for 60-90 seconds before the let down can be: sadness, homesickness, despondency, tearfulness, irritation, anxiety, a ‘sense of dread’ and you may even feel suicidal. Some mothers experience headaches and nausea.
D-MER can take four days to two weeks to settle down and should be considered as a normal variable in your early breastfeeding journey. Some mothers’ experience symptoms throughout their entire breastfeeding experience. They may or may not do so again when breastfeeding other babies.
D-MER or PND?
It’s very important to understand that while these are real and ‘scary’ feelings, they are short lasting as emotions drop suddenly while breastfeeding. This is significantly different to postnatal anxiety or depression where some of the feelings as described above are sustained over variable periods of time. This means it’s important you are
correctly diagnosed by your health professional and not given medications you don’t need.
As with most things, once you know there is an explanation for what you are experiencing and you are ‘not going mad’ it can make it a little easier to deal with. Understanding you have a condition from chemical interactions in the brain can hopefully relieve some of the anxiety you no doubt would be feeling.
What can you do if you have D-MER?
While there does not appear to be any definitive treatment, some mothers have found ‘mindfulness’ and focussing on D-MER being short-term helpful. Mindfulness might take the form of focussing on your favourite TV show, looking at Facebook, talking on the phone while feeding, deep breathing with your eyes closed as you start feeding. Having something you enjoy like a chocolate or drinking some liquid while the let down comes through.
Check on the obvious things by making sure you are keeping hydrated, resting or sleeping when your baby is asleep, eating well and adding extra protein to your diet. Some say that taking Vitamin D and B12 may help.
Lynne-McKensey Hall is an internationally certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) working as Lactation Consultant and Endorsed Midwife in Sydney. She specialises in antenatal breastfeeding and birth classes and ongoing breastfeeding support. She consults via Better Beginnings in-home, in her clinic and via Skype or FaceTime anywhere in Australia or overseas.
If you’d like to chat to other new mums experiencing similar feelings, pop your head into one of our super supportive, closed Baby Groups. The Mum’s Grapevine closed pregnancy and baby groups are safe and supportive Facebook groups based on the season you’re due or babies birthday.
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