The Breastfeeding Condition Mothers Are Not Talking About

ALLIANNAH HAMILTON/PHOTOGRAPHER

Is This Postpartum Depression?

Shortly after giving birth to my fifth child, Sosa, I began to notice this odd occurrence while breastfeeding. To be more specific it occurred shortly before my let down began. For the longest time, I believed that it was a form of postpartum depression. The only problem was, I did not have any of the symptoms or feelings that were associated with postpartum depression outside of this occasional occurrence – when my let down happened. In fact, I felt great, I was active, there weren’t any negative thoughts, etc. It wasn’t until my sixth child that I realized the same phenomenon I had with Sosa, was happening again with Shiloh.

Right before my milk let down, I felt a sudden shift in my temperament. I noticed an instant change in my mood, and negative emotions that came about when initiating breastfeeding. Other times, it was the feeling of anxiousness or the feeling of butterflies in my stomach and sometimes both. A few minutes would pass shortly after let down, and my temperament would go back to how it was. I couldn’t explain what was happening to me and I didn’t want the doctor’s telling me I had postpartum depression, so I decided to do my research. I began tracking how often it happened and when it would happen. All I know is it had something to do with my let down and the feeling would eventually go away. Shortly after conducting my search, I quickly realized I was not alone. Many other mothers had experienced the same symptoms and reactions that I did when breastfeeding. And I finally had a name for it.

Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER)

Though, there is limited information on this phenomenon, it does exist and many mothers have or will experience it at some point while breastfeeding. The term for this sensation has been called Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER). D-MER has been associated with a sudden drop of dopamine, which occurs during milk release causing the dysphoria, negative emotions, and anxiety. As with any type of reflex, D-MER, it isn’t something that a mother can control; it is controlled by hormones.

(D-MER). According to DMER.org, “Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex is 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.

http://www.d-mer.org

How Long Does It Last?

Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER) only happens briefly. It happens just about every-time you begin breastfeeding but only after letdown. It is not caused by breastfeeding but it is linked to letdown that occurs while breastfeeding. In mild conditions, many mothers begin to notice this weird feeling subsiding after about 3 months of breastfeeding. Mothers like myself, also noticed that regardless of pumping or feeding directly from the breast, the feeling still occurred. However, feeding and pumping were not the only times I experienced let down. My let down often occurred shortly after getting out the shower which is when I expected to experience D-MER. In severe situations, some mothers may experience the effects of D-MER longer than 3 months for up to a year or longer.

More Dopamine Please!

Currently, there is no cure for this weird condition and no, I would not recommend you seek out medication for something that is only temporary. However, research suggests that more dopamine seems to help with this condition. Listed below are my five ways to increase dopamine.

  1. Coffee. My personal favorite, that’s right, you guessed it, coffee. Coffee has been shown to release dopamine, the feel-good chemical in the brain. Which explains why I was always so eager to have coffee right before breastfeeding. If your not a coffee drinker or feel that caffeine is making D-MER worse; there are many natural remedies that you can try to help with the release of dopamine.
  2. Make sure to get a good nights sleep. I know right, kind of impossible when you have a newborn that wants to eat every two hours. If you are not getting enough sleep, then I recommend sleeping when the baby sleeps as much as you can, it helps.
  3. Exercise Often. Now, sis, if you just had a baby, then please wait at least six weeks before trying to resume back to your usual routine of squats. Until you get the green light from your doctor, I would recommend doing any of the tips listed.
  4. Sunlight, Sunlight, Sunlight. I always had a want for being outside and in the wilderness. I really think it can be therapeutic. Nothing wrong with going for a walk or even having one of your breastfeeding sessions outside on your porch. I would love to breastfeed on the back porch, it had just enough sunlight for baby and me and it really helped!
  5. More Protein and Probiotics. It’s almost always because of food right? Doesn’t it seem like the starting point with our bodies going wrong is always regarding what we eat. Well in this instance, I’ll just say implement more probiotics in your diet like yogurt as well as protein should you feel the need to.

Now What?

This weird phenomenon is still new, and lets face it many mothers are not talking about it. So your probably left wondering what you can do to help deal with this condition. Well, easy! Just continue to go about your everyday tasks as usual. The first line of defense is being aware. Educating yourself about D-MER is half the battle. Knowledge really is power. I am all about giving myself mental reminders, so this would be a good time to let yourself know, the sensations are temporary and will subside.

Lets be real moms, being a parent is fucking exhausting! Should you experience negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions outside of let down, and more than a few times through out the day. Or if you have thoughts about hurting yourself or someone else then it is important that you reach out to your healthcare provider for assistance! Do not be afraid to ask for help! Never be afraid to talk to a family member, friend, or stranger about what you are experiencing. Postpartum depression is real and more common than you think.

If you would like to know more about this topic, check out the following website: www.d-mer.org, for more information. It helped me, and it will help you.

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