When Breastfeeding Makes You Feel Sad…Could It Be D-MER?

When breastfeeding works well, it’s an amazing thing.   Of course, like anything else, it doesn’t always go well.  This is one of the reasons why I am still working, and not unemployed.  I have seen various things happen with breastfeeding…latch issues, pain, weight gain problems…the list goes on.  Sometimes, I have a mother and baby who are doing ok, or so it seems.  The latch is fine.  The baby is gaining great.  No pain.  The new mother doesn’t feel ok.  Breastfeeding is fine, but she doesn’t feel fine breastfeeding.  How can this be?  Everyone talks about what a beautiful experience it is, how special the bonding is, how sweet and nurturing breastfeeding is for both mom and baby.  She feels none of this.  Instead, mom feels awful; upset or sad, anxious, maybe nervous.  Sometimes she might feel as if there is a hole in the pit of her stomach – just empty…hollow.  After the baby has been feeding for a few minutes, things are ok, but those first few minutes are enough to make her give a bottle.

This is Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex or D-MER.

It’s awful.  One of the worst things about D-MER is that not many people are aware that it happens.  They mistake this for depression or just another postpartum issue and don’t look for help.  Some don’t even realize that it’s related to breastfeeding.  So what is D-MER?  It is a hormonal issue, not a psychological issue.  It is not post partum depression or baby blues. Researchers believe that it is due to an exaggerated decrease in dopamine as the milk lets down.  Once the milk lets down and baby is feeding, the feelings of sadness pass.

There are ways to cope with D-MER, weaning your baby is not the only answer.  If you feel like this is something you are experiencing, talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant.  Educate yourself about it, just in case you need to pass that education on to others.

Here is some great information about D-MER, what it is, how to manage it, and how to talk to others about it: http://d-mer.org/Home_Page.html.