For most breastfeeding mothers, the act of nursing releases endorphins that reduce stress and make us feel happy and close to our babies. For some nursing mothers, however, the biological act of breastfeeding can release hormones that do just the opposite.
D-MER (Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex) is a newly recognized condition that is still virtually unknown by many. The condition causes a brief surge of dysphoria, or negative emotions, that peak before milk letdown in some nursing mothers and then generally dissipates quickly after the milk release.
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.
Dysphoria is defined as an unpleasant or uncomfortable mood, such as sadness, depressed mood, anxiety, irritability, or restlessness. Etymologically, it is the opposite of euphoria.
Motherwear’s Breastfeeding Blog has more information:
The feeling varies for each D-MER mother to some degree but can include a sinking feeling in her stomach, a feeling of hollowness, anxiety, panic, sadness, restlessness and self disgust. This wave of feelings corresponds with her release of milk, but many mothers don’t make that connection. There are three reasons for this: Firstly, because the mother also has the feelings with spontaneous releases when she is not breastfeeding; secondly, because not all mothers feel a letdown tingle in their breasts to connect the emotion with letdown and thirdly, because the emotional overload happens just prior to milk release, making it something that is not always easily connected for some mothers.
It is important to note that D-MER is not psychological. It should not be confused with post-partum depression and it is not caused by a dislike of breastfeeding.
D-MER is generally relatively short lived, lasting less than two minutes of the nursing session. It may or may not occur during pumping or spontaneous letdown, depending on the severity of the case.
For many mothers, D-MER will pass after around the third month post-partum. For others, it may last the first year and for a rare few, it lasts until weaning. D-MER.org reports that there are a number of natural treatments for D-MER that nursing mothers can try.
You can learn more about D-MER and find support from the following sources:
- Dysphoric milk ejection reflex: A case report (PDF article published in the International Breastfeeding Journal)
- Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER) from the Australian Breastfeeding Association
- D-MER: What is it? from LLL’s Breastfeeding Today magazine
- Nurse until you cry from Attachment Parenting International’s blog
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