THE BREASTFEEDING BLUES…

I breastfed both my girls without too much difficulty – so much so, I’m now having trouble convincing Lil Sis to graduate to the bottle!

Due to the great latching-on advice I received before I left hospital, I never had to deal with mastitis, or bleeding nipples, or any of those other horrendous side effects that a lot of Mums have to endure.

But I did experience something else – something I’d never heard other Mums talk about. I never said anything about it because I didn’t really know how to describe what I was feeling. I thought people might just think I was a bit strange if I tried!

As soon as the baby latched on this awful feeling of dread and foreboding would flood through me. My stomach would drop, my heart would pound, and I’d feel completely and utterly desolate.

To use a bit of Harry Potter terminology, it was like the Dementors were nearby, and were sucking all the light and joy out of the room. Then, 20 seconds later, all the horrible feelings would disappear.

When the same thing happened again after Lil Sis was born, I decided to try and work out what it was. I typed in: ‘Anxious feeling while breastfeeding’. I had to weed through dozens of sites, but eventually I found something…

It was a blog called A is for Akari and the blogger Kim was talking about feeling nauseous, guilty, sad, and generally yucky for the first minute or so of breast feeding. Then the feelings would just disappear as quickly as they arrived.

She linked back to another site, which talked about a condition called Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex – or D-MER.

Dysphoria is the opposite of euphoria. Instead of feeling happy, elated and excited, you feel anxious, depressed, restless, and even nauseous.

As I read down the page, I knew this was exactly what I had been experiencing.

I’m not claiming to be an expert on this condition, or how it affects other people, all I can tell you is how it made me feel. For those few moments, I would feel utterly hopeless – like I had absolutely nothing in life to look forward to anymore. Which wasn’t at all true, as I was totally enamoured with my new baby.

Over the next few weeks the feelings pretty much disappeared and I forgot all about them – until Lil Sis arrived and they all came flooding back again.

Just like with Big Sis, they gradually lessened over the next eight weeks or so. Bubs is seven months old now so it’s not really a problem any more, although I still occasionally feel – for lack of a better word – icky for the first few moments of a feed.

Docs still don’t know all the facts about D-MER, since it’s a newly recognised condition, but here’s what I found out about the condition, from the support website.

D-MER is a sudden flood of negative feelings at the time of milk release, and lasts just a few minutes. It’s physiological condition, but it has nothing to do with the baby blues, or post-natal depression.

Symptoms can range from mild anxiety, to overwhelmingly sadness. At its most extreme some women will even feel suicidal thoughts.

Apparently it’s to do with the surge of the hormone prolactin as your milk is released. Simultaneously your levels of dopamine (known to lift your mood) plummet momentarily, leaving you feeling depressed and despondent until they level out again.

It makes perfect sense you think about all the changes and hormone surges your poor body has to endure after childbirth.

It’s reassuring to know there’s a real reason for these strange feelings, and I’m not just going mad! Well, not from this anyway…

I’d be interested to know if any of you felt similar feelings??

For more information about Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex, visit: www.d-mer.org

22 Comments

  1. midlifesinglemum - May 3, 2011

    I didn’t have this but what I did find was that every question I had about my baby and our experience did not appear among the FAQs in all the baby books. Obvioulsy I didn’t need the books for commonly known dilemmas but this is all they gave. It is so important for women to share all these unusual events so that others can get the support they need and not feel so isolated or freaky. Thank you for this.

  2. Mummy's Little Monkey (@Jax2000) - May 3, 2011

    Midlife Single Mum: Thanks for your comment. Someone should put out a book – ‘The Stuff They Don’t Tell You About Motherhood!’ It would be a massive help when all those bizarre things happened, wouldn’t it??? Hmmmm, I can feel another post coming on… ;)

  3. Kim - May 3, 2011

    I’m so glad that my post helped you! For me it really made a big positive difference just to understand what was going on; to have a name for it. I’m working on an article about D-MER right now and hopefully will be able to get it published soon…I think there’s a lot of women out there that would benefit from knowing about D-MER.

    I love your blog, you are so talented. Keep blogging!

  4. overthehillmum - May 3, 2011

    I didn’t have that, but I did find it really interesting reading. Never heard of it before.
    Thanks for sharing that x

  5. Mummy's Little Monkey (@Jax2000) - May 3, 2011

    Kim: I know just what you mean – it doesn’t take away the ‘icky’ feeling, but it helps to know it’s normal and that there’s a valid reason for it happening.

    Please keep in touch – I’d love to read your article when it’s published. Am thinking of approaching some of my magazine clients over here with a similar story idea! x

  6. Mummy's Little Monkey (@Jax2000) - May 3, 2011

    Over The Hill Mum: I’m glad you found it of interest – even if you didn’t experience it yourself at least you can now pass on the info if you ever hear other people referring to it! x

  7. Perfectly Happy Mum - May 3, 2011

    I didn’t breastfeed my boys so I won’t be able to add anything but I just wanted to say that I find it fascinating, I didnt know at all this could happen just through milk release. The body is an amazing machine.

  8. Fiona Flaherty - May 3, 2011

    I had real trouble breastfeeding both my sons so when my first daughter came along and she took to it straight away I was really pleased. I don’t think I experienced the anxious feeling to quite the same degree as you did but I did always feel a wave of what I can only describe as like home sickness followed by thirst which lasted for a few minutes. I only had this for a few weeks but experienced the same when I had my second daughter for her first few weeks too. She’s 9 months now and I’m still feeding her myself but I don’t get it any more, it never really occurred to me that anyone else would have anything like it!

  9. Mummy's Little Monkey (@Jax2000) - May 3, 2011

    Perfectly Happy Mum: It’s quite bizarre how the body works, isn’t it??? x

  10. Mummy's Little Monkey (@Jax2000) - May 3, 2011

    Fiona Flaherty: Homesickness is actually a good way of putting it! It’s such a funny mix of emotions – that’s why it’s so hard to really describe it to anyone else. x

  11. Anna - May 3, 2011

    This is SUCH an interesting article. I had this too, but put it down to being a part of PND and having a painful let-down reflex – I thought the panic feelings were because I was worried about the pain, but the feelings remained long after the pain had stopped. It’s good that more information is coming to light, and well done for doing some research! Now, on with that book you mentioned…x

  12. Emily O - May 4, 2011

    Yes I had this, I just put it down to the raging hormones after each child! Really interesting, and reassuring, that other mums get it too and that it has an actual (difficult to pronounce) name. I remember it was worse during the night feeds when I also used to get feelings of real anxiety. Horrible when I look back. The fact I was exhausted didn’t help!

  13. Mummy's Little Monkey (@Jax2000) - May 4, 2011

    Anna: Isn’t it reassuring to find out there’s an actual reason behind those strange feelings? I just wish I’d be warned about this before Big Sis was born! x

  14. Mummy's Little Monkey (@Jax2000) - May 4, 2011

    Emily O: I’m quite shocked at how many women are telling me it happened to them too. I guess we all just put it down to the intense physical demands of post-pregnancy, and don’t think to question further. x

  15. Kimmy - May 4, 2011

    I had postpartum depression with my first child (who was breastfed) and not with my second child (bottlefed). I always thought breastfeeding had something to do with it. Feeding the baby is usually what was jump-start the whole “downward spiral” each day. This makes me feel a lot better about it all.

  16. Mummy Matters - May 4, 2011

    I had this with Little Bean but not with Beanie Boy (so perhaps its a ‘girl’ thing?). I would cry because I felt so emotional when I began feeding her but like you say, just like that, it would disappear again and I’d be telling myself – sort yourself out woman. I just put it down to hormones especially when it disappeared around 7-8 weeks. Great blog post Jax, nice to have an answer xx

  17. Mummy's Little Monkey (@Jax2000) - May 4, 2011

    Kimmy: I can totally see how that would contribute – the negative feelings really are quite overwhelming. I’m really glad it’s helped you to see it’s not ‘you’ it’s those pesky hormones!!! x

  18. Mummy's Little Monkey (@Jax2000) - May 4, 2011

    Mummy Matters: I think that’s what makes D-MER so hard to ‘diagnose’ because the feelings disappear completely, and leave you wondering if they were really there at all, or if you were just being a big hormonal hot mess!!!! x

  19. Luschka - May 5, 2011

    Wow. That’s REALLY interesting. Thanks for sharing. I’m going to try read up more about it :)

  20. Babes about Town - May 7, 2011

    Gosh, I love the clunky names they come up with to describe conditions that it’s turning out are far more common than most of us realise.

    i didn’t know about this and I’m glad you wrote about it, just goes to show how frankly amazing mums are, what we persevere through in the name of loving and raising our little ones.

    Great description with the Dementors – but scary!

    BTW, did you spot that I tagged you for Mrs Lister’s Q&A Meme? Come check it out!

  21. Mary Frances S. - August 18, 2011

    So glad I found you. Looking forward to all the mommy advice. I’m a new follower from the Monday Mingle. Such a cute site! Would love a follow back!

    http://willandmaryfrances.blogspot.com

  22. Chef in Training - August 21, 2011

    You have a great blog! I am visiting from the blog hop! I am your newest follower and would love it if you would follow me back too! Thanks so much!
    -Nikki
    http://chef-n-training.blogspot.com/

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