I’m no Earth Mother – far from it – but I was always set on breastfeeding my children.
Luckily, I was able to do so, but only because I was fortunate enough to have a lactation specialist on the ward when Big Sis was born.
Seeing I was having difficulty, she swept over and took charge. ‘What you need to do is THIS,’ she announced firmly, cupping the back of Big Sis’s head and pushing her on to latch by forcing her mouth open like a python with a reticulated jaw.
It seemed a bit brutal, but it totally worked! From that moment the mechanics of breastfeeding were easy. But then I noticed something else – something the specialist hadn’t mentioned, in fact something I’d never heard of before. Immediately after Big Sis latched on these terrible feelings of dread would flood through me.
You know that feeling when you realise you’ve forgotten an important appointment, or left your wallet in a taxi? It would start like that, and it would literally turn my body cold. Then it was like the lights had suddenly been switched off in the room, and for about 30 seconds I’d be engulfed in utter desolation. Everything suddenly seemed cold, and dark and so utterly pointless.
Then, as quickly as it started, the cloud of doom would lift and everything would feel fine again.
As Big Sis grew older the feelings gradually subsided, and I totally forgot about them (although I then encountered some different breastfeeding problems) until Lil Sis was born and the same feelings returned. This time I was determined to figure out what was going on with me.
I turned to Dr Google, typing in: breast feeding, anxiety, feelings of dread. Finally, I found a single blog post where the blogger was describing the same symptoms as mine. She mentioned a condition called Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex, or D-MER, and linked to a page of a non-profit organisation, D-MER.org, that was raising awareness of what – until just two years earlier – had been a completely unrecognised and unnamed condition.
When the body releases milk in preparation for breastfeeding, our natural dopamine levels must drop to allow prolactin (the hormone that allows our body to make milk) levels to rise. For most women, the exchange in levels is smooth and perfectly balanced, and they don’t notice any change.
For others – like me – the levels become temporarily unbalanced. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that controls the brain’s reward and pleasure centres, so when the levels plunge you’re left with feelings of dysphoria – anxiety, hopelessness and desolation.
Knowing I wasn’t alone in these feelings, and that there was a reason for them, was such a relief.
As with Big Sis, after the first few weeks of breastfeeding Lil Sis my D-MER began to recede, but I was left with a much better understanding of the physiological toll breastfeeding can take on your body, and ended up writing about the dysphoria I experienced while breastfeeding.
We’re taught to take supplements before pregnancy, and vitamins during, but I wonder how many mums remember to continue with post-natal supplements after baby has arrived?
It’s so easy to overlook yourself when you have a newborn baby to care for, which is why Vitabiotics Pregnacare also has a range of post-natal supplements formulated to support new mums after the birth of their child.
This careful blend of vitamins and minerals will help replenish the nutritional stores lost during pregnancy and labour, and help prepare new mums for the demands of breastfeeding.
Because healthy, happy mum means healthy happy baby.
Have you ever experienced similar feelings while breastfeeding? Let me know in a comment.
• Read more about WORLD BREASTFEEDING WEEK