Breastfeeding stirs up a range of emotions, often due to hormonal shifts constantly taking place in a new mom’s body. Many new moms experience joyful feelings of bliss and bonding as they nourish their babies naturally, but this is not the case for everyone. Some moms have quite the opposite response due to a chemical change occurring in their bodies. The condition is called D-MER or Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex. Today we’re explaining what you should know about D-MER.
At first glance you may confuse D-MER with postpartum depression, breastfeeding aversion or some other psychological problem, however that is not the case. D-MER is a condition that causes new mothers to feel negative emotions right before and during milk ejection. While typically the feelings last only a few minutes, the emotions can be extreme and interfere with breastfeeding bonding and the desire to breastfeed.
Research shows that the neurotransmitter dopamine is responsible for this type of dysphoria. Dopamine helps release prolactin that is required to release milk during breastfeeding. Dopamine levels drop in order to trigger prolactin during a feeding and then rise as milk is released. For mothers who suffer from D-MER, the severe change in dopamine is believed to cause the emotional response.
Mothers can experience D-MER mildly, moderately or severely. Emotions range from feeling sad, depressed, anxious, angry, hopeless, lonely, or irritable. Because D-MER is a brain chemical response, mothers cannot prevent or control it. It’s also important to understand the D-MER is physiological, not psychological.
Some new moms only experience D-MER while nursing, but others with more severe cases have it during pumping sessions and spontaneous letdowns too. It can even happen multiple times during feedings as mothers typically have several letdowns during one breastfeeding.
It’s hard to tell how frequent D-MER occurs because most new moms are unaware of the condition and confuse it with many other feelings that arise in new motherhood including lactation issues, postpartum depression, exhaustion and being overwhelmed. This can then lead them to stop breastfeeding. Lactation consultants and OBGYNs want mothers to know that moms with D-MER are not alone and it is not cause to stop breastfeeding. Seeking support from other moms with D-MER or consulting your physician for treatment are the best first steps if you feel you are suffering from the condition.
Sources: D-Mer.org, KellyMom and NY Magazine