Nobody wants to be thought of as flawed, and it can be hard to admit that you’re struggling—but I’ve realized that the struggle for perfection is a lonely and fruitless endeavor. No one’s handing out prizes […]
Nobody wants to be thought of as flawed, and it can be hard to admit that you’re struggling—but I’ve realized that the struggle for perfection is a lonely and fruitless endeavor. No one’s handing out prizes for appearing to be a perfect mom, and when you finally share your pains and imperfections, you often find out that you’re not alone.
I’ve talked about being proud of myself for breastfeeding for this long (almost eight months at this point), and I’ve complained about the pains of pumping along with the serious time commitment that breastfeeding requires. However, there’s something else that I’ve failed to share …
I’ve been dealing with something called D-MER, or Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex. For a long time, I didn’t know it had a name—I just knew that I felt bad. When I pump, and occasionally when I breastfeed, I feel a wave of sadness wash over me for the first few moments of my letdown. Sometimes it’s more than sadness—it’s a sudden and fleeting feeling of self-disgust or a heaviness in my chest that’s hard to describe.
Before I learned about D-MER, having these feelings would cause me to feel guilty, creating a vicious cycle of negativity. I would think: Why do I feel so bad? What’s wrong with me? Isn’t breastfeeding supposed to release love and bonding hormones? Feeling like I was crazy only made matters worse.
When I stumbled across an article about D-MER on Pregnant Chicken’s website, I felt so relieved! I realized that I wasn’t just crazy and that I’m not the only one dealing with these feelings. I read a lot and have scoured the Internet for articles about all things related to new mamas, but it was months before I came across anything on D-MER. Even though I am a nurse who works in an OB/GYN office, I had never heard of it! So I’m putting my pride aside to write about this, just in case any of you new mamas out there are feeling the same way.
According to D-MER.org, “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.” So what causes D-MER? When a milk release is triggered, prolactin levels begin to rise. Dopamine (a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers) helps control the secretion of prolactin, and dopamine levels must drop for a short time in order for prolactin to rise. Once prolactin has begun to increase, dopamine levels stabilize.
Normally, this drop in dopamine is not noticeable, but the drop is different in women with D-MER—studies suggest a larger and faster drop, which may be the cause of noticeable negative emotions. As dopamine levels stabilize and milk begins to flow, the dysphoria dissipates.
I dealt with these negative feelings for months without knowing what was going on, but learning more about the condition has really helped me cope. I’ve noticed that breathing deeply when I first turn on my pump and sipping a beverage seems to help, or sometimes I’ll watch a video I’ve taken of Graham or even scan Pinterest for recipe ideas—I try to do anything that is positive and distracting. Thankfully, the dysphoria only lasts for a few seconds each time. It’s not great, but it’s something that I can deal with.
It’s never fun to admit imperfection, but if even one mama reads this and feels like it resonates with her and what she’s been experiencing, then I’m glad I shared!