'I Wanted To Die In The First Few Seconds Of Breastfeeding My Baby' New Mum Says

'I Wanted To Die In The First Few Seconds Of Breastfeeding My Baby' New Mum Says

Have you heard about D-MER, the intense condition than affects some breastfeeding women with negative feelings? Read about it here.

Tania* is a new, breastfeeding mum who experienced D-MER letdownnegative feelings. She shares her story:

"Within the first couple of seconds as my baby latched on, and coinciding with letdown, I felt this huge wave of anxiety and sadness engulf my whole being. The feeling lasted for only a few seconds. But during that time, I wanted to die, the feeling was that intense, and I wanted to hurt my baby very badly for making me feel this way."

You might think Tania suffers from post-natal depression. But actually, she doesn't. What Tania has is a condition known as D-MER (Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex), and one that is often confused with post-natal depression.

D-MER Letdown Negative Feelings: What is D-MER ?

D-MER letdownnegative feelings

According to D-MER.org, "Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex is a condition affecting lactating women that is characterised by abrupt dysphoria that occurs just before milk release and continuing not more than a few minutes."

In other words, a mother suffering from this condition experiences acutely negative emotions; (i.e. dysphoria) just before the letdownreflex occurs while breastfeeding. Scientists only discovered the condition a few years ago, with the term coined by a group of US-based lactation experts. They could not get to the bottom of why some breastfeeding women suffered these drastic, unexplained mood swings while nursing.

There are three types of D-MER: 

 

  • Despondency
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation

What the mother experiences depend on where her dysphoria falls on her emotional spectrum. So, depending on this, the feelings she experiences could range from just homesickness to absolute rage.

 

There are also three intensities of this condition: mild, moderate and severe. The particular intensity experienced by a woman with D-MER depends on criteria such as how many letdowns per nursing session she has and how long the D-MER takes to correct itself.

It is not yet known why some mums experience D-MER while others do not. But expert belief at the moment is that it is related to how the hormone dopamine (read below for more on this) functions in certain women.

What happens during letdown?

When a milk release or letdownis triggered, levels of the hormone prolactin rise even before milk starts flowing through the breasts.

A brain chemical called dopamine controls this release of prolactin and so, for the levels of prolactin to rise, the levels of dopamine need to dip briefly. And once the prolactin levels slowly rise, the dopamine levels re-stabilise - this happens to every single breastfeeding mother.

The Relationship Between D-MER Letdown Negative Feelings And Dopamine

D-MER letdownnegative feelings

Experts believe the physiological (not psychological, like post-natal depression) condition of D-MER; is related to a rapid and sudden decrease in dopamine just before breastmilk letdown, rather than a gradual dip. As soon as the dopamine levels correct themselves, the dysphoria disappears.

Dopamine is a hormone that releases 'feel-good' chemicals such as endorphins around the brain. A rapid dip in this hormone leads to extreme feelings of sadness. And so, when experienced by a breastfeeding mother, this gives rise to D-MER.

However, research is still ongoing to uncover the specific mechanisms involved with D-MER.

How does D-MER letdownnegative feelings make moms feel?

The Australian Breastfeeding Association describes the various words that women with D-MER use to talk about what they feel when the condition sets in:

  • Hollow feelings in the stomach
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness
  • Dread
  • Introspectiveness
  • Nervousness
  • Anxiousness
  • Emotional upset
  • Angst
  • Irritability
  • Hopelessness
  • Something in the pit of the stomach.
D-MER management

According to information from D-MER.org, the management of this condition differs according to the severity of the woman's experience.

Mild D-MER

Mums with mild D-MER often find it much easier to manage the symptoms once they know exactly what they are dealing with. In other words, education about the condition helps such mums a lot.

Moderate D-MER

Education also helps these mums manage their symptoms better. If this doesn't work, then such mums should track their D-MER so they get a better understanding of what triggers the condition; (e.g. stress, lack of sleep, caffeine) and what helps ease the feeling (e.g. more rest, drinking more water, exercise).

Severe D-MER

Women who experience severe and extreme feelings related to D-MER should seek medical advise without delay. Often, treatment involves prescription drugs that increase dopamine levels. However, certain natural remedies, such as eating one's own placenta (via placenta encapsulation), taking vitamin B complex, or rhodiola (a herb, also known as roseroot/ golden root) supplements may also help.

As always, medical advice must be sought before commencing any medication, whether prescription-based or natural. 

More important facts about D-MER

letdown

  • D-MER is not a dislike of breastfeeding. In fact, women with the condition generally say they enjoy breastfeeding except for the few seconds/ minutes of dysphoria.
  • Mums with the condition experience D-MER related feelings just before letdown. It lasts for a few seconds to a couple of minutes.
  • Depending on the intensity of the D-MER, a mother can experience negative feelings during just the first letdownin a feeding session, or in all subsequent letdowns.
  • D-MER is not related to nipple contact or dislike of the sensation of nipple tugging.

Mums, if you are experiencing the D-MER symptoms as described in this article; it's important that you speak to a doctor without delay.

References: D-MER.org, Kellymom.com

*Not her real name. 

We hope you found this article informative and useful. Do share it widely with your friends who might be breastfeeding or pregnant. 

Read Also: Challenges That Childless Couples Face And How To Respond To Them

Written by

Gboliwe