What is D-MER? And why you might get it when you’re breastfeeding

D-MER - Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex - is an upsettingly negative physiological response to breastfeeding. What does it feel like, and how do you know if you have it?

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Breastfeeding can be a wonderful thing to do, and so bonding – but there’s no doubt that, for some mums, it can come as a bit of a struggle. And, though it’s not common, that struggle can sometimes have at the heart of it a little known physiological condition called D-MER or  Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex.

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What is D-MER?

  • D-MER is a physiological (NOT psychological) response to breastfeeding (it can also happen when pumping as it’s linked to milk release).
  • Just before milk is released, the mother feels an abrupt sense of negative emotions, which lasts for around 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
  • The mother will feel this ‘sadness’ just before the letdown in her breasts. She may feel it for just the first letdown of a feed or for more than one.
  • Whether or not she has these sad feelings from all letdowns and when pumping will depend on how severe her D-MER is.

D-MER is NOT a general dislike of breastfeeding, annoyance of the baby struggling to settle or anything to do with the discomfort you feel from nipple pain.

What’s the scientific evidence for D-MER?

Currently, not much research has been carried out on D-MER, but a picture of it has been built up by hundreds and hundreds of women sharing anecdotal evidence. There is a website, D-Mer.org, started by a lactation consultant and dedicated to the topic.

We also found a mention of D-MER on the online US National Library of Medicine which suggests a link between low dopamine levels and D-MER.

While it’s still not much talked about, this report states that D-MER “deserves a place in the lactation consultant’s and healthcare provider’s consciousness”.

What’s it like to have D-MER?

In a heartfelt blog post Instamum of 2 Teagan Gambon-Johnson shared how “breastfeeding made me want to curl up and die”.

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She attributed what she was going through specifically to D-MER saying:

“I suffered with D-MER. D-MER stands for Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex and means that my hormones had gone haywire, and the hormone dopamine dropped way too low when I ‘let down’ (when my milk started to come out).

“Instead of feeling all of those beautiful, loving and bonding emotions, I instantly felt like I had been hit by a truckload of depression.”

Teagan said she only realised what she had after a bit of Google research, where she found a number of mums talking about what she was going through. She recalls:

“It was somewhat comforting knowing that I wasn’t going mental, but horrible realising that it’s so rare that no one really knows much about the topic.”

Where to get help if you think you have D-MER

If you recognise the symptoms you’ve read about here, and think you might have D-MER, there is a Facebook community page dedicated to it – though you could also try chatting to mums in our forum and seeing if anyone else is going through something similar.

Pics: Getty/Teagan Gambon-Johnson on Instagram

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