Why am I sad when I’m breastfeeding? It could be D-MER

It's long name is Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex and some new mums say it's taken months for them to work out what's happening...

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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.

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Mastitis is one painful issue lots of new mums face, and which we’ve heard a few celebs talk about.

But another less well-known condition – D-MER – may also make it tougher for mums to breastfeed.

What is D-Mer?

  • D-Mer is short for Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex, and is a physiological (NOT a psychological) response to breastfeeding.
  • 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.

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 health care provider’s consciousness”.

One mum’s story

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 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: Stock photo/Teagan Gambon-Johnson on Instagram

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