A small percentage of breastfeeding mothers experience a condition known as Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (DMER). Mothers describe DMER as a wave of negative feelings when they begin to feed. It occurs suddenly, and disappears within seconds, or may take up to 10 minutes. The range of emotions includes: dizziness, sadness, irritation, restlessness, anger, panic, or depression/anxiety. In some severe cases mothers may experience waves of suicidal ideation or severe depression. Some women feel these symptoms are so severe, they discontinue breastfeeding.
Why Does This Happen?
We don’t know yet exactly why this happens to some mothers and not others. It does appear to be physiological, not psychological, meaning it is a function of physical and chemical processes. D-MER is not a component of postpartum depression or other perinatal mood disorders, but may occur simultaneously. One theory is that prior experience of significant stress may make a mother’s brain overreact to current stress, causing her to
protect herself and baby. Others believe it may be caused by the increase in prolactin that is released when milk ejection happens. However, currently, the strongest theory indicates that it has to do with the sudden decrease in the brain chemical dopamine, that occurs just before milk is released. Research is limited, as D-MER has only recently been recognized. More research is needed, but in the meantime, there are ways to help.
What Can We Do To Help?
Classical conditioning can help. By helping a mother’s hormonal system upregulate oxytocin while downregulating her stress system, symptoms can be relieved.
We’re here to help you in any way we can. We provide in-person or virtual consults with our highly skilled, compassionate lactation consultants (IBCLCs), and you are always welcome to join us in an uplifting, non-judgmental FREE Online Breastfeeding Support Group.
***The information provided on our website is intended solely for general educational and informational purposes only. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician for any questions you may have regarding your or your child’s medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have received in this information.***