I Had a Painful Breastfeeding Condition I Didn't Know Existed
Tonight I’ve decided to sit down and write about an uncomfortable experience. Breastfeeding. I know… I sound awful, right? How can I be a mom knowing good and well that “breast is best” and be uncomfortable by the process? This is how. It is called D-MER. Dysphoric milk ejection reflex.
With both of my children, I struggled with this awful condition. Nearly five years ago when I found out I was pregnant with my son, I knew I would breastfeed. I knew nothing about it, but knew I would do it because it was “supposed” to be the best thing for my baby. At 41 weeks, my sweet boy was born and took quite well to the breast. I felt so happy and accomplished that we both knew exactly what to do. It felt so natural. It also felt… terrible. I was a new mother, so I didn’t know what to expect. I just know that before my milk “let down,” I felt inconsolable sadness. I felt such debilitating depression. It came and went in less than a minute, but the feeling was so intense. It lingered with me because the sadness felt physical. The depression physically hurt. I’d never been so overcome with intense grief and emotion that I felt like I would vomit. Yet, every time the milk came down… there was the feeling again. I didn’t say anything at first because I thought maybe I was just adjusting. I didn’t want to admit I hated the feeling. No one had ever told me this happens… so everyone must be able to deal with it. Admitting it would have made me a bad mother. I told myself all of those things.
Finally, I mentioned it briefly to the lactation consultant at my hospital. She thought it was interesting but didn’t have any idea what was going on. She kind of blew it off and said, “Well, if you know it passes you can just tell yourself that and get through the moment.” This was true, but it was still upsetting. I began to dread breastfeeding.
I shared my story with fellow moms, and no one knew what I was talking about. This apparently did not happen to all of my friends. This hadn’t happened to my mother. I was depressed but determined to figure out what was going on. I Googled frantically and finally stumbled upon some information about D-MER. It was exactly what was happening to me! Finally! I had some answers! Just seeing that there were others out there with this same condition comforted me immensely. Unfortunately, there is still not much known about this condition.
I made it six months breastfeeding my son. I had some postpartum issues in addition to the D-MER that stood in the way of breastfeeding for me. My son also seemed to nurse constantly. Stopping breastfeeding was a very sad decision to make and I had several moments of feeling like a failure, but ultimately it felt like the best decision at the time.
Last year I had my second child. An 8-pound, 10-ounce baby girl. She also took to the breast extremely well and I felt that joy and accomplishment again. Unfortunately, like last time, the D-MER was back. My daughter nursed around the clock and the let down of my milk was so intense. I experienced awful postpartum anxiety/OCD after the birth of my daughter, which seemed to make the intense emotions with breastfeeding much worse.
A few weeks postpartum I got a minor infection and had to go on medication. I had to stop breastfeeding for 10 days or so. I tried to keep up with pumping, but with a 2.5-year-old and a newborn… it was all too much. I was overwhelmed with day-to-day life, and D-MER didn’t make things any easier. I made it a few months and then switched to formula at the suggestion of several doctors. It is not the decision everyone would have made or the decision I thought I would choose, but it was the best decision at the time for myself and our family.
Breastfeeding is a huge topic in the new mommy world. There is almost a shame attached to not breastfeeding. Because of this, mothers with any sort of issue feel guilty, embarrassed, less than, ashamed. I can’t honestly put into words the hurt I felt/feel knowing both of my children were excellent eaters that took extremely well to the breast and I was the reason they weren’t breastfed for an extended period. I can’t go back to that place. It was something that contributed to my extreme postpartum depression. The guilt was unprecedented. But because of this, I ask the mom community to come together for other moms, all moms. You never know another person’s story. You may not even know conditions like D-MER exist. Your experience is your own. What a new mommy needs most is love.
I’ve linked to a few articles about dysphoric milk ejection reflex in this post, and I encourage new mothers (or anyone) to check them out. More research is needed for this condition as well as knowledge and support. If you think you may have D-MER, please see your doctor, and for now take comfort in the fact that I know what you’re going through, as well as many other moms. It is tough, but you will get through it.
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