We talk a lot about nursing. We discuss extended breastfeeding, tandem nursing, nursing through pregnancy, nursing aversions, weaning, etc. Well here is a new one to me. Some women experience dysphoria during let down. It is not the same aversion, nausea, or even postpartum depression with which we've become familiar. It is Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex, also known as D-MER.
To understand the reflex you must know that when a milk release is triggered prolactin levels begin to rise even before milk has begun to flow through the breasts. Dopamine helps control the secretion of prolactin and so dopamine levels must lower briefly for prolactin to rise. Once prolactin has begun it's slow climb, dopamine stabilizes. This happens to every lactating mother.
Dopamine is known for having an effect on moods and in a mother with D-MER dopamine is behaving somehow inappropriately in its drop. It is in this very quick and immediate drop that a mother with D-MER feels her dysphoria. As dopamine levels restabilized, the dysphoria is gone.
- International Breastfeeding Journal - Dysphoric milk ejection reflex: A case report
- Kelly Mom - Depression or other negative emotions upon milk let-down
There IS help, this IS treatable. Your doctor may not even be familiar with it yet, so be prepared with resources. There are some natural remedies as well, including placenta encapsulation.
Many women wean earlier than they planned because they can't make peace with their negative feelings when nursing. These women do not realize they are not alone. My heart goes out to these women, one a dear friend of mine, who are dealing with this problem. I'm glad my friend figured it out and got help. I want to help get the word out to other mothers so they can know, too, that they are not alone.
Jorje is a slightly crunchy momma (and wife!) sliding down the slippery slope to full-on hippydom. She stays busy with 3 children and is passionate about breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby signing, elimination communication, and general attachment parenting. Jorje blogs at Momma Jorje where she also advocates for Down Syndrome Awareness. She dreams of hitting the road full time to unschool with her family, recently started her own dreadlock journey, and is personally interested in tarantulas, macro photography and minimalism.