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Can Breastfeeding Trigger Sudden Sadness in Some Women?

Photograph by Twenty20

You probably know about the many benefits of breastfeeding—everything from bonding with your newborn (thanks to oxytocin) to helping you shed baby weight. But for some new moms, breastfeeding can trigger feelings of hopelessness, anger and sadness.

The condition is known as dysphoric milk ejection reflex, or D-MER, and The Cut recently talked to one former sufferer, Alia Macrina, now an a certified lactation consultant.

While nursing her third child, Macrina experienced D-MER, which led her to create the site d-mer.org, as well as a D-MER private Facebook group to help educate other women and reassure them that they’re not alone.

There's been little to no research on D-MER, but anecdotally, plenty of women appear to be struggling with the issue. (The topic shows up on numerous discussion boards and blogs, and even has its own hashtag on Twitter.)

Unlike postpartum depression, which is constant, the negative feelings associated with D-MER only occur when you’re nursing. According to Macrina, a sudden drop in the “feel-good” hormone dopamine is most likely to blame, although more research is still needed.

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For women dealing with D-MER, Macrina emphasizes the importance of self-care: getting enough rest, spending time with others and managing stress. She says her goal is to support whatever decision women make, whether that means switching to formula or, in extreme cases, talking to their doctors about antidepressants.

Ultimately, though, what she most often hears from women is that they just want to know that what they’re going through is normal and that they’re not crazy. Hey, isn’t that what we all want?

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