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The Emotional Impact of Painful Breastfeeding

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I thought it was just another of my many idiosyncrasies. Each time my milk let down, I felt my emotions spin out of control. Mostly, it manifested as deep, nauseating sadness. Sometimes hopelessness, and other times anger. It would last for about 30 seconds and then, as quickly as it came, my storm of despair would pass. Not until years later, as I nursed my second child, did I learn that this sudden dip in happiness actually has a name, and many women endure this rarely-discussed side effect of breastfeeding.

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The cramps that accompanied my first days of nursing my child were enough to make me want to lock visitors out and demand silence. In fact, these after pains were just as painful as labor pains (why did no one warn me?!) But even after the contractions subsided, I found myself wanting to retreat from the world every time Baby got hungry. I would snap at my loved ones and/or experience a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that could be perfectly summed up in the definition of dysphoria: "a state of feeling unwell or unhappy."

I was so relieved when I learned about D-MER (Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex), and that these negative emotions didn't make me a bad mother. In fact, they made me a completely normal mother experiencing the hormonal roller coaster that is postpartum.

D-MER is simply a drop in dopamine. It's not a reflection of some maternal flaw. It definitely isn't a sign that you should stop breastfeeding.

According to D-mer.org, "Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex is a condition affecting lactating women that is characterized by an abrupt dysphoria, or negative emotions, that occur just before milk release and continuing not more than a few minutes."

It is not:

· a psychological response to breastfeeding.

· nausea with letdown or any other isolated physical manifestation.

· postpartum depression or a postpartum mood disorder.

· a general dislike of breastfeeding.

· the "breastfeeding aversion" that can happen to some mothers when nursing while pregnant or when nursing older toddlers.

D-MER is simply a drop in dopamine. It's not a reflection of some maternal flaw. And it definitely isn't a sign that you should stop breastfeeding. My experience with D-MER has been difficult but fleeting, and I now nurse my toddler and feel only the cuddle hormones.

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If D-MER is sounding all too familiar, know that it does pass. And if the dysphoria is too intense for you to just wait it out, don't give up on breastfeeding! This dip in happy hormones can be treated with prescription medications, supplements, and lifestyle changes.

Until then, hang on mama, you can do it!

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