Understanding Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex or D-MER

TheWetNurseAt three and half months I’m happy to say I love breastfeeding and plan to keep it up for a year. This is a breakthrough for me. For the first month I was hoping I could hold out for six-months. It was a rocky start for sure. I had to supplement with formula due to jaundice. My nipples were cracked, so physically it was pretty painful. And then I had this weird depressed sensation every time I’d start to feed. This hollow, desolate feeling almost made me switch to formula long before my 6-month goal.

It’s called D-MER or Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex. It’s a purely chemical response to the milk let-down reflex. Normally, when breast feeding, dopamine must drop in order for prolactin to rise. In mother’s with D-MER, the dopamine drops too much or in a way that, in me at least, turns the normal bonding feeling into this horrible, desolate yearning. They sure never warned me about this in childbirth class.

I powered through it, pretty much miserable every time I had to breast feed for the first month. I would distract myself by reading blogs on my iPhone or watching TV.  It was so disappointing that I wasn’t having these poignant, bonding moments with my baby that they always talk about.

Then it began to get better. At first I thought I was just getting used to the feeling, but after two months it was pretty clear that the empty yearning feeling had transformed into what it’s supposed to be – a feeling of very strong bonding. It’s like the yearning, falling feeling is still there to an extent, but then I land and I have what I was yearning for – my baby, and the love and happiness I feel in that moment is extraordinary.

So breast feeding has become like a drug for me. It relaxes me and makes me happy. I have a feeling that not all mothers have this strong response, but since I had such a hard time with the down side of my chemical sensitivity, the D-MER, I’m going to enjoy this upside for as long as I can.

If you’d like to read more about D-MER, you can start at www.d-mer.org.

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  1. WOW! What a difficult experience that must have been. You are so brave for writing about it! Would you mind if I posted a link to this post on my blog?

  2. Not at all. Post away. I imagine there are many women who have experienced this and thought it was postpartum depression. Perhaps giving up on breastfeeding because of it.

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