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Terrible Feelings Surrounding Letdown?

You might have something called Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex -D-Mer for short.

I stumbled across an article a couple of days ago and while I’m still reading about the condition, I didn’t want to wait until I was more knowledgeable before sharing it here. 

Just-Identified Breastfeeding Disorder Gives New Meaning to ‘Letdown’,” written in Babble’s Strollerderby, speaks D-Mer, a negative visceral reaction surrounding the let-down reflex while nursing. It seems to have been begun being studied in 2008… that’s the earliest studies I can find. (A list of the available studies is found on the D-Mer.org website.) 

While the causes are still being explored and studied, it seems there’s a glitch in the dopamine receptor and its regulation. This is the more scientific area I’ll look at later. 

It’s the information that women aren’t nuts if they feel these feelings during nursing that I want to get out right now. 

Alia Macrina Heise writes in “Opening the Door to Breastfeeding’s Best Kept Secret”: 

“The birth was a fairytale and my babymoon was like a dream. Then the babymoon came to an abrupt end as I started to find that just before my milk released, each and every time, I had an overwhelming sensation of guilt, dread and horror. I didn't have any pain, no physical problems, just a surge of negative emotions that hit me in the gut out of nowhere, only to fade away a few moments after my milk released from my breast. I felt great otherwise.” 

Michelle writes in “A Feeling of Dread – Michelle’s Story”: 

“I asked myself if maybe it was postnatal depression, but that didn’t sit right. I was actually elated to have birthed at home and to have had such a great experience. Maybe I was coming down from that high? I wasn’t sure. At first the bad feelings were like an intuition, that something really bad was about to happen. There was nothing I could put my finger on, but I had been trying so hard to tune into my intuition over the final weeks of pregnancy and during labour, I thought I was somehow now psychic and that bad things were about to happen to me, the kids, my husband, the house. Once I even hobbled out of bed to check my older son, not really sure why, but so sure that something was wrong.” 

This is fascinating. And is a testament that even someone like me who reads nearly everything she can find on birth and nursing, there are still black holes of knowledge that need filling. I wrote in Facebook: 

“It's when topics like this come up... a very, very important link in the birth process... that I've never heard of before that keeps me humble as all get out. You all see only a part of what I read on a daily basis and... for goodness sake,... I was a La Leche League leader for 10 years! I just cannot believe I've never heard of this. 

And yes! When I take this new color to the breastfeeding spectrum and hold it up against the misunderstood or confusing situations I've seen over the last almost 3 decades, some of them make perfect sense. As Erin said, ‘I never understood why some women said they hated breastfeeding... now I get it.’ 

And, beside the humbling aspects, this also serves as a GLARING reminder of the massive amounts of information still yet to be ‘discovered’ and named and studied... experiences women right next to us... or even ourselves... have no explanation for that, if we had the future knowledge, might change the entire relationship with our bodies/our breasts/our babies/our partners/our minds. 

Just wow.”

I hope this information resonates with any of you that might not have heard of D-Mer either.

References (1)

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Reader Comments (8)

This isn't about the subject of this post, sorry, I put some of my thoughts of that on the FB post , but about your having been a LLL leader. When I looked at the picture somewhere back in this blog of you nursing one of your kids, something made me think I had seen it before. Was that picture or a similar one in LLL news?
Or maybe it was just the phenomena of deja vu.

February 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Peterson

Not that I know of, Susan.

February 12, 2011 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Goodness, YES I had this in 2003. I read an article in New Beginnings a year ago and it got me to revisit my journaling from that period (scribbles in an old notebook)... WOW did I ever have this. I actually felt so bad that I would hide in our walk-in closet behind our luggage when it was time to nurse- despite wanting desperately to breastfeed. I had thought it was related to PPD, but looking at my writing- I can see the difference between the two. I definitely had both.

February 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVanessa

WOW. Just WOW. It makes sense, though. Every system in the body is designed to run perfectly, but every system has their share of glitches that occur in some people. But WOW. Nursing was the ONLY thing I felt I could do surrounding my births that was MINE (2 c-secs). Imagine those mommas who've endured surgical births just to have D-Mer after. Whole new level of sympathy occurring now...

February 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBecky

Wow, I wonder if this is what I had. Whenever I nursed I felt this overwhelming anxiety. If someone was visiting and I started to nurse, I'd have to stop talking to them because the anxiety and dread would be so strong that I'd feel like I had to throw up. I mentioned it to a LC and he (yes he, great in general) dismissed it and said, "many women feel protective when they nurse." I wasn't feeling protective, I was imagining all the awful things that could happen to my baby. I'm actually scared of having a 2nd because the anxiety was so overwhelming.

February 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKate

Kate: It definitely sounds like it... and I can understand the worry/fear about a next time. I haven't read through enough to know if there is a "cure" or help for the condition yet, but a midwife I know who's also licensed in Chinese medicine said she's treated it twice (in women) the last couple of years... I don't know if she used herbs or acupuncture or both, but that is certainly something you can explore beforehand, too.

Do let us know what you learn! And much good-luck.

Oh, and has this information, at all, changed your perception of your experience of nursing?

February 14, 2011 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Im suffering with this with my 3 month old, and I feel like its getting worse everytime. I will be sitting in my house and all of the sudden get so depressed, for a minute, I always wonder, why? and right then my milk lets down, its getting so annoying!

If you find out any more info let us know!

February 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterN

Just wanted to say I am so pleased to have read this! I'm 31 weeks pregnant with my second child and have found that in both pregnancies and when breastfeeding my first, I get this overwhelming sense of dread and despair, and just a minute or two after, my breasts start leaking and the feeling goes away. For me this obviously isnt just when the milk comes in, but during the pregnancy when I am producing colostrum. No one has ever said they've felt this too so I thought I must be a bit weird so you've made me feel more normal now. I've always likened the sensation to that which you would get if you knew you were heading home into an argument with a respected person/family member - its that same sense of deep anxiety and stomach knotting tension. Also, strangely, it is accompanied by a feeling of being irrationally, obsessively thirsty, even though a minute ago you were fine and once you have had the let-down, you are fine again.

March 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJust a mum

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