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Facts and advice about the anxiety caused by breastfeeding aka D-MER. Posts are written by pediatricians for parents. D-MER stands for Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex. This reader describes the feeling very well.
What a great blog you have! I can only agree with the above comments. I have probably not read all your posts yet, but will give suggestions based on personal experiences. And if you have already written about it, I will probably find it soon.
On the very first day that I started breastfeeding, when my breasts were filled, I had feelings of anxiety. As soon as my baby released the breasts, the anxiety disappeared. I liked breastfeeding and have not had any more pain than in the beginning. But he ate very often. There was max 2 hours between feeds and at times only 45 mins. He has never fallen asleep at my chest, which I interpret as him not eating until he is full, but rather satisfied for the moment. I have, of course, tried everything. Now, I have stopped breastfeeding. I was not prepared to lock up and sit on the couch all day. Why does this happen? He had colic too! Could it be that? I have felt good otherwise, not been completely exhausted, etc. But just when he feeds on my breast, something happens.
So the question is, where does the anxiety come from and is it common?
I really recognize your story from many who have had problems with breastfeeding, or the anxiety you feel from breastfeeding, also known as D-MER. But you’re probably the first to describe this so clearly. “As soon as he released the breasts, the anxiety disappeared” And I recall my own private breastfeeding experiences, where I also felt that feelings were switched on and off immediately at the start of breastfeeding and at the end. Though in my case, it was calm, warm, loving, incredibly strong emotions instead.
And yes, I liked to breastfeed. I always thought it must have been oxytocin I was experiencing, the fast-breastfeeding hormone. And maybe that’s the case! Maybe some of us (or many of us) react with strong feelings from the flood of hormones at the start of breastfeeding. Who says that everyone must react equally?
Anxiety of breastfeeding – the vicious circle
I see this a lot in my professional experiences with mother-child couples and their breastfeeding problems. The mother breastfeeds in anguish, the child feels the mother’s anxiety, becomes anxious and does not feed on the breast, which then disrupts the milk flow. Eventually, there will be no milk. A mother does not release breast milk when she is in the middle of an anxiety attack. Many of us who have worked with nursing women can vouch for that. The child isn’t full, the mother feels depleted, and gets even more anxiety. The vicious breastfeeding cycle is moving at full speed.
Then there are others who feel differently. There are those of us who believe that breastfeeding is a wonderful drug. Of course we want to breastfeed often and for a long time. Then the pain doesn’t matter so much if the body is filled with bliss and calm. The good breastfeeding cycle rolls like that.
How important is breastfeeding to you with D-MER?
I usually ask women who feel anxious during breastfeeding, how important is breastfeeding to them? If it is important, I seek out my best breastfeeding counselors and ask for close follow-up appointments at the breastfeeding clinic, and extended time. Mothers who feel anxiety breastfeeding but want to continue doing so, need a lot of support and care. And I usually tell the father that breastfeeding is a full-time job and that the mother needs to be fed with sweets, smoothies, coffee and other things she usually likes. And recommend a lot of skin-to-skin time in bed between mom and child.
If the mother, on the other hand, does not think breastfeeding is so important, I usually suggest a breastfeeding break. That is absolutely fine if you are experiencing D-MER. Try bottle some meals and see how it feels. Does it feel much better? If so, then keep going. If you still miss breastfeeding and want to try giving the breast again, then do so. There should be no obstacles in your way. You can be a mom who gives food via bottle and breastfeeds when mom feels like it and the baby wants, regardless of how much or little food comes. Or you could become a full-time bottle feeder.
Thank you amazing readers for this exciting question! What do you think of the article? And what are your own experiences? Do you breastfeed? Or have partners who have done it? Were there strong feelings associated to it? and if so, what kind?