When Breastfeeding Feels Wrong
Not long ago, I learned something about breastfeeding that rocked my world, people. And I'm going to share that secret with you.
I nursed my oldest son, Colin, for about half of his first year, and had every intention of doing the same - plus more - with Cameron, my second son. I fell appallingly short of my goal, though, only sticking with breastfeeding for a couple of weeks (and that's a high estimation). But it wasn't a problematic latch or a case of thrush that derailed my efforts - it was something much harder to understand.
(Photo from D-MER.org)
The worst part, though, was how I berated myself for feeling that way. My mind scolded me every time. What is wrong with you? How could you have such terrible feelings toward something that's supposed to be so natural and beautiful?
To add to the frustration, I couldn't find anything about it. When I researched it on the Internet, I saw a few random posts on message boards outlining something vaguely similar to what I was experiencing, but no one ever had any answers for those people either. I chalked it up to some weird and disturbing personal quirk, took it for a clear indication that I just wasn't meant to breastfeed, and threw in the towel.
I was relieved when I didn't feel the same thing with Coby. At least - not for a couple of weeks. But then about a week ago, I had just sat down to feed him when ... bam. It hit me. That all-too-familiar wave of anxiety, so great that my body shuddered and shook for a few seconds. And it happened again the next day ... and with more and more frequency after that.
Determined to find out what the hell was wrong with me - whether I was psychotic or what - I did some more research. And this time I found an answer: this is real! And I'm not crazy!
What I have is called Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex, or D-MER. Its official definition is "a newly recognized condition causing a brief surge of dysphoria, or negative emotions, that peak before the milk ejection reflex, or letdown, in a lactating woman and then dissipates quickly after the milk release." And that's why I didn't find anything about it when it happened with Cameron - because its discovery is so new that there hadn't been any research on it at that point, not quite two years ago. It is a PHYSIOLOGICAL response - meaning hormonal - NOT psychological. (Whew!)
D-MER is rapidly gaining recognition and is much more common than anyone expected. If other mothers with D-MER are like me, they've been keeping this secret under wraps. It's a shameful feeling to admit that nursing your baby makes you feel terrible - especially when everyone else is gushing about how sweet it is. But now that I know that it's an actual disorder, a real problem, and that I'm not alone, I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders. And now, though breastfeeding still isn't - and probably never will be for me - as "warm and fuzzy" as it is for most mothers, it's a whole hell of a lot more tolerable. And I can keep on doing it, knowing that it isn't some devastating problem.
If you're interested in learning more about D-MER, check out D-MER.org. If you've experienced this or know someone who has, get the word out: it's important that these mothers know what they're feeling is OKAY and LEGITIMATE. Feel free to tweet about it on Twitter, link back to this post in any way you'd like, etc. ... as long as you help me spread the news.
I love and encourage any and all comments, but I especially want to hear from you if you've been through this yourself. It's always nice to hear I'm not alone!
Now: run along and check out the other great posts from the Carnival of Breastfeeding ... and come back here any time!
The Milk Mama
My World Edenwild
Three Girl Pile-Up
Breastfeeding Moms Unite!
The Starr Family Blog
Massachusetts Friends of Midwives