Breastfeeding Aversion – Could You Be Suffering from D-MER?

Breastfeeding Aversion – Could You Be Suffering from D-MER?

When new mothers encounter breastfeeding challenges, they can experience various negative emotions.

If they have knowledgeable and empathetic support, they can often overcome such breastfeeding challenges and their negative emotions become positive ones.

Mothers who are breastfeeding and pregnant at the same time sometimes experience breastfeeding aversion. Although pregnancy does not automatically preclude breastfeeding, breastfeeding aversion during pregnancy could be due to pregnancy hormones, which make some mothers’ bodies think it’s time to wean.

If you’re breastfeeding while pregnant, you might like to read our article, Breastfeeding During Pregnancy – What You Need To Know.

There is another uncommon condition called Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER) which can also cause breastfeeding aversion.

A mother with D-MER suffers negative emotions seconds before her milk ejection reflex (also known as ‘let-down reflex’) occurs. A milk ejection reflex (MER) can occur while breastfeeding or expressing, or can happen spontaneously, when a mother isn’t breastfeeding or expressing, but is perhaps thinking about her baby.

Here are 6 questions, and answers, about D-MER:

#1: What Are The Symptoms Of D-MER?

Mothers who suffer from D-MER might experience any of the following feelings when their MER occurs:

  • Hollow feelings in the stomach
  • Sadness
  • Dread
  • Apprehension
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • Hopelessness
  • Agitation
  • Paranoia

#2: Does D-MER Mean I Have Postnatal Depression Or An Anxiety Disorder?

No. D-MER is not the same as Postnatal Depression or an anxiety disorder. A mother with D-MER only experiences negative emotions with her MER.

#3: What Causes D-MER?

At the moment, the exact causes of D-MER are unknown, but it might be due to inappropriate activity of the hormone dopamine when the MER occurs.

#4: How Severe Can D-MER Be?

Mothers with D-MER describe various symptoms, which range from mild (e.g. a ‘sigh’) right up to severe (e.g. suicidal thoughts, or other thoughts about self harm).

#5: What Can I Do About D-MER?

If you feel you may have D-MER, it’s important to see your doctor. If your D-MER is mild to moderate, natural therapies and lifestyle changes can help. Some mothers have found that stress, dehydration and caffeine can worsen their symptoms. Therefore, extra rest, better hydration, exercise, and avoiding caffeine might help. More severe cases of D-MER might require the use of prescription medication.

#6: How Long Does D-MER Last?

As awful as D-MER can be for some mothers, many find that their symptoms largely subside by 3 months. However, for other mothers, D-MER continues for as long as they breastfeed. Regardless of how long they experience D-MER, most mothers feel that their symptoms ease off as their baby gets older.

Recommended Reading: Should You Love Breastfeeding All The Time?

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Renee Kam is a mother of two daughters, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a physiotherapist, author of 'The Newborn Baby Manual' and an Australian Breastfeeding Association Counsellor. In her spare time, Renee enjoys spending time with family and friends, horse riding, running and reading.

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