Louise Broadbridge
Louise Broadbridge

Understanding Emotional Challenges during Breastfeeding.  What is Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER)

Breastfeeding is often portrayed as a serene and bonding experience between mother and child. However, for some breastfeeding mothers, the reality can be quite different. Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER) is a condition that can cast a shadow over the breastfeeding journey, causing unexpected emotional challenges. 

Not much is known D-MER, however, in this blog we try to explore its symptoms, potential causes, and coping strategies with this often misunderstood condition.

What is Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER)?

D-MER is a relatively unknown condition characterised by brief, negative emotions that occur just before milk release (let-down) during breastfeeding or pumping. These emotions can range from mild sadness, anxiety, or irritability to intense feelings of dread, panic, or hopelessness. The negative emotions typically dissipate shortly after milk release, leaving the mother feeling normal until the next let-down.

Symptoms of D-MER:

The symptoms of D-MER can vary in intensity and duration but often include:

  • Sudden onset of negative emotions, such as sadness, anxiety, or irritability, just before milk release.
  • Feelings of dread, panic, or hopelessness that coincide with let-down.
  • Rapid improvement in mood shortly after milk release, with the return to baseline emotional state.

Potential Causes of D-MER:

While the exact cause of D-MER is not fully understood, it is believed to be related to hormonal fluctuations during lactation, particularly dopamine levels. Dopamine plays a crucial role in regulating mood, and disruptions in dopamine levels may contribute to the emotional symptoms experienced during let-down.

How to Cope with D-MER:

Coping with D-MER can be challenging, but there are strategies that mothers can employ to manage their symptoms and continue breastfeeding successfully:

  • Raise Awareness: Education and awareness about D-MER can help mothers understand that their emotional symptoms are not a reflection of their parenting abilities but rather a physiological response. Knowing that they are not alone in their experience can provide comfort and validation.
  • Seek Support: It's essential for mothers experiencing D-MER to reach out for support from healthcare providers, lactation consultants, or support groups specializing in D-MER. Connecting with others who have experienced similar challenges can provide valuable insights and coping strategies.
  • Practice Self-Care: Engaging in self-care activities, such as relaxation techniques, mindfulness, or gentle exercise, can help mothers manage stress and alleviate emotional symptoms associated with D-MER. Taking breaks when needed and prioritizing self-care can improve overall well-being.
  • Consider Treatment Options: In some cases, mothers may benefit from treatment options to alleviate symptoms of D-MER. These may include counseling, medication, or alternative therapies tailored to individual needs. Consulting with a healthcare provider can help determine the most appropriate treatment approach.

Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER) is a challenging condition that can significantly impact the breastfeeding experience for mothers. By raising awareness, seeking support, practicing self-care, and exploring treatment options, mothers can effectively manage their symptoms and continue breastfeeding successfully. It's important for mothers experiencing D-MER to know that they are not alone and that support and resources are available to help them navigate this often misunderstood condition.

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