Some women experience feelings of depression during milk letdown and the beginning of breastfeeding. This experience is called Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex or D-MER and is caused by a drop in dopamine, a hormone that is released in the brain. Dopamine affects your mood, behavior, and the way you think and process information.
A mom with D-MER may experience a range of feelings such as sadness, depression, anxiety, irritability, anger or restlessness. Anything that causes a milk release, whether it is breastfeeding, manual milk expression, a breast pump, thinking about your baby or just having full breasts, can generate the negative feelings associated with D-MER.
D-MER is a reflex, which means the feelings cannot be controlled and symptoms can vary from mild to severe. Symptoms may decrease over a period of months or they may continue throughout the breastfeeding experience. D-MER is not the same as postpartum depression and is not associated with breastfeeding aversion, a severe lack of interest in breastfeeding.
D-MER is a newly diagnosed condition – receiving its name in 2008; more research needs to be done to learn about it. If you think you may be suffering from D-MER, speak with your health care provider. You can also visit Share Your Story, where you may connect with other moms, and perhaps start a conversation forum.