A Condition Called D-MER: When Breastfeeding Makes You Feel Sad

When I talk of breastfeeding and sadness, the conversation always leans towards postpartum depression.  But there is something else that can cause sadness during breastfeeding that is completely unrelated to postpartum depression


*This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.

**Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.


The way D-MER was described to me is that it’s a chemical imbalance that’s triggered with the let-down reflex.

[Here is the actual Wikipedia definition.]

Different women feel it different ways and at different levels of intensity.  Dysphoric means negative feelings so the feelings range from depressed to angry.  Some women describe it as a “homesick” feeling in the pit of the stomach.

FOR ME, IT FELT LIKE AN ANXIETY ATTACK.  My insides felt as though they were twisting and bubbling and my heart started racing.  I would get a tingling pins and needles sensation all over my upper body and arms.  There was this overwhelming feeling of “dread” as if something terrible was about to happen.  Like that feeling you get when you wake up late for work, or if you’ve done something wrong and feel scared someone is going to find out.

The feeling only lasted for the first few minutes after a let down reflex but it happened every single time I had a let down reflex… every single time I breastfed.
I talk more about that awesome Public Health Nurse in this post!

And while I came to anticipate them each time I breastfed or pumped milk, I didn’t associate these negative feelings with the let down reflex – I just assumed they came at random times.  Naturally, I classified them as some sort of postpartum depression symptom since I suffered with PPD and the baby blues with my first two children.

It wasn’t until I mentioned the strange sensation to my public health nurse shortly after the birth of my third child that she suggested it might be D-MER.  After some research on it, I knew instantly it was what I had, especially since I had zero symptoms of a postpartum mood disorder this time around.

Postpartum hormones come in all shapes and sizes

THE NUMBER ONE TREATMENT OPTION FOR D-MER IS AWARENESS!

Breastfeeding my third child was much easier after knowing exactly the cause of these strange feelings.  I learned to breathe through the anxiety attacks and wait for them to be over – similar to breathing through labour contractions.  The confusion, the guilt, the shame and the stress were all gone because now I knew that it was simply a reflex, and not a psychological problem.


I wish I had known about this condition when I first started breastfeeding.  I didn’t say anything about it to anyone because I thought it was just another symptom of postpartum depression and there are so many reasons why mothers don’t speak up about having postpartum depression.  

postpartum depression
speak up when you’re feeling down!

 


Of course, for some women the sensations are so severe that awareness alone is not a solution.  There are different treatment options available.  Natural treatments include Rhodiola Supplements, Vitamin B12, Placenta Encapsulation & Acupuncture.  Prescription treatments are also available.

www.D-MER.org has tons of information, resources and treatment options and should be your first stop for info on this fairly new & unknown condition.

Click here join their official Facebook group: Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER) Support Group from d-mer.org


RELATED READING:

indigo.ca

The Revised and Updated 8th Edition of the The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (La Leche League International) has a section on D-MER.

Fox News recently shared this article – DMER: the scary breast-feeding condition you’ve never heard of

Birth Without Fear shared a post on D-MER in 2013: D-MER {No, You are Not Crazy}

Read this first hand account about D-MER on The Badass Breastfeeder

The Naughty Mommy writes about her struggle with The Breastfeeding Blues a.k.a. D-MER


PIN IT!

5 Basic Breastfeeding Products I Love

5 of the most common breastfeeding products

Breastfeeding Products

There are millions of baby related products out there, but when it comes to breastfeeding, all you really need is a good milk supply and a hungry baby.  I compiled a list of my favorite breastfeeding products because, while I could have still done it without them, they all provided me with one important thing – C O M F O R T

*This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.  Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.


1. Nursing Pillow

 

boomerang-nursing-pillow

I received this Jolly Jumper Boomerang Nursing Pillow as a gift at my baby shower and it has become a staple in my house.  It’s more than just a breastfeeding pillow.

During pregnancy it was the perfect shape to both support my stomach and tuck between my legs while sleeping.

I loved it for breastfeeding because it was so versatile.  I could fold it half if I needed firm support under just one arm, or lay it across my lap.

The little fold at the end of the pillow case acted as a pocket – perfect for stashing emergency washcloths (ok, let’s be honest, for my cell phone)

The shape was just right for propping baby up at any age.  Whether I laid baby on their back or tummy, I found that the “V” shape was better for supporting them than the “U” shaped pillows and I could easily bring the sides in for more security.

It’s so soft!  This may be a disadvantage to some who are looking for firmer support in a nursing pillow but I loved how flexible it was compared to a Boppy.


2. Breast Pump

 

Like many first time moms, I didn’t buy a breast pump before the baby was born because I wasn’t sure if I’d even be able to breastfeed but I ended up inheriting a brand new Medela Swing breast pump from a friend.  It worked, as in, it got milk out of my breasts.  And while the suctioning sounds it made were quite intimidating, I was very happy to have it.  But I didn’t have anything to compare it to.

When I was pregnant with my second child, I sold my single pump and upgraded to a fancy double electric pump because I assumed that two was better than one (and it was a great deal).  But alas, you get what you pay for and it had no where near the sucking capacity of the Medela.  (Didn’t matter anyway because my daughter refused to take a bottle so I never needed to pump milk.)

I went back to the basics with the third one.  I knew for certain I wanted to go with Medela again but this time I chose the Medela Harmony manual pump because it had this little feature to help stimulate the nipple which would initiate a let down (super important when your nipples aren’t as sensitive anymore).  The manual pump made it easier for me to control the rhythm of the sucking.  It was convenient enough to use in the car on long road trips!  It’s no-nonsense, no batteries or plugs, easy to wash and portable.


3. Nursing Pads

lansinoh

I had an excess milk supply and an overactive let down reflex which meant that I leaked milk A LOT.  Because of that, I tried SO MANY different brands and types of nursing pads before deciding that these Lansinoh Disposable Nursing Pads in particular were beyond compare.

They are super absorbent.  They resembled a full diaper when they were soaked, but they didn’t leak no matter how much milk spilled into them. Like a sanitary napkin for your boobs.

They have a sticker on the back so they stay in place! So simple, but so important.

You can’t see them through your bra.  They’re not bulky or “papery” and they don’t have weird lines or patterns on them.

They’re individually wrapped.  Not in pairs which is great because I often had to change just one at a time.  They’re also easy to throw in the diaper bag, purse, gym bag, even small enough to keep in your pocket

Sometimes they included a free gift (sample) in the box like breast milk collection bags, or individual packets of baby wipes.


4. Nursing Bra

camisole

I bought way too many nursing bras.  I thought I was going to need them all but what I wore almost every day while I was breastfeeding is one of these tank tops with the built in shelf bras.

If you’re going to buy them, buy them in bulk because you’re going to get milk and baby spit up on them, and you’re eventually going to have to do laundry, but you’re going to want to put another one on right away.

The built in shelf bra is important because you need the support and also something to hold your nursing pads in place (those stickers can’t do it all).

They’re comfortable enough to sleep in.

I wore them as a base layer under all my other shirts so that when I had to nurse in public I just pulled up the top shirt, and then pulled the tank top down to expose the nipple.  All that was visible between the two shirts was a small opening (covered by baby’s head anyway) and I didn’t have to fuss with an annoying nursing cover.  Not that I cared, but most people couldn’t even tell I was nursing.


5. Breast Shells

avent-isis-breast-shells This last one is a bit of a stretch as far as “basic” breastfeeding products.  Not all mothers are going to need these, so I wouldn’t suggest buying them unless you do.

No one even told me these existed, I found them by accident.  You see… I had incredibly sore nipples (remember the cracked nipple + mastitis?) and anything that brushed up against them felt like razor blades.  I was on the hunt for something to help and someone advised me to try nipple shields which I didn’t buy but found these Avent Isis Comfort Breast Shells instead.

I believe the actual function of these things is to prevent flat nipples during engorgement.

They have so many handy breastfeeding-related “functions” like shielding your sore nipples from sandpaper shirts.

They are comfortable enough to sleep in.  I would often wake up soaked in breast milk when my babies would sleep in longer stretches so these were a great solution.

The size and shape of them make it easy to collect leaking breast milk.  When I was nursing (or pumping) on one side, I would pop one into my bra on the other side to catch the milk that would leak during letdown.

If you sterilize them, you can save that “collected” breast milk because every ounce counts.

*Note: There is some advice against using these on a regular basis – mainly that they are not a treatment for sore nipples so while these might provide relief, you should still fix the cause of the sore nipples.

I’d love to hear about your favorite breastfeeding products! Leave me a comment!

How, When & Why to do Breast Compressions


Breast compression is the underdog of breast feeding techniques.  WHEN to do them and WHY they can help are just as important as HOW to do them.


*This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.


In a previous post, I praised an amazing small town nurse who gave me so much information on breastfeeding.  I promise that I will, eventually, get ALL of that knowledge out of my head and onto this website  but I want to start with something that was a huge contributor to my breastfeeding success…

Breast Compression

It sounds self explanatory, right?  You just squeeze your breast, what’s so hard about that?  I did breast compression with my first.  And my second…   I think?  The fact that I can’t even remember doing them means that they weren’t important to me back then.  After learning how to do them properly with my third one, and learning all the reasons why and when, I realized that I could have saved myself a lot of trouble if I had known about this the first time.  And the second.


bf-infographic


HOW

Get your baby latched on properly.

latch-infographic
I like this infographic from The Milk Memoirs 

After baby starts sucking you may FEEL your milk let down (not all women can feel it) and/or SEE your baby’s sucking start to become longer and slower.

Read this if you feel anxiety or depression when you breastfeed

Some women suffer from a condition known as D-MER (Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex) which causes disturbing feelings when their milk lets down.  Click here to read my post about D-MER.

Grasp your breast with whichever hand feels more comfortable. 

Some might prefer to grasp with the hand closest to the breast, others might be more comfortable reaching across their body.

This will also depend on what position you are holding your baby in to nurse.

You can switch it up throughout the feeding.

Your thumb will be on top and the other four fingers will remain on the bottom of the breast. 

Your hand will form a letter “C” (it helps to imagine you’re holding your breast like a cheeseburger).

Try to keep your hand close to your chest.  You want to stay as far back from the nipple as possible so you don’t affect baby’s latch.

It’s not as effective to squeeze the breast from the sides or to use a “scissor” hold.

Now squeeze as hard as you can handle.  It shouldn’t hurt, but you want to use firm pressure, especially if your breasts are engorged.

a blocked milk duct or mastitis
Baby-Safety-Concerns.com

Do not move your fingers around or slide them towards the nipple.

Don’t rub or massage the breast as this can cause irritation on the skin.

If you have extremely full breasts, whether it’s the first morning feed or when your milk first comes in, you may feel “lumps” of milk – focus on those spots first (sometimes they can be as far back as your armpit).

Squeeze one spot for roughly 10 seconds (or as long as baby continues to suck) and then release.

You will notice baby take longer, bigger gulps, some milk might even leak out from the corners of their mouth.

That section of the breast will start to soften

Baby may temporarily stop sucking after a few big gulps to rest.

Wait for baby to start sucking and compress the breast again.

You can try moving your fingers onto a different spot or switching hands to access the other side of the breast.


WHEN and WHY

DO NOT do them before your milk comes in.  I mean, you can, but there’s no point.

Do them when your milk comes in.  You will have a lot of it and your newborn baby will get tired of sucking before they get to that hind milk.

Do them when your breasts are really full.  Usually in the morning or if you’ve been away from baby and haven’t fed or pumped in a while.   It’s a great way to empty out full and sore breasts very quickly and make sure that baby is getting to the hind milk before they get too full.

Turn Up The Heat breast pads
TheDandelionShoppeUS on Etsy

The Turn Up The Heat breast pads by TheDandelionShoppeUS on Etsy are perfect for warm relief during engorgement and also cold relief to treat soreness. They have a removable machine washable cover and I love the hole in the middle to avoid irritating sore nipples!

Do them when your breasts are not full.  Doing compression during feeds even when your breasts feel empty will help drain the milk glands completely which will increase your milk supply.

Breastfeeding Products
Here are some breastfeeding products I couldn’t live without

Do them when you have a clogged milk duct. This is when one of those “milk lumps” gets stuck and doesn’t want to empty.  Put a warm wet washcloth on top of the breast first and then apply lots of pressure to that stuck lump while you nurse.

Do them while pumping.  Breast pumps are not as efficient at emptying a breast  or getting enough hind milk.  A good example of this is to compare a bottle of pumped milk while doing compression vs. without.  You will see a higher fat content in the bottle pumped with compression.

Do them when you have incredibly sore nipples.  Baby won’t have to suck as hard to get enough milk (giving your nipples a bit of relief) and it will also speed up the length of the feeding.

Do them when baby falls asleep at the breast and/or stops sucking.  Breast compression will either make baby start drinking some more, or spit out the nipple if they are full. (I talk about breastfeeding at bedtime in my two part sleep training guide).

Howtosleeptrainanewborn

Do them when baby cluster feeds.  The hind milk will help baby to feel fuller for longer and can reduce the amount of time you spend feeding.

Do them during night time feedings or dream feeds.  Babies are quite drowsy in the middle of the night and may not suck with the “power” that they use during the day.  Doing breast compression can help baby get milk more efficiently so that everyone can go back to bed.

Amazon.ca

Do them if your baby has greenish-coloured poops.  The greenish color could be because they’re not getting enough hind milk.

Do them if your baby gets a slight diaper rash.  Not enough hind milk can change the consistency of baby’s poops and cause their bums to get red.


There are so many benefits to using breast compression.
Breastfeeding benefits baby AND MOM

The biggest WHY is to get baby the hind milk that has a higher fat content.  It will help them to gain weight faster and stay full longer.

I know that breast compressions are usually only suggested in the first couple months – during the time when breastfeeding is still trying to become well established.  But I became SO obsessed with doing them because I was able to see the benefits in my baby right away that I continued to do them whenever I felt it was necessary.


ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Prior to starting this blog, I shared my tip about breast compression with anyone who seemed to be struggling with something it could fix.  I had a hard time trying to find a resource that stressed the importance of them.

bfinclogo

The best online information about breast compression is from Dr. Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC  of Breastfeedinginc.ca.  [I’ve noticed quite a few other blogs or websites share his exact article or excerpts from it and it’s great information but it’s very… medical.]  

You can also purchase his book Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding.

Breast Compression
Indigo.ca
bfincvideos
Click here to access a library of videos demonstrating the breast compression technique and proper latching techniques at Breastfeedinginc.ca

what-is-breast-compression-w
Breastfeeding.support

Another good site to check out for more visual aids is Breastfeeding.Support it’s run by IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) Philippa Pearson-Glaze and the site has a ton of breastfeeding articles, tips and advice with some great pictures.


 

What Breastfeeding Meant to Me

We’ve all heard of the benefits of breastfeeding #breastisbest!  We’ve also probably heard a number of horror stories about bleeding nipples and bathroom feedings.  It takes sacrifice, practice and patience but what you get out of it is so worth it.

babyatbreast


When I was pregnant for the first time, I didn’t need any convincing to breastfeed.  I was so curious about experiencing this miracle for myself (and I didn’t want to spend a fortune on formula).  I researched more on breastfeeding than anything else while I was pregnant and I was probably more worried about successfully breastfeeding than I was about labor and delivery.

This helped!

At first, breastfeeding came easily.  Baby latched on well.  Except that ONE time.  Which led to a cracked nipple.  Which turned into mastitis.  Oh and what are those white patches inside his mouth?  Greaaaat… he’s got thrush.

And then engorgement happened and while I was happy to see the breasts I’ve always dreamed of, I couldn’t put my arms down at my sides because of the milk backed up into my armpits.  Which led to a clogged milk duct.  Which turned into mastitis.. again.

And that was only 1 month in…

But not once did I think – “maybe this isn’t for me.”  Because it wasn’t about me.  It was about my baby. 

And I was going to give him the best damn breast milk a body could make, even if it meant wearing cabbage leaves in my bra.

But, actually, it was about me.

Because for the 9 months that I carried him, the people in my life took good care of me.  I felt like the most important person in the world to them.

They called to see how I was doing, carried bags for me and opened doors for me.

They painted rooms and cooked me food and bought me gifts.

They put their hands on my belly and while I thought I wouldn’t  enjoy that, I really did.  Because it made them so excited to witness this miracle growing inside of me.

And in those final hours before he was born, they comforted me and encouraged me and cried with me.

And then it was over…

They placed him in my arms and in that one instant it all became about him.

My needs faded into the background and his came first.  Everyone crowded around to get a glimpse of his tiny face and fought over who got to hold him next.  This was the way it was now, and would be for a very long time.  For a few seconds I felt jealous.  But then… he cried.  He was hungry…

Suddenly I became the most important person in the world again – to him.  And it didn’t matter whether or not I was important to anyone else as long as I was important to him.

Breastfeeding my second child came easier.

But she cried.  She cried so… damn… much.

She didn’t like when anyone held her except me but she also didn’t like NOT being held.

She refused to take a bottle.

She refused to take a pacifier.

She was constantly gassy and it took an elaborate series of moves just to get her to burp.

The only thing that could soothe her was a nursing session…

postpartum depression
I didn’t speak up then but I’m speaking up now

In the gloomy hours of the night, as I sat lonely in the nursery with my breast shoved into her mouth to keep her quiet while everyone else was asleep, I felt a deep darkness set in.  I cried because it’s so much easier to cry in the dark when no one is watching.  I was so tired.  And I was so mad.  I hated that I was the only one able to soothe her.  It felt like a curse.  It became a regular occurrence during our 3 am feeding sessions.  She would suck and I would cry.  I wanted to sleep.  I hated breastfeeding.  I hated that it was all on me to do this.  I hated feeling like I was on a leash, a servant to my baby’s cries for comfort.

But that was just the postpartum depression talking…

My doctor offered to put me on medication – “but you can’t breastfeed while you’re on it,” he said.

WOO-HOO – a way out!

But as much as I hated breastfeeding, the thought of stopping – like really, actually stopping, not just threatening to stop – opened me up to a flood of emotions.  I cried again, but not because I was mad, this time it was out of sadness and regret.  I was sorry for this little girl who just wanted to eat and her mother hated feeding her.  She would be deprived of the benefits of breast milk because of me.  I felt like I had failed her.

So I exhaled after what seemed like an incredibly long breath in.  And then I felt inspired and encouraged to do right by her.

“No, thank you, doctor.  I WANT to breastfeed my baby”


If you have suffered from postpartum depression, past or present,  download this FREE printable PDF workbook to help you tell your story (even if you decide not to share it with anyone else)
Click to download!


It was the breastfeeding that led me into the darkness but also the breastfeeding that saved me.

From a mother who knows what it feels like

My youngest daughter also gave me a fair share of trouble when it came to breastfeeding.
I learned this from her!

At the time of her birth, we lived in a small town in Saskatchewan and the one public health nurse there had been the public health nurse for over 20 years.  She had watched all the town’s babies be born, she helped their mothers feed them, she vaccinated them and gave them flu shots.  She watched the efforts of her hard work grow up into strong and healthy adults.

She was, by far, the BEST nurse I ever had the honour of knowing and she taught me more about breastfeeding than I ever learned from the countless nurses and midwives I had in years before.

So we got through the tough stuff, thanks to her.


And it was only with my third baby did I truly come to ENJOY breastfeeding.

Being an already busy mom of two, I longed for those moments when I could just sit down for a few minutes to feed the baby.

I studied her face, her eye color and the way her hair was growing in.

She never bit or scratched me.

She loved to make eye contact.

She didn’t talk or demand that I pay attention to her.

She just drank and was happy and content.

It was a tiny peaceful moment… our moment… my moment.


 Now that I am done breastfeeding my babies – I miss those moments… the peaceful ones, the painful ones and the dark ones. 

To them it was merely sustenance, but to me it was so much more.