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.  And there was this overwhelming feeling of “dread” as if something terrible was about to happen.  (Like that feeling when you wake up and realize you’ve slept in and are late for work.)

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.


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


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9 Reasons Why Mothers Don’t Speak Up About Having Postpartum Depression

I battled with postpartum depression silently for a long time and didn’t speak a word of it to anyone, nor did I have any intention to.

The reason why I finally decided to share my story was because I was so emotionally moved by the tragic story of a woman from my hometown, Lisa Gibson, who suffered and died from postpartum depression in 2013 (along with her two children).  The story, in itself, was truly heartbreaking but what bothered me the most was the public reaction.  Many people seemed to believe that she got what she deserved.

Her story was a worst case scenario, but I dreaded what others would think of me if they knew the dark thoughts and feelings that I battled with while I had postpartum depression.

It shouldn’t take a tragedy like that to encourage someone to speak up but it made me realize two important things:

1.)  I was not alone.

2.)  We need to annihilate the stigma of postpartum depression.


The month of May is National Maternal Depression Awareness Month.

As a survivor of postpartum depression, bringing awareness and help to others who are suffering is a cause that is close to my heart.  While it can be terrifying to “speak up when you’re feeling down” it is so important both for our own mental health and to help bring awareness about this debilitating condition.

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.

1. We are in denial.  

Prior to becoming a mother myself, I had heard about postpartum depression in all of it’s notorious glory.  But I never, ever, in a million years, thought it would happen to me.  I had ZERO risk factors and an awesome support system.  So when the first few symptoms started popping up, I laughed it off…  “ME??? Postpartum depression??? Never!!!”

Mayo Clinic
Postpartum Depression Risk Factors

2. We think this is “normal” motherhood.

All we ever hear about when it comes to parenting is how hard it is.  The sleep loss, the crying, the breastfeeding struggle – it’s all normal… right?  A brand new mother experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression may assume that this is what everyone meant when they said it was hard.  I’ve heard stories of women opening up to others about what they were feeling, only to be told “welcome to motherhood.”

PostpartumDepression.org
Think you have PPD? Take this quiz!

3. We are terrified of having our child taken away from us.

Obviously we want what’s best for our child but it would be a mother’s worst nightmare to be deemed incapable of caring for her own child (the child who got her into this mess in the first place, might I add).  If anyone knew the thoughts that a mother with postpartum depression has on a regular basis, they would lock her up and throw away the key. (If you are feeling the urge to act upon your bad thoughts, seek help immediately as you may be suffering from a rarer case of postpartum psychosis). 

postpartum depression

4. We are ashamed of ourselves.  

For some reason, society has led us to believe that having postpartum depression is our fault.  Admitting to it is admitting that we were one of the weak ones who fell susceptible to the curse that is postpartum depression.  We feel like terrible people for thinking and feeling the way we do, even though we have no control over it.

5. We are concerned about what others will think of us.

If we are diagnosed with postpartum depression that means we are classified as “mentally ill” and will need to accept the stigma that comes along with that label.  All of a sudden we are dangerous and unpredictable.  Will other people start to question our parenting skills now?  Will they treat us as if we are delicate and fragile and weak?  What will our co-workers or employers think?  Will having postpartum depression jeopardize our futures?

Help your loved ones support you better

6. We feel like failures.

This is not the way it was supposed to happen.  In our dreams of becoming mothers we pictured it blissful and beautiful.  We imagined sitting in a rocking chair, singing lullabies to a sleepy, happy baby.  And when it wasn’t like this, we felt like we had failed. We failed our children and robbed them of a happy childhood.  We failed our spouses and robbed them of a happy marriage. We failed ourselves and all of our dreams of motherhood.  No one ever wants to admit that they are a failure.

7. We think we can cure ourselves.

We think it will go away on it’s own, eventually.  Or maybe we’re planning to tell someone when it gets worse… it just hasn’t yet.  We think that if we sleep a little more, relax a little more, meditate and do yoga that our postpartum depression will magically go away and so there’s no need to burden anyone else with our problems.  Sometimes it does and then it’s just a mild case or the “baby blues” but if it’s truly postpartum depression it’s highly unlikely that it will go away without treatment.

Logo for WebMD
Postpartum Depression Treatment Options

8. We don’t trust the medical system.

It’s a sad truth that many women who open up about postpartum depression still don’t get the help they need.  Unless you already have a trusting relationship with a medical professional it can be difficult to find the right person to seek help from with such a personal matter.  The fear is that we’ll be told we’re over-exaggerating, drug seekers or that it’s all in our head.

[If you need help finding local professionals you can trust call the PSI Warmline 1-800-944-4773 (4PPD)]

postpartum.net – your first point of contact to get help with postpartum depression

9. We feel alone.

We’ve joined online support groups.  We read the posts and silently agree without so much as a “like.” The women write about how they’re exhausted and overwhelmed.  They talk about how they can’t sleep at night, how they can’t eat or can’t stop eating and how they worry about everything all the time.  And we can relate to that.

But what those women don’t talk about is the bad thoughts they have.  It’s incriminating and requires a *trigger warning* and what if no one else feels the same way?

I’m here to tell you that I don’t care what bad thoughts you have, I don’t want nor need to know what they are because chances are, I’ve had them too.  You don’t have to say them out loud.  You can pretend like you didn’t even think them, so long as you know that you are not the only person who has thought them.  You are not alone.


postpartum depression
Visit www.pactforthecure.com for full details

14 Ways to Help a Mother With Postpartum Depression

If a woman in your life has recently given birth then there’s a 1 in 7 chance they are struggling with postpartum depression.  It might be your partner, daughter, sister or friend but no matter who they are to you, it’s normal to feel helpless seeing them in pain.  From a mother who has battled it first hand, here are a few tips that might help you understand her better and be able to provide the right type of support.

*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. know the symptoms

It’s very common for a mother to be in denial about their postpartum depression at first.  Even if she does have her suspicions, it’s unlikely that she will admit it out loud.  This is why it’s important to recognize the symptoms in someone else so that, even if she doesn’t want to talk about it, you can be there to support her.

Resources:

PostpartumDepression.org
Lots of useful information including a PPD Quiz
Logo for WebMD
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
The Symptoms of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety -PostpartumProgress.com
Great detailed explanations of the symptoms
Postpartum-Depression-or-The-Baby-Blues.jpg
www.rachelrabinor.com

2. believe her

There is a lot of stigma around postpartum depression and many people still don’t believe it’s a real disease.  If she does open up to you about having postpartum depression – believe that her pain is real.  She is not being overly dramatic.  She is not “just tired.” Motherhood is overwhelming in general and it will be for a very long time but postpartum depression is different – it’s uncontrollable.

3. help her get some rest

Sleep deprivation can aggravate postpartum depression but postpartum depression can cause insomnia so it’s a lose-lose situation.  Do whatever you can to help her rest.  If she cannot sleep at night, then make sure she gets frequent, short naps in throughout the day.

4. don’t tell her things could be worse

It’s natural to want to tell her stories about someone else who had it worse in the hopes of making her feel better but it will have the adverse effect.  Instead of being thankful that she isn’t having suicidal thoughts, she might see her pain as insignificant and feel guilty for having such a difficult time when others are going through “things that are worse.”  It’s still important to make sure that she knows she isn’t alone – as long as she knows that debilitating pain from postpartum depression comes in all forms.

5. don’t try to explain why

Yes, she’s tired, yes, breastfeeding is hard, yes, labour was intense but those are not the reasons why she has postpartum depression.  It’s not her fault.  If labour and recovery were a breeze, baby was nursing fine and sleeping well she could STILL have it.  Knowing that postpartum depression does not discriminate and there was nothing she could have done to avoid it will relieve some of her guilt.

postpartum depression
Join the study to help determine why some women get postpartum depression and others do not.

6. keep it on the down low

The last thing she wants is everyone at your office knowing about her postpartum depression and offering to help.  She will be mortified if someone she barely knows asks her how she’s feeling, no matter how good their intentions might be.  The day will come when she will openly want to talk about it but it should be her who decides when that is.

postpartum depression
Click here to read this post

7. send her a text message but don’t expect a reply right away

Don’t expect her to answer the phone when you call.  Better yet, don’t phone her.  For someone with postpartum depression, their emotions change throughout the day without warning.  Chances are, when you want to talk, won’t be when she wants to talk and vice versa.  A text message is a great way to check in and see how she’s doing while allowing her to reply when SHE feels up to it.  You can even write something like “you don’t have to reply right away – whenever you feel like talking just text me.”

8. don’t force her to socialize

And don’t be offended if she doesn’t want to see you.  She’s not trying to keep the baby all to herself.  Going out or hosting visitors means putting on a smile and talking to people when all she wants to do is be alone.  Even her inner circle can be extremely irritating.  Let her know that she can take all the time she needs and that you will be there for her when she’s ready.

9. cook food for her

Appetite changes are a major symptom of postpartum depression.  She will either not want to eat anything at all or not be able to stop eating. Having a fridge stocked with healthy ready-to-eat food will help her get the calories and nutrition she so desperately needs (especially if she’s breastfeeding) without all the added exhaustion of having to prepare it.

Save $25 on Meal Boxes at HelloFresh! Use code: HFCA50WELCOME. Get delicious recipes & farm fresh ingredients delivered to your door!

10. clean the house but don’t make a big deal about it

Moms are infamous for not asking for help.  Do it while she’s napping so she can’t tell you to stop.  Cleaning will be the last thing on her mind but looking around at piles of laundry, overflowing garbages or dishes in the sink will cause her more anxiety. It’s one thing to tell her not to worry about the cleaning, it’s another to make the clutter magically disappear.

The Maids
Or you can hire someone to do it for you!

11. get up with her in the middle of the night

If she’s breastfeeding, you may feel like there’s no point in getting up for night time feedings.  But those dark, lonely hours can be the scariest times for a mother with postpartum depression.  If for no other reason than to keep her company – get up with her. She may tell you that she’s OK and to go back to bed but at least get up and check on her – check if she needs anything, rub her feet or her back while she nurses.

12. help her find strangers to talk to

Don’t try to force her to talk to you about her feelings, even if you’ve been through it before.  It’s much easier to talk to strangers who understand and won’t judge her and who she may never see or talk to again.  She can be completely honest and vulnerable without having to worry about hurting someone’s feelings or having them take things the wrong way.

postpartum depression Facebook groups

Postpartum Support International
Momma’s Postpartum Depression Support Group
Postpartum Anxiety Support Group
Postpartum Depression Awareness

13. take pictures of her

Not happy, dressed up, perfectly posed pictures but real pictures.  Pictures of her nursing in her pajamas.  Pictures of her holding or sleeping beside the baby.  Pictures of her when she hasn’t showered in 3 days and has dried breast milk all over her shirt.  Take pictures of her crying.  Aim for honest pictures of her so that she can look back at them when she is better and remember this part of her life. Reassure her that you will never show them to anyone else or post them anywhere, they are only for her.

Click here to read my story about breastfeeding with postpartum depression

14. wait it out

Don’t try to rush her recovery. Helping her find the right path to recovery is important but don’t keep asking if she’s feeling better yet. If she has a good day, don’t assume she’s past the worst of it. She may very well move past the postpartum depression and become the happy loving mother that everyone knew she would be, only to have a bout of baby sleep regression trigger some deep, uncontrollable emotions all over again.  Many women battle postpartum depression for years so if you’re in this with her – prepare to go the lengths for her.


Postpartum depression is one of the most under-diagnosed conditions in North America for a reason.  Women, moms in particular, pride themselves in being able to handle it all and admitting that they are struggling or need help is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome.  While these tips may help the woman in your life open up to you, nothing is ever for certain when it comes to postpartum depression and many women experience it in different ways.  If all else fails, love her and support her and know that this too shall pass…


postpartum depression
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