BY CHERYL FLOUNDERS
When breastfeeding both my daughter, Lissia (now three) and my little boy, Jesse (now one) for a short amount of time, a feeling of dread would wash over me. As you can imagine, this was quite an unsettling feeling, but, as quickly as it occurred, the feeling would disappear.
It’s quite tricky to articulate but it was like a feeling of unease in the pit of my stomach, which lasted for up to 30 seconds. It was a bit like the feeling you’d associate with homesickness – strange, I know!
Of course, this played on mind for quite some time. It was about three months before I was able to connect the dots. Before then I had begun to question if I was having a case of extended baby blues, but I was otherwise really happy, so it just didn’t add up. And then I realised that this odd, hollow feeling that I was experiencing was in fact only occurring during nursing, just before a let-down and would last for about a minute once the milk was flowing.
After I was able to pinpoint the feeling I took to Dr Google to see if I could find out if anyone else had experienced the same. Many searches online later – I didn’t have a clue of what to even search for initially – I found my answer. The culprit… D-MER.
The full name of this phenomenon is Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex. Put simply it is a drop in dopamine levels in some mothers who nurse. It’s a physical symptom, not a psychological reaction i.e. it’s not linked to Postnatal Depression (PND) or any other mental health condition.
I found it really helpful to be able to put a name to it. As I continued to feed both my babies, I could remind myself why I was feeling the way I was and by the time I finished my internal monologue the dreaded feeling had ended and I felt myself again.
Despite all this I loved breastfeeding and breastfed Jesse up until he was 14 months (stopping late last year) – and it’s a good job because he was a full-on bottle refuser and still won’t contemplate cow’s milk now! The other reason I’ve always enjoyed breastfeeding could be because I’m also sensitive to the release of oxytocin – the love hormone – when nursing!