What's in this post...
If you’re experiencing sadness, anxiety, stress, a feeling of crawling out of your skin (D-MER) or complete aversion (BAA) during letdown while breastfeeding you may feel alone, isolated, and like you’re doing something wrong. You’re not.
I remember sitting in Scotland, baby in lap, nursing.
Peaceful time, nothing to worry about, What A Bonding Moment, and then BHAM.
I felt icky. Gross. Disgusted even… like I wanted to be anywhere but where I was.
If you’re here, you’ve been there
Bet you never thought you’d be trying to figure out if breastfeeding was going to make you feel panicked, anxious, dreadful, disgusted, crawling out of skin, touched out, and stressed.
Being a mom was supposed to be intuitive, right?
And, oddly enough, now it’s time to feed baby and when your letdown happens you want to run away, punch something, or sob like a child.
- You’re not alone
- It’s common (even though it doesn’t feel “normal”)
- There’s nothing wrong with you
- Baby is still getting enough milk
This odd feeling has a name… D-MER (Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex)
So, you aren’t broken or making it up in your head. Unlike your friends might have told you, you’re not crazy either.
It’s a thing. And, well, if you’re experiencing some insanity during your early nursing (or pumping) minutes… you’ve likely got it.
What D-Mer is and how it presents
D-MER (dysphoric milk ejection reflex) is a sudden emotional response – out of nowhere – that coincides with letdown. It can occur whether pumping or breastfeeding directly.
Some researchers suggest it’s linked to a sudden drop in dopamine.
I asked my readers what their most common presenting symptoms were, and this about covers it.
- anxiety / dread
- panic / panic attacks
- feeling “touched out”
- crawling out of your skin sensation
- nausea (that may or may not lead to vomiting)
- urge to cry
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How long D-MER lasts in duration and for how many months
Now, here’s where I can actually encourage you. Typically, as D-MER occurs during the letdown process, it only lasts a few minutes in duration.
If you are nursing for, say 30 minutes at a time those first few months, it may only last the first five minutes or so.
Many mothers report it being worse towards the late evening and at night.
⭐Good news: It doesn’t typically last the duration of your breastfeeding experience. Most mothers report that after the first few months, it gradually fades away.
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Difference between D-MER and BAA (Breastfeeding Aversion and Agitation)
If your symptoms last during letdown and subside a few minutes into nursing, then you are likely looking at D-MER.
On the other hand, if you’re feeling severe agitation or aversion, disgust or repellant towards your infant before or while nursing.. you may be dealing specifically with BAA.
Here’s a bit more info on BAA:
- triggered by exhaustion, lack of self-care, proper nutrition, vitamin deficiencies, or feeling touched out
- more common when nursing older children or multiple children at once
- past abuse
- postpartum mood disorders
- nursing while pregnant
- having little ones demanding milk and grabbing, pulling, kneading mom during the nursing session
Find out more info on breastfeeding aversion here.
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Are you doing something wrong?
In a word, no.
Of course, if you’re nursing your baby (which is a nurturing thing) and feeling panic, disgust, or touched out then you likely are having mixed feelings about your feelings.
You can feel guilty and messed up about it all. Many mothers even consider (or do) abandon nursing. Luckily, there are things you can do to minimize these feelings.
Also, you can encourage yourself to ride it out because it too will pass.
Sometimes this feeling occurs towards the OLDER child… not the baby
I heard from quite a few mothers, when I put the all call out on social media, that they experienced D-MER or feelings of stress, panic, or disgust when they were nursing their older children, not their younger ones.
Or, to be more clear, if they were nursing more than one child, they’d experience D-MER with their older child, not the baby.
This is a great time to evaluate whether or not this is your body telling you to wean the older child.
What moms have found that helps them cope
A lot of mothers shared what helped them get through their intense feelings during letdown. Most didn’t want to abandon breastfeeding entirely because of a few minutes each feed.
Many, however, found the whole experience too stressful and used it as a sign it was time for them to wean.
Often, mothers looked back and thought it was likely linked to their undiagnosed postnatal depression or postnatal anxiety.
These things have (anecdotally) shown to help moms lessen the severity of D-MER
Some of these may work with BAA as well, but with lesser success.
- increasing water intake right before nursing and during letdown
- listening to calming music
- magnesium (see one mother’s story below, she says this alone made it all go away)
- waiting for it to pass (which is what I did)
- medication to deal with depression / anxiety (a few moms mentioned this helped)
- getting into the right mindset, knowing it’ll pass
- stroke baby’s cheek, kiss baby’s head, try to focus on bonding
- iron rich foods
- deep breathing
- mindfulness exercises (focus on something in the room, something in your mouth, etc.)
Common questions about D-MER…
When I polled my readers, many who experienced these odd sensations during letdown now feel they were experiencing PPD. But not all.
If the symptoms are isolated to those first few minutes during letdown then it’s not likely related to PND. Of course, reach out to your care team.
Some mothers will take the symptoms of BAA (breastfeeding aversion and agitation) as a sign to wean. Others will power through, it’s up to you. Listen to your intuition and gut.
Yes! For most moms, D-MER (dysphoric milk ejection reaction) will go away after the first few months nursing.
That said, many mothers who experience it, have similar experiences with subsequent babies.
If a medication isn’t required to correct it… most doctors won’t know (or care) about it.
Your best bet in looking for support is a lactation consultant or simply following the tips above and waiting for it to pass.
If you are experiencing severe reactions that are unmanageable of course speak with whoever can give you relief.