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Debunking D-MER, What You Need To Know

Just in case you thought nine months of puking, 37 hours of pushing, and 6 weeks of recovering was the end of your body enduring crazy weirdness, I’m here to inform you that you were sadly mistaken. Remember all those pesky hormones that changed like mad during pregnancy? I’m sorry to say that there is a reversal process. As the saying goes, what goes up must come down… and this most definitely includes hormone levels. If you’re choosing to bottle feed, your reversal will start sooner rather than later. Say goodbye to those beautiful long nails, that gorgeous glowing skin, and that thick, luscious hair and say hello to your old friend, The Period. And look! Your period has brought a few friends! Please meet Hot Flashes and Drenching Sweats.      

If you’re like me, you remembered getting a touch “toasty” during those later pregnancy months. Oh, it’s all the extra weight I’m carrying, I told myself. And those pit-stained shirts are simply a result of my pregnancy glow. Well, I was wildly incorrect! Those were hormones, my friend! And if they were ugly and uncomfortable the first time around, let me tell you that the reversal is even worse, more than likely because you’ve got another human being glued to your torso for 90% of your waking moments (and 50% of your non-waking). How’s skin supposed to breathe under these circumstances? I have sweated through my shirt AND my baby’s shirt on more than one occasion. Now, I can pass his off as drool, but sadly there is little to be done about a mother’s sweaty shirt. Unless you’re more comfortable telling the world that you’re lactating and forgot your breast pads that day. Do what you want, I won’t judge.

For mamas choosing to breastfeed, you get the benefit of holding those hormone changes and that period friend at bay for months, maybe even a year. But I must warn you, as no one did for me, that there is a chance you may experience an additional hormone changes while breastfeeding that you otherwise wouldn’t. This change is an anomaly of the milk release mechanism in lactating women known as D-MER (Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex). Not every woman experiences D-MER (count your lucky stars), but those who do often assume they have a kind of schizophrenic form of post-partum depression due to the frequent and incredibly quick bouts of depression, anxiety, rage, homesickness, or even nausea felt while they nurse their new little bundle.      

As we already know, breastfeeding is hard. It’s awkward, painful, and emotional for a good 4-6 weeks before mama and baby get into a good rhythm and have worked out all the kinks. An already freaked out first-time nursing mother may assume she’s doing something wrong when she gets such strong negative feelings rising in her as she nurses. But have no fear, Freaked Out Mama, there's an explanation and it's D-MER. So, before you rush to your psychiatrist and demand that he lock you up because you are now fearful that you will start having urges to neglect your life or murder your loved ones with a pick axe, please read on. (Now, don’t get me wrong, if you do have these feelings, please DO see your doctor! Post-partum depression is nothing to power through in hopes of becoming a hero. Getting help sooner rather than later will save you a world of pain and let you see that others are in your same boat. And please don’t purchase any pick axes, just for good measure.)      

So, how do you know if you have D-MER or not? Well, the main difference between D-MER and post-partum depression is the timing. One happens from 30 seconds to roughly 2 minutes while baby is latched on to Mama and both are waiting for let-down to occur. While the little one is getting some practice sucking, Mama starts going through a broad range of emotions. If you have D-MER, this may be your 30 second thought process:    

“Oh my gosh, I’m gonna throw up. Nope, just stomach pain. Nope again, don’t think about food! Definitely going to throw up unless I get to... Wait a second, did I just hear an ambulance in the distance? Holy crap, my grandmother’s dying, I just know it! I better check my phone in case my parents are trying to call me with the news. Oh. My. Gosh. I can’t believe Mary texted me a picture of herself in a new swim suit with her flat tummy and small thighs. How dare she look happy when she knows how I feel about my tummy and thighs?! I’m going to punch her in the face! Right after I finish thinking about my childhood puppy that got hit by a car (cue tear) and I all of a sudden have the strong urge to call my brother to see how he’s dealing with Fido’s death. But maybe I should wait until I puke first. Wait, what’s wrong with me that I feel like puking while I’m giving life-sustaining milk to my baby? Do I hate my baby?”

But then let-down occurs and milk begins to flow and you're thinking, “I love my baby, my friends, my family, Mary’s thighs, and breastfeeding rocks! I’m starving. I wonder what I should make for dinner?”      

This, ladies, is D-MER. Sometimes it occurs just during the first few times you nurse, and for other women, this goes on for the length of your nursing career. However, the good thing is that you are not crazy, you are not depressed, and that it will go away once let-down happens. I actually find the process quite humorous at this point. No longer do I allow myself to feel the pangs of guilt for my surge of hormonal emotionalism. Instead, I choose to find the comic relief in it all and plan to remind my baby that he owes me the softest Depends when I’m old.