seriously somewhat serious

Not quite so warm and fuzzy

Today’s post is totally serious and a little long so you’re welcome to come back tomorrow instead for something fun. Tomorrow’s post will be fun. 


I often hear about women describe their breastfeeding experience as a fulfilling and enjoyable one. They talk about how much they love the bonding session and how warm and fuzzy it makes them feel.

I’ve never had that.

For me, breastfeeding feels like I’m sinking into a dark hole after getting punched in the gut.

Initially, I thought it was post natal depression but I started to realize that this terrible feeling of dread only came whenever I was breastfeeding. And after some research, I found out that it’s a condition called Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER).

It’s basically a feeling of dysphoria caused by a drop in dopamine whenever milk is released. For most women, this dopamine drop is barely noticeable but in cases of D-MER, the sudden drop causes a negative emotional reaction that lasts until the dopamine levels re-stabilize. It’s a reflex (like a knee-jerk reaction), which consistently happens every time I experience milk letdown. And because it’s a physiological response instead of a psychological one, it’s not something I can rationalize away by using mind over matter techniques. It just happens.

The good news is that the feeling doesn’t last long. It hits me for about 30 seconds right before each round of Milk Ejection Reflex (MER) and goes away once the milk starts to flow. The not so good news is that I usually get 3-4 rounds of MER per breastfeeding session so that’s about 30 rounds of dysphoria a day.

For quite a while, I had no idea how to deal with this because it’s not a common condition and not many people talk about it. It was like I was the only one who felt inexplicably sad and down while breastfeeding. I thought I was sinking into depression and falling into a deep dark hole I could never get out of.

With Kirsten, I struggled with it a lot. It didn’t help that I was physically, emotionally and mentally stretched to the limit trying to handle a 13-month-old Truett and a newborn on my own.

This time with Finn, knowing exactly what it is helps me to deal. When I feel the familiar sense of dysphoria creeping up on me, I take a deep breath, brace myself and wait for it to be over. Latching on directly also helps because being able to hold baby Finn and run my fingers across his little cheeks somehow makes the depression a little less depressing. Other times, I try to distract myself by watching reruns of Whose Line Is It Anyway on Youtube, surfing the net or listening to happy music.

Occasionally, despite all the mental pep talk, I start breastfeeding and I feel like I’m slipping into the dark and twisty hole again.

On those days, I get help with Finn so I can sleep in for another 3 hours. Or just get out of the house for a cup of bubble tea and a cupcake. Or spend some time snuggling with the bigger kids, laughing and telling bedtime stories.

One way or another, I’m learning to cope.


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  • Reply San September 27, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    *hugs*…. you can make it! Praying for ya.
    San´s last post ..Change

  • Reply Elaine September 27, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Sounds like it really isn’t easy for you. I wonder whether what you’re describing is really uncommon or do people just mistake it for post natal depression and therefore never find out about it. Its great that you’re sharing this with us the rest of us out here can keep a lookout for it. These things are easier to deal with when we know what is it. Thanks for sharing!
    Elaine´s last post ..Mooncake

  • Reply Annie September 27, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    Oh that sounds terrible Daphne! So sorry to read all that… D-MER is a hormonal thingy. Horrible things that dysphoria brings. I read placenta encapsulation helps…
    But I do agree that no many mothers know this condition exists! Will share your story on my wall.

    *hugs* Will take you out for a nice cup of hot coffee and some yummy cupcakes soon :)

  • Reply Eunice September 27, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    You can do it babe!!! All the best!! *Hugs*

  • Reply Ai Sakura September 27, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    big hugs.. and thanks for sharing your dark experiences with motherhood too. parenting definitely isn’t sunshine all the time.
    Ai Sakura´s last post ..Wordless Wednesday {linky party}: Danboard Macau Attractions | Week 39

  • Reply Serenely September 27, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    This is very informative. I’ll definitely share this on my FB… although it is a rare condition, it’s something to be aware about when talking to new mums who are finding breastfeeding a big challenge… even if they may not suffer from this, it’s a good talking point to start with that every mum may have different levels of emotion toward breastfeeding.

    Thanks for your open sharing of your struggle which I’m sure will help others out there.
    Serenely´s last post ..Some days…

  • Reply Katriina September 27, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    Wow, Daphne, that sounds really tough. Good on you for powering through and managing to breastfeed despite how hard it has been, and good on you for sharing your story. I have to admit that I’m one of those “breastfeeding was easy for me” women, but I try to shut up about this at all times, because everywhere I turn I hear stories of how hard it has been for other women. This is the first time I’ve heard of D-MER but it makes total sense. The chemicals and hormones in our bodies are a powerful force.

  • Reply Yiwei | Foodeology September 27, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    hmm, that’s something new for me.. I still rmb we had this small talk about depression in melbourne~

    anw, jiayou Daphne! These will soon pass. :)

  • Reply Colleen September 27, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    Hi daphne,
    Thanks for sharing this cos it really enlightens me now!
    You aren’t alone cos I feel the same way too!
    With my first kid, Everytime I’m expressing, I just feel like punching myself or feel gutted. It was just horrible!
    Now with my second kid, 5 mths old, Everytime I latch on, I do take in a deep breath and hold my breath akin to a roller coaster ride. It was horrible! I also wondered, how come people can get addicted to Breastfeeding while I just want to get it over and done with. And so much so I have to talk myself out being such a bad and evil mummy.
    But I totally feel crap whenever I latch or express.
    But guess motherhood means making sacrifices, despite the yucky feelings, I’m still willing myself to express every 3-4 hours so that I can give that ‘gold’ for my girl. Just tahan, and soon the breasts would be returned bk to us very soon.

  • Reply Geraldine September 28, 2012 at 10:40 am

    *hugs* Breastfeeding is never easy in the first place (at least for me).. Hang on there Daphne, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
    Geraldine´s last post ..5 Places to go for Mid Autumn Festival 2012

  • Reply Abby September 28, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Hi Daphne, Good to hear you are doing much better this round. I haven’t experienced this but I guess it is really hard. Great that confinement is nearly over and you can breath some fresh air outside. My best wishes

  • Reply mummyJ September 28, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Daphne, Im so happy to have read this post. I experienced this both time with both my kids. I alwys used to think i was just plain weird. No one i know had any of these. But i did, ESPECIALLY when im pumping. Tats y i will usually watch TV or surf the net while pumping. it helps as a form of distraction. It gets less as time passes. But i remember the first few months post partum were the worst.
    So now i knoe it is an actual condition and not me going cuckoo -_-

  • Reply R September 28, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    omg i had this too.

    nobody believed me (not even my own mother who is a GP). i had it so bad, the sinking depression would not quit after the first 30 seconds. i remember actually feeling like throwing my newborn down because of the sharp emotional plunge that would hit me as soon as she latched and let down came.

    i did not manage to directly bf her (except for the first few days) because of this problem – i ended up exclusively pumping. And even with the pumping i would have to focus on distracting my mind with online shopping, forum reading etc, so that i wouldn’t be frustrated by the depression.

    it stops immediately when i stop pumping!!!

  • Reply jean September 29, 2012 at 1:35 am

    hi daphne… glad u wrote this post! i can’t say i totally understand how u felt coz i dunno if what i had was the same condition as yours. i have to admit though, i really hated breastfeeding. i had to literally force myself to go on for 6 months just so my boy could get some goodness out of the breastmilk. if u ask me, i think breastfeeding is the WORST part of being a mum, no one else can do it for u and the cycle just goes on and on and on… it’s neverending! i dunno how long u intend to breastfeed but for me, 6 months was enough! i felt like i was compromising myself way too much with all that expressing every 4 hrs and having to sterilize the pump like 4/5 times a day? i felt so stressed & depressed, like i couldn’t “enjoy” being a mummy to my boy at all! of coz i know the benefts of breasmilk, but i was so so so happy when i stopped expressing! that’s y i really really have the fullest admiration for mummies who can bf for 1 yr, or even 2! no one will understand how tough it is, only mummies who have been thru it will! hang in there daph! n rem, dun be affected by other people’s judgment, just stop if u really feel like you can’t do it anymore ok? jiayou!

  • Reply SengkangBabies September 30, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Some guys take for granted that nursing is “natural” for Mummies.
    It is a lot of efforts, keep it up Daphne :)

    SengkangBabies´s last post ..Dettol helps us combat HFMD

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