I’ve talked about breastfeeding before on this blog, and about why I made the decision to switch to formula. With a new baby coming, I have been thinking about what I am going to do this time around, and have really struggled with the idea of trying to breastfeed again. With all that in mind, I wanted to write another blog post, that displays the feelings I felt when I was breastfeeding, since all of those feelings and emotions have been coming back to me as I try to make my decision.
When I tell most people that we started breastfeeding, but that I switched to formula feeding Abe, I am often met with a response like, “Oh, well, you know the first few weeks are the hardest. It gets better!” To which I reply, “I know, that’s what I’ve heard. But I breastfed him for 3 months and still didn’t like it.” And then they get this confused look on their face, like they don’t understand how I could have breastfed for so long, and not have gotten over “the hump”.
But here’s the thing, I did get over “the hump”. That is to say, he learned to latch fine, and I was producing enough, and everything seemed to be working out in the physical aspect of it all. (Note: He was still using a nipple shield, but I attribute my lack of wanting to wean him off of it to my mental state, not my physical one or his ability to latch.)
But not in the mental.
Mentally, I was a mess. I was stressed and anxious at every feeding. I never looked forward to feeding time. I never felt like breastfeeding was an extra means of bonding. It was necessary, because I wanted to feed my son, but it was a necessity I did not look forward to. It was a means to an end.
Since I wrote that blog post (which happens to be one of my most popular posts), I’ve done a little bit of research about breastfeeding. And in my research I came across a newly recognized condition called Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex, or D-MER. Briefly, “it is a condition affecting lactating women that is characterized by an abrupt dysphoria, or negative emotions, that occur just before milk release.” (source)
D-MER is NOT:
- – a psychological response
- – nausea with letdown
- – PPD
- – a general dislike of breastfeeding
- – nursing aversion (although I think I might have suffered from that, too)
- – dysphoria (negative emotions) that a mother feels during letdown (although she might not actually feel the letdown happening)
- – something that can happen during the first letdown of the feeding, or all of them
- – a reflex controlled by hormones (see more specific info here)
D-MER is classified into three intensities – mild, moderate, and severe, as well as three spectrums – despondency, anxiety, and agitation. I’ve pulled together these two graphics to help give you a visual representation of each of them.
Now, there is a lot more information on the website here, but these graphics are a pretty good start, as far as basic information goes. For me, personally. I mostly suffered from anxiety, on a moderate-severe scale. If you’ve ever met me in real life, you know that I am a pretty laid-back, go with the flow kind of person. I don’t get too anxious about things, and I’ve never suffered from any type of mental illness. (I’m lucky, I know!) But once I started breastfeeding, things went wacky. I was anxious all the time. My best friend in the world (besides Kyle, ha) got married when Abe was about 2 months old and I didn’t fly down to go to her wedding because I was such a mess just thinking about going. Luckily she is awesome and completely understanding, but I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t make myself go to this special, special day.
I hated breastfeeding, although I couldn’t figure out why, and eventually we started supplementing. I tried pumping for a while, but that only made me more upset, so, as you know, when Abe was just shy of 3 months old, we completely switched to formula.
What a difference that made! It was day and night. I was also able to get back on my regular birth control once I made the switch to formula, which I think also helped (I did not love the mini-pill). I was me again. I was finally the mom I wanted to be and knew I could be. All it took was to stop breastfeeding.
Some may think this is crazy. A reflex and hormones and letdown from breastfeeding is what gave you anxiety? I admit, it does sound a little out there. And I also admit (like the website will tell you) that this is fairly new ground and not a lot of research has been done. But for me, when I found this website, things just clicked. It made sense to me. Finally there was an answer for what I went through. And my hope is that this might make it to at least one person out there, who went or is going through the same thing, so that they can research it on their own and know that they are not alone.
As I stated at the beginning of this article, I am not a doctor or a professional in anyway. The feelings of anxiety and agitation and sadness you may be feeling may very well by postpartum depression, and I urge you to bring them up to your doctor. But if you feel that your feelings are associated with breastfeeding only, this may be the information you’re looking for. Just please be smart about your mental health, that’s all I ask.
So, what about you? Did you have any negative feelings associated with breastfeeding? Or was it a breeze to you? I’d love to know! And please feel free to share this post if it resonated with you.