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Mama Tips & Advice

  • Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex – When Sadness Almost Made Me Quit Breastfeeding

    It may seem simple to many, but it felt like a huge success when I was able to breastfeed my second son, Mateo. A bit of a background – I had struggled with my first son Rylan and moved forward with exclusive pumping and then supplementing with formula thereafter, so I was very relieved when Mateo was able to latch right away.

    But…that’s not to say it was easy. The pain was new and unbearable in the beginning. The nights were long comparatively and I felt helpless in the moments when he wouldn’t latch right away but was screaming at the top of his lungs from hunger. Fortunately, I worked with lactation consultants with success and trudged through those first few days unaffected.

    Then it happened suddenly – an experience that I never read about or prepared for. As I lumbered through the 2-3 hour increments of our nursing schedule, I was at the same time becoming overwhelmed with an extreme sense of sadness and dread as my milk was coming in. The feeling as if I had done something horrible, something bad was going to happen, or if I had a million bills to pay tomorrow and no way of paying it. A homesick, heart racing, pit-in-my-stomach-feeling I couldn’t explain or wrap my head around. A sudden need to be alone and just breath through the sadness with no interruptions as I nursed. And as fast as it would take over my emotions, it would dissipate just as quickly.

    It almost made me quit breastfeeding.

    Knowing I have a past of anxiety, I immediately became very concerned for my mental health and even more worried thinking it was, yet again, going to creep back into my life. I would certainly need to get in touch with my doctor and hope there was a way to work through this debilitating experience. I started to get vocal about it, just to get feelers out. To my husband, I feel very anxious and I’m not sure why…am I acting weird? What do you think could be happening? To my close friends (who had just had babies within weeks of me), Hey guys, are you feeling this way? Have you felt like this before, I’m feeling like _______”. I was met with unfamiliarity yet persisted to research what it all was, and thankfully after some intense internet searching, I found out what I was experiencing:

    Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex or D-MER

    Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex | Rock It Mama | D-MER finding the signs and understanding

    Described on d-mer.org,  “Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex is a condition affecting lactating women that is characterized by an abrupt dysphoria, or negative emotions, that occur just before milk release and continuing not more than a few minutes.”

    Dysphoric milk ejection reflex cannot be fully explained but is linked to an overly-excessive drop in dopamine during the “let-down” in order for prolactin levels to rise, resulting in a brief dysphoric reaction.

    Also – because this is a temporary feeling while breastfeeding, the actual condition is a physiological response versus a psychological response – which did give me a sense of relief that this wasn’t anxiety-related at all.  A case report in 2011 by Heise and Wiessinger concluded that “Imagine tapping your knee to cause a reflexive jerk. Now tell yourself that you are going to resist the reflex with all your will, and tap again. Does your willpower make any difference? This is precisely the problem for the mother with D-MER. The emotions are unavoidable. She can feel them coming, but cannot stop them.”

    Upon further research (and after joining this Facebook support group), I realized that my feelings of negativity from D-MER were not the only symptoms and feelings of intensity one can be presented with. There is actually a “Spectrum of D-MER”, ranging from mild to moderate to severe.

    Thankfully –  I found myself between the mild/moderate range, which I feel is as much as I could handle mentally. Anything more, I would need to stop breastfeeding. I also have an amazingly supportive husband, helpful 5-year-old and Mateo has always been an easy baby, so it could have been worse. Unfortunately there is very little research on treatment of D-MER and the best advice I have seen is to avoid breastfeeding altogether (and even some women continue to have it afterwards). But for me, simply just knowing the feelings I experience have a name and there is a reason for it gave me validation and eased my mind.

    If you are experiencing similar feelings, be sure to talk to your doctor and research more about D-MER. I highly encourage joining the linked Facebook group above, as it has helped me immensely and has reminded me that I am not alone. And if you want to chat more, feel free to contact me.

    Cheers,

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  • Postpartum Depression – To The Struggling Mom

    Hey Mama, let’s talk about it. The tough stuff. Postpartum depression and anxiety. I suffered from it. And I’m here to say it’s ok if you are too. And you know why? Because it’s not your fault and you’re not alone.

    In fact, an estimated 20% of all new moms will be affected by postpartum depression, anxiety and other mood disorders.

    I’ve made it a personal commitment to shed light on this vexing illness, that is far more common than we understand. I want to share my experience & advice here in the hopes that you’ll find comfort and perhaps relief in knowing that I am healing and I truly believe you will too. 

    Know Yourself

    For the first few weeks after my son was born I knew I didn’t feel like myself but I wasn’t convinced it was postpartum depression because I kept hearing about the baby blues. Let me say this loud: there is a difference between baby blues and postpartum depression, but the line is not clearly defined. Knowing yourself and trusting your instincts will help you discern between the two. Though it varies from person to person, inability to sleep (even when baby was sleeping) loss of appetite and lack of interest in everyday activities are a few of the symptoms (none of which I’d encountered before) that led me to seek help. My deepest regret is not recognizing that I was suffering sooner. Diagnosis is the first step in feeling better. 

    You’re Not Alone

    This leads me to my biggest piece of advice: Tell someone how you’re feeling. Confide in your partner, your mom, a trusted friend or coworker and most importantly inform your doctor. A professional can help you find the right method of treatment and recovery. As isolating as postpartum depression can feel, please remember you’re not alone. There are many factors that contribute to the onset of PPD and all of them are out of your control. Reach out to others who are sharing a similar experience. Talking to other moms will help you find hope, inspiration and strength to navigate this difficult time. To find a support group near you, consult here.

    Postpartum Depression | Rock It Mama | The signs that you have postpartum depression and advice to get you through

    “As isolating as postpartum depression can feel, please remember you’re not alone.”

    Remedies

    A few things that helped me: exercise, affirmation and mediation. Going for a walk outside in the sunshine helped clear my mind of clutter and overwhelming anxiety. I told myself that I was a good mom, even on the days I felt inadequate. I took time to be grateful for the small victories like getting baby to sleep or hitting a milestone. You’d be surprised at how the little things can affect the big picture.  

    Make a Plan

    When I found out I was pregnant with my second son I decided to make a plan with my doctor to reduce or mitigate the symptoms of PPD, should it happen again. An advantage to baby number two is knowing the signs immediately. Make your doctor aware of your postpartum history and devise a strategy for coping this time around. This will enable you to jumpstart treatment before it negatively impacts your life. 

    As an afterthought, you will be okay Mama. Life has peaks and valleys and this just happens to be part of your motherhood journey. I hope you’ve found solace in my words and that I’ve helped illuminate an illness that we can all conquer together. 

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