D-MER Breastfeeding through intense feelings of anxiety: My experience

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“It’s like a surge or a wave of anxiety or sometimes it’s this overwhelming feeling of dread or even just a feeling of being blank or hallow. Sometimes I feel extremely nauseated at the same time. It happens when I first sit down and start feeding sometimes it only lasts a few second and others times longer”.

This is what I first journaled when I notice this was happening.

I would get a huge rush of anxiety, a feeling of doom or dread like something bad was going to happen or I would feel completely blank and empty.

I remembered reading about these feelings and a condition on a blog written by Teagan ( @chuck.and.coops) who spoke openly about her struggle with D-MER. I then decided to look a little further in to it and when I did I knew straight away when reading the signs and symptoms that this was what was happening to me.

So what is D-MER?

“D-MER is characterised by negative emotions, that occur seconds before a mother’s milk ejection reflex when breastfeeding or expressing or with a spontaneous MER (ie milk releasing when not breastfeeding or expressing).” - taken from the ABA website.

WHAT I DID TO HELP..

When I noticed it started effecting me and my mood outside of those few minutes I decided to talk to my phsycfologist about it as I didn’t want it to escalate into something more and to stop me from continuing on with my breastfeeding journey. What she told me and reminded me is that now I know and understand what is happening I can own the feelings. I can’t control them or stop them from happening but, I can rationalise them and work out ways to manage them.

Somethings I implemented to help manage:

  • More skin to skin feeds which can release hormones to relieve stress.

  • Stopped trying to distract my self through the feelings and instead I’ve been focusing on Remi, her beautiful face, my love for her and letting those feelings of anxiety wash over me entirely until they pass - ride the wave and breathe through them. For so long I was trying to distract myself - I would read, scroll socials, google things or do anything to try to ignore and pretend like it wasn’t happening but instead of helping I found it made me feel so on edge for the entire feed.

  • Grounding exercise - while the feelings start I repeatedly remind myself that every thing is ok, its just a physical response - nothing bad is about to happen.

  • Set myself up correctly for a feed so I am comfortable:

    Make sure I am sitting well supported and comfortably.

    Have a big glass of water near me or a cup of tea at night. Feeding makes me super thirsty and if Im dehydrated the feeling seems stronger.

    If Im hungry have a snack close by but personally often the feeling makes me intensely nauseated or lose my appetite really quickly.

  • Breathing exercises. Deep breathing through the feelings can help me calm myself. I find breathing in for 5 seconds through my nose and out for 7 seconds through my mouth really helpful - repeat 5-10 times.

  • Knowing when it will happen. I tracked my feelings and worked out that it happens more intensely or often when my breasts are fullest or overnight/first thing in the morning when I haven’t fed for a while. Im not sure but it seems to be when I have a faster or stronger let down its more intense. It also seems to happen more if I am dehydrated too.

There is no medical way of treating it particularly but if it is severe, concerning you and impacting your life you should seek the help and support of your medical professionals. Lactation consultants can also help.

As hard and overwhelming as it can be it doesn’t have to stop you from breastfeeding ( but I can appreciate and understand why it could). With the right tools and support and understanding I feel like I could manage it and now at 7 months of breastfeeding my D-MER occurs a lot less and is less intense than before and when it does occur I feel like I am more mentally prepared and aware of it.

I hope this article has helped you in any little way and if you ever have these feelings or know someone that does come back and take a read or direct them to here as I honestly believe just by knowing its a real condition that you can take back some of the power and reassure yourself that its just a physical feeling and you’re not going crazy.

IF YOU NEED SUPPORT YOU CAN CALL THE BREASTFEEDING HOTLINE ON 1800 686 268

With Love,

Brittany xx