Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER): My experience.

Tonight I’ve decided to sit down and write about an uncomfortable experience.  Breastfeeding.  I know…I sound awful right?  How can I be a mom knowing good and well that “breast is best” and be uncomfortable by the process?  This is how.  It is called D-MER. Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex.  With both of my children I suffered from this awful condition.

Nearly 5 years ago when I found out I was pregnant with my son I knew I would breastfeed.  I knew nothing about it but knew I would do it because it was supposed to be the best thing for my baby.   At 41 weeks my sweet boy was born and took quite well to the breast.  I felt so happy and accomplished that we both knew exactly what to do.  It felt so natural.  It also felt… terrible.  I was a new mother so I didn’t know what to expect.  I just know that before my milk let down, I felt inconsolable sadness.  I felt such debilitating depression.  It came and went in less than a minute, but the feeling was so intense.  It lingered with me because the sadness felt physical.  The depression physically hurt.  I’d never been so overcome with intense grief and emotion that I felt like I would vomit.   Yet, every time the milk came down… there was the feeling again.  I didn’t say anything at first because I thought maybe I was just adjusting.  I didn’t want to admit that I hated the feeling.  No one had ever told me this happens… so everyone must be able to deal with it.  Admitting it would have made me a bad mother.  I told myself all of those things.  Finally, I mentioned it briefly to the lactation consultant at my hospital.  She thought it was interesting but didn’t have any idea what was going on.  She kind of blew it off and said, “well, if you know it passes you can just tell yourself that and get through the moment.”  This was true, but it was still upsetting.  I began to dread breastfeeding.

I shared my story with fellow moms and no one knew what I was talking about.  This apparently did not happen to all of my friends.  This hadn’t happened to my mother.  I was depressed, but determined to figure out what was going on.  I googled frantically and finally stumbled upon some information about D-MER.  It was EXACTLY what was happening to me!  Finally!  I had some answers!  Just seeing that there were others out there with this same condition comforted me immensely.  Unfortunately, there is still not much known about this condition.

I made it 6 months breastfeeding my son.  I had some postpartum issues in addition to the D-MER that stood in the way of breastfeeding for me.  My son also seemed to nurse constantly.  Stopping breastfeeding was a very sad decision to make and I had several moments of feeling like a failure, but ultimately it felt like the best decision at the time.

Last year I had my second child.  An 8 lb 10 oz baby girl.  She also took to the breast extremely well and I felt that joy and accomplishment again.  Unfortunately, like last time, the D-MER was back.  My daughter nursed around the clock and the let down of my milk was so intense.  I suffered from awful postpartum anxiety/OCD after the birth of my daughter, which seemed to make the intense emotions with breastfeeding much worse.  A few weeks postpartum I suffered a minor infection and had to go on medication.  I had to stop breastfeeding for 10 days or so.  I tried to keep up with pumping but with a 2.5 year old and a newborn… it was all too much.  I was overwhelmed with day to day life and D-MER didn’t make things ANY easier.  I made it a few months and then switched to formula at the suggestion of several doctors.  It is not the decision everyone would have made, or the decision I thought I would choose, but it was the best decision at the time for myself and our family.

Breastfeeding is a huge topic in the new mommy world.  There is almost a shame attached to not breastfeeding.  Because of this, mothers with any sort of issue feel guilty, embarrassed, less than, ashamed.   I can’t honestly put into words the hurt I felt/feel knowing that both of my children were excellent eaters that took extremely well to the breast and I was the reason they weren’t breastfed for an extended period.  I can’t go back to that place.  It was something that contributed to my extreme postpartum depression.  The guilt was unprecedented.  But because of this, I ask the mom community to come together for other moms, ALL moms.  You never know another person’s story.  You may not even know that conditions like D-MER exist.  Your experience is your own.  What a new mommy needs most is love.

I’ve linked to a few articles about Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex in this post and I encourage new mothers (or anyone) to check them out.  More research is needed for this condition as well as knowledge and support.  If you think you may be suffering from D-MER please see your doctor, and for now take comfort in the fact that I know what you’re going through, as well as many other moms.  It is TOUGH, but you will get through it.

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Repost: My postpartum experience

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Stock Photo.  Posed by Model.  Freeimages.com/Anna B.

[This was originally posted on my other blog and was featured on The Mighty .  I decided to share it here to help other mothers in a similar situation.  Postpartum depression, OCD and anxiety are difficult.  You CAN feel better.  I implore you to reach out to a friend, family member or medical professional if you are suffering.  xoxo.]

Night time is here and as I sit here with a soon-to-be 8 month old,  sleeping peacefully in her rocker, I think back on the day’s events.  This is a routine for me.  I get my daughter to sleep, zone out for a bit reading articles/news/social media and before I get started on my work for the night I take a moment to reflect on my day.  Today I got to catch up with an old friend.  We chatted about her work, my work, day to day lives, our husbands and then my kids.  My daughter showed off her new crawling skills and even managed to kick my friend’s coffee cup out of her hand, spilling coffee all over her sweater. (This is why my wardrobe consists of leggings and t-shirts.) I stared at my daughter as I often do, beaming with pride over how fast she’s becoming so mobile, and then thought about how last week she wasn’t crawling at all.  It seemed like yesterday that I was just bringing her home from the hospital.  I shared this with my friend and before I knew it I was telling her all about labor, delivery and the horrible postpartum depression and anxiety I suffered through.  It is not my favorite part of this life I am building with my little one, but it has been an important part.  I’ve learned a lot from my suffering.

I’d been in labor for about 17 hours.  The time was finally here to push and after only two pushes, the doctor was throwing my little girl onto my chest.  I remember feeling the weight of her little body resting on me and being so relieved the pain was finally over.  I kissed my husband, cried, looked at her, cried some more… and then I asked the doctor if I was bleeding too much.  From that moment on, for the next few months — everything would be one giant blur.  The minute my body recognized I was no longer pregnant and the hormones did whatever the hormones do, I was not the same.  I obsessed over my postpartum bleeding.  I convinced myself I was swelling and that my blood pressure would sky rocket.  I called the nurse in every few minutes to examine the swelling in my feet (there was none).  My brain was on a roller coaster that had no end.  I couldn’t stop obsessing.  I couldn’t stop crying.  I didn’t sleep for the next two days at least.

I knew that I shouldn’t have left the hospital without being put on some sort of brain medication but I was so set on breastfeeding.  I had the Solly baby wrap, I had the breast pump.  I had everything I needed to be supermom.  I was going to breastfeed her for a year.  I was going to conquer this crippling anxiety because I had to.  I got home and I collapsed.  I couldn’t sleep.  I couldn’t eat.  I couldn’t do anything but cry, shake, panic, pace.  I couldn’t see my postpartum bleeding without feeling sick and having a panic attack.  I called the hospital nearly every night after I was discharged.  I called to ask if things I was experiencing were normal.  I called because I had a temperature of 99-something even though the handout I was given said to only call if it was above 100.4 .  I took my temperature exactly 200 times that night.  My husband grew concerned and called my parents.  I was losing my mind.  I was trying so hard to control my thoughts and feelings but they were so far gone at this point.  I was unrecognizable.

Only a week after having my daughter I got a minor infection and had to take antibiotics.  I had to stop nursing temporarily so she wouldn’t be exposed to the medication.  I started my daughter on formula.  This was my breaking point.  I hated myself.  I couldn’t do anything right.  The world was cruel in my eyes.  I’d wanted nothing more than to breastfeed and here I was, only 1 week postpartum and I was already “giving up.”  I told my parents that I was a horrible mother.  I lashed out at my husband…I didn’t want to exist.  I was so ashamed of myself.  I was so sorry for my daughter.  She deserved a mother that was so much better.  She deserved a mother that had her life together.  The hatred for myself surpassed everything.  I couldn’t even look at her.  My husband would take care of her and offer her to me.  I kept telling myself to hold her… take her… cuddle her.  I told myself to like it.  The truth was– she reminded me of what a failure I was.  When I recognized that I “didn’t want to hold her,” I knew something was definitely off.  I needed help.

For 6 straight weeks after delivery I was never alone.  I had an AMAZING support system.  My husband, my family, my friends.  They were all here.  Someone stayed with me constantly.  They helped take care of my babies and they helped take care of me.  My OBGYN called to check on me.  She saw me every time I called my doctor’s office with some new irrational fear.  She talked me through my postpartum depression.  She built me up.  My psychiatrist listened to my fears about medication and relayed to me her own postpartum experiences.  A member of her staff even came to my car to talk to me when I was sobbing too hard to go into the building.  My therapist, a Godsend, has helped me every step of the way.

As I sit here nearly 8 months later I can’t help but feel grateful for my experience.  I know that probably sounds completely crazy– but its true.  I learned from my postpartum depression and anxiety that every mother’s story is different.  This idea of the perfect mother I had in my head was just that, an idea.  It wasn’t reality.  Motherhood is messy.  Life is messy.  It never goes to plan.  I was dealt a hand of crappy cards.  My hormones were out of control.  They were bigger than my obsessive need to control them.  Because I couldn’t do it alone, did not make me a failure.  The important thing was connecting with my daughter.  The important thing was being happy and healthy for myself and for her.  I wasn’t currently the mother she deserved but I could get there.  I worked hard the next few months to get on medication that helped me level out.  I made sure to get some sleep.  I meditated.  I went to therapy.  I prayed.  I survived.

My relationship with my baby is better than I ever could have imagined.  She and her brother are the lights of my life.  They are the joy I feel in my heart every single day.  I am so blessed to be their mother.  All of those days I spent worrying about the bond that would be destroyed between my daughter and I were for nothing.  She loves me.  She smiles when I smile.  She laughs when I laugh… she knows my heart.  She knows I always loved her and will always love her, even when my mental health issues overwhelmed me.  Postpartum depression and anxiety are scary, hard and exhausting.  It is so important to see a doctor, build a support system and ask for help.  They say it “takes a village to raise a child.”  My village saved me.  And because I’ve been through such a dark time, the good times are now just a little bit brighter than they would have been.  I can see how fortunate I am and feel that gratitude on a new level.   I experienced postpartum depression and anxiety.  Something I can now say without shame.  I survived postpartum depression and anxiety.  Something I can now say with pride.

Postpartum Hair Loss: What can you do?


I want to start this post by saying that postpartum hair loss was traumatizing to me.  It made me realize that I wasn’t as confident as I thought.  It is very difficult to see the same face in the mirror and then realize that it is changing.  It was a real adjustment.  With the postpartum hormones going all over the place I was very sensitive to all sorts of things.  I kept convincing myself that I was losing too much and that I would lose it all completely.  I asked doctors, nurses, friends, mommy groups, googled, etc.  I just wanted someone to tell me that it would be okay!  (I needed this in all aspects of my life then.)

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(photo of me at my daughter’s 1 year appointment.  1 month postpartum.  Still had the pregnancy hair fullness!)
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(photos of my hairline at peak hair loss.  I was about 3/4 months postpartum in these photos. )

After a stressful few months leading up to the birth of my daughter, a stressful few weeks after and an TON of stress in the months after that… I had A LOT on my plate.  There was really no surprise that my hair was falling out!  Fortunately, I got a handle on most things, including the hair, and have been recovering in all aspects of my postpartum whirlwind.

I thought I would share a few things here that I tried and seemed to work!  I know that most of us moms are willing to try anything when something is worrying us.  Maybe my experience can help you.  Most importantly, hang in there.  It all gets better.  The hair, the lack of sleep, the anxiety… all of it.  It is all worth it.

Thyroid.
First thing is first.  Childbirth can really throw off your thyroid.  Sometimes excessive hair loss can be a sign of a thyroid issue.  If your postpartum hair loss is excessive, talk to your doctor about testing your thyroid.  It is a simple blood test and you get the results back quickly.  Once you rule out a thyroid issue you can proceed with other ways of preserving your locks and stimulating new hair growth.

Pony tails.
No more pony tails guys! When you’re losing hair by the second, especially at the hair line, the last thing your scalp needs is a big pony tail pulling on your fragile hairs.  Pony tails can be damaging without the added hormonal hair loss.  Too-tight pony tails/buns (the official new mommy hairstyle.  I say this lovingly.  It is easy and keeps your hair out of the way!) can actually cause a form of hair loss known as traction alopecia.  If you’re shedding post pregnancy, tying your hair back In a bun or pony tail is only going to make things worse.  If you MUST tie your hair back, try to do a loose, low pony tail.  This will be just enough to keep the hair out of your face or your baby’s hands without pulling so hard on the scalp.

Fewer showers.
For me, I took fewer showers.  It was less traumatizing.  It was more convenient.  I didn’t have to pull on my hair, tie it up in a towel, etc.  I think this saved my sanity more than anything.  Hair seems to come out in clumps in the shower.  Fewer showers is a win win.

When I did shower,  I would get out and gently towel dry my hair.   I tried not to pull on my scalp very hard.  I dried it just enough so that it wasn’t dripping and then let it air dry.   I did NOT tie it up on top of my head like I am so used to doing.  (A friend from college jokes with me that this is my preferred hairstyle.  I have been known to tie my hair up in a towel and fall asleep with it like that.  Drying and styling is too much work sometimes ha!)  To brush my hair I got a wide tooth comb.  This was effective in getting out tangles without ripping at my scalp.  The hair will still come out… but it doesn’t get caught on tangles and rip even more hair out.

Honeydew Anti Hair Loss Shampoo
I was so desperate to find a solution to my hair loss that I started frantically googling.  I wanted to find something that would possibly help with hair regrowth but wasn’t full of chemicals/toxins.  I was breastfeeding and wanted to stay as natural as possible.  I found a really great shampoo on Amazon for hair loss by Honeydew.  I linked to it because I believe in it and I love it.  I bought this shampoo and my hair started to regrow after a few washes.  It could have been coincidental of course… but even so– this shampoo smells incredible.  It is made with evening primrose, sesame and rosemary oil.  I love this stuff! It makes my hair feel healthy and the smell is fantastic.  My husband is now using it too!  Also, recently I purchased their Hydrating Conditioner Mint & Tea Tree Oil For Dry and Damaged Hair as well and when I use it my hair looks so shiny!  And of course, like the hair loss shampoo, the smell is wonderful!

Hair, Skin & Nails Multivitamin
After I accepted that I would have to be done with breastfeeding (long story), I switched out my prenatals for Hair, Skin and Nail Vitamins.  I liked the taste of these vitamins.  I think they were beneficial, even though I am not a fan of gummy anything.  A couple of the reviews aren’t favorable for them — but they were fine for me.  The raspberry taste was pretty good.  The important thing is just getting on a vitamin with Biotin.  When I spoke with a friend who is a dermatologist she recommended taking Biotin.  I still take these every now and then.  It is important that in the postpartum months you pay close attention to your nutrition.  Eating healthy is SO important.  It is so easy to barely eat or just eat fast food/other junk.  Keeping a balanced diet is good for mental and physical health, especially with a newborn!

Eating right.
As I’ve already mentioned, eating right is important.  Some postpartum hair loss can be attributed to slight iron deficiencies.  Eating iron rich foods can give you healthy hair and can also make you feel better!  I tried to focus on eating iron rich foods right after having my kids when I was dealing with postpartum bleeding.  I even make a smoothie now, heavy in spinach, during my period weeks.  I aptly refer to it as my “my period smoothie.”  I’ll include a recipe in a future post ha.  (Maybe I should work on the name lol).  For more healthy-hair ideas check out this WebMD slideshow.  Another thing to consider when it comes to diet is that as important as it is to eat the right foods, it is also important to not overindulge in the wrong foods.  Foods high in selenium can cause hair loss.  High selenium foods include Brazil Nuts, certain meats and seafood, seeds, etc.  A balanced diet is always best.

Stress.
The postpartum period is very hard for many women.  Hormones are out of control.  Your body is desperately trying to find balance while you’re not sleeping, breastfeeding, eating sporadically, dealing with life, etc.  It is difficult!  Personally, I dealt with postpartum anxiety and OCD.  The stress I felt was greater than any stress I’d ever experienced (For more specifics you can visit The Glimmer.)  My psychiatrist mentioned to me that my hair loss could be more significant due to stress.  I’m not sure, but I think she was right.  It is important to get a handle on stress for mental and physical wellness.  I found mindfulness meditation and therapy helped tremendously during this time.  I also went on Prozac.  I was reluctant to do this, but it ultimately made a significant difference.  It gave me the ability to function.  If your stress is more manageable your body will respond more positively.

Time.
Perhaps the best thing you can do in the battle of postpartum hair loss is simply wait.  The hair WILL come back.  Estrogen levels need time to balance out.  Your body just grew another life! The changes are tremendous.  With time, your hair will return to a semi normal state.  In the meantime, keep up with trims, part your hair differently or try out a new hairstyle.  Mask the hair loss until it starts to return.  Most importantly, just remember that you’re your own worst critic.  People kept reassuring me that they barely noticed my hair loss.  They weren’t paying attention to it.  I know that my husband fibbed a little to make me feel better– but really, when I look back on photos, after parting my hair down the middle rather than the side, the hair loss wasn’t the giant deal I thought it was.  And it did grow back, just like everyone said.

Hopefully these tips will help 🙂  If you have other products you love, ideas for dealing with hair loss, or any other pertinent info, feel free to comment! I would love to hear your stories.