Biology Might Be Why Breastfeeding Is Hard
Every. Single. Thing my husband did drove me out of my mind. The way his feet slap-slapped across the floor. The way he looked at me. The noise he made while opening the cupboards. Here I was, trying to nurse our first child and all I wanted to do was make like the mantis and off with his head. I was angry and restless and could hardly stand to feed my daughter. Talk about guilt.
At the same time, every feeding, my stomach turned with nausea and my underarms itched like a hundred mosquito bites. Yikes. The supposed natural bonding of a newborn and her mother. It was driving me batty.
So I did what any self-respecting woman bent on nursing no matter the discomfort would do. Yes, please, Google, rain wisdom upon me.
I hadn’t linked the anger and restlessness to nursing yet, so I asked the wizard in my computer to tell me why my stomach churned and my armpits itched when I was feeding my babe.
It turns out, there are loads of chemical fluctuations occurring each time your body preps to feed your kids and not everyone’s body is awash in feel-good hormones. They can also make you feel really uncomfortable.
One of those is the hormone oxytocin, which triggers let down, or the milk ejection reflex (MER).
Kellymom.com, a tremendous, non-judgy resource for nursing moms, writes: oxytocin “also helps make digestion more efficient and is associated with other gut hormones that can cause nausea.” And hooray, it may also cause the armpit scratch fest.
So what can a mom do?
It’s actually fairly easy.
Drink water and munch on some carbs. Do it as you’re sitting down for a nursing session.
From that moment on, I never sat down to a nursing session without a massive glass of water and something to eat. Granola bars were my favorite. Latch the baby then chug, and I mean chug, the entire glass. Then the polish off the granola bar. And in a couple of sessions I felt a million times better.
Interestingly, I noticed that my mood upon nursing (the urge to destroy my husband) also changed. So I asked my google friend about that, too.
Anger during breastfeeding?
Enter a woman named Alia Macrina Heise, a lactation consultant and mother of three, who began researching her own experience with these feelings. She created www.d-mer.org.
Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex, as she dubbed it, is a physical agitation and it appears to be linked to the drop in dopamine preceding the increase of prolactin before milk let down. Dopamine stabilizes after a few minutes and the feelings of anger, anxiety or depression fade. D-MER may last several months, so informing yourself about what it is and what it is not is to your benefit.
As suggested on the D-MER website, just learning that this was a physical response to my body’s milk production and not a newly tapped disdain for the father of my child helped to ease the angst. And maybe, as stated as a natural remedy on the D-MER website, my increased water intake to relieve the nausea and itchies, helped quell some of the most intense feelings of anger and frustration.
Readers of the blog may know that I struggled with mood issues, but I knew what was happening during nursing was something completely different. The feelings came on intensely with each let down and faded after a handful of minutes.
I was one of the bewildered moms who stared, mouth agape, when other mothers reveled in breastfeeding. I couldn’t have been more uncomfortable in my own skin. But with a little information, and a couple of easy steps, I was able to at least relax in my own skin. I nursed both girls for a year and my husband survived.
If you have feelings of anxiety, depression or anger during let down, do check out www.d-mer.org to see if there are some minor changes you can initiate that may relieve the difficulties during breastfeeding. Management can range from simple lifestyle changes, like my water intake, to SSRI’s on the more intense end of the scale.
Have you had bizarre symptoms during breastfeeding? Did you feel like you had all of the information you needed to work through them? Did you wean because of them?
Woman breastfeeding via Shutterstock