Guest Post–When Nursing Makes you Sick

Important notice:  This blog and all its content and subsequent content is now at www.second9months.com.  Please visit there often for updates and new posts!

When a woman thinks of birth and breastfeeding she expects it to be the happiest time of her life. Occasionally, to a mother’s dismay, she finds that breastfeeding brings on new challenges, feelings and experiences. She may experience feelings of pain with breastfeeding, or an unexplainable twist in her gut when her milk lets down. Unable to justify or validate what she is feeling leaves her at a loss and feeling confused. These feelings may be the result of a condition known as D-MER. D-MER stands for Dysmorphic Milk Ejection Reflex and it is treatable.

D-MER is caused by a drop in dopamine activity when oxytocin rises which creates a feeling of dysphoria in the mother (D-Mer.org). It is a physiological disorder, not a mental disorder. To understand D-MER better I have interviewed Renee Beebe, IBCLC. Renee Beebe is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant who works with mothers who may be exhibiting symptoms of D-MER.

A mother asked Renee the following questions:

Q. “Dear Renee, when I nurse my baby I feel nauseated and a dull ache. What is causing this pain and what can I do about it?”

A. Renee’s answer is “
First of all let me assure you that you are not causing this situation.  It can be very disturbing to a mother to feel sick, sad or otherwise uncomfortable when breastfeeding or pumping.  After all, breastfeeding is supposed to be pleasant, right?  Various hormones increase and drop dramatically during the process of breastfeeding–particularly during the milk ejection reflex (commonly known as the let down).  Most mothers feel wonderful when the milk ejection reflex or MER occurs.  A few mothers, however, feel awful.  The good news is, the nausea or sad feelings usually dissipate after the MER is finished and it usually dissipates over time during the course of breastfeeding.  Some mothers may need to be on medication temporarily until the condition improves.  Others may find relief with breathing exercises or other coping methods”.  Please see www.d-mer.org for more information and support. You are not alone!

Q: How can I reach Renee Beebe, M. Ed., IBCLC for help if I think I may have D-MER?

A. “Mothers may call or email if they’d like support.  Most mothers call because it ensures I can answer them sooner.  I would encourage women to call before they have the baby to make a connection.  After the baby is born, if things aren’t going absolutely smoothly, call as soon as possible.  I can usually see mothers within 24 hours.  Often the same day.  I take calls 7 days/week till 9 pm.” Renee can be reached at 206-356-7252 or you can go to her website  http://www.second9months.com/.  This entire blog is now located at my new website!

Q. What is an IBCLC?

A. The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) is the certifying body for lactation consultants.  It is the only certification available.  The exam is given once a year all over the world on the same day.  A lactation consultant should have the letters IBCLC after her name.  That is the only way you can ensure that she has achieved this minimum competency required by IBLCE.  The terms “breastfeeding specialist,” “lactation educator,” or “lactation specialist” really don’t mean much.  Usually those people have taken some valuable coursework, but don’t have the clinical hours required to actually sit for and pass the certifying exam.

Q. How did you become a lactation consultant?

A. After the birth of my first baby, I became involved with La Leche League for support.  where I was living at the time, breastfeeding was not the norm and La Leche League provided me with mommy wisdom and role models.  Soon I was helping other mothers and became a La Leche League Leader myself.   It was clear I had found my calling!  6 years later I had accumulated enough “helping” hours (2500!) to become certified as a lactation consultant.  I first took and passed the certifying exam in 1997.  I’ve been working as a lactation consultant ever since.

If you are experiencing negative feelings, pain, or nausea when you nurse your baby please know that you are not alone. Conditions such as D-MER are not caused by the mother. They are physiological in nature and beyond your control. Treatment is available for mothers with D-MER. Please visit www.D-MER.org for more information.

Written by Trina Baggett, Certified Birth Doula and Childbirth Educator.  www.atranquiljourney.com

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