Postpartum, Pumping

DMER in New Moms: Anxiety When Breastfeeding by Pumping or Nursing

Anxiety When Breastfeeding: A Hormonal Response, Not Mood Disorder

D-MER is a physiological response to the release of breast milk. It can feel like sadness or anxiety when breastfeeding. It is a hormonal reflex and is not an indicator of a mood disorder. The feelings should not last more than a few seconds or minutes. I remember wondering if my body or mind was telling me I didn’t like breastfeeding or wasn’t connected with my baby. Research shows D-MER to have no link to mother-baby bond and to be uncontrollable by the mother.

RELATED: Myths About Motherhood

Many women learn about D-MER by searching things like “I feel sad when breastfeeding” or “I don’t know if my body likes breastfeeding.” According to d-mer.org, “Dysphoria is defined as an unpleasant or uncomfortable mood, such as sadness, depressed mood, anxiety, irritability, or restlessness. Etymologically, it is the opposite of euphoria.” In reference to D-MER we can see that the unpleasant or uncomfortable mood impacts the milk ejection reflex.

RELATED: Boob Issues After Baby

woman breast pumping and feeling anxious from DMER

D-MER is Not a Mother Failing

It is important for moms to know that D-MER is not a failure or a direct reflection of their ability to breastfeed. The anxiety when breastfeeding is not an active choosing to not attach to your baby or hold any negative feelings. This understanding can help moms to make an educated and supported choice on whether to continue feeding through the experience.

Some believe that things like nutrition, rest, exercise, reducing stress and cutting back on caffeine can impact the hormones and improve D-MER symptoms. (I know, I know, all of those things can be hella hard to do when you have an infant!) Remember, your maternal mental health is always an important factor.

10 Things Moms on Instagram Said about D-Mer

When we brought up D-MER on Instagram, moms had a lot to say about it! Maybe some of their responses will resonate with you too:

  • It was such a relief to realize I wasn’t alone. To love breastfeeding but experience that feeling of dread was so very confusing.
  • You just solved something I thought I was making up. I say to myself “I’m just sleep deprived” or “I had too much caffeine today” but it comes and goes with my let down 2-3 times a day.
  • I did not know this was a thing but have totally experienced this and wondered “What’s wrong with me?”
  • My mother recounts this with my youngest sibling. She switched to formula and internalized not trusting herself with the baby for months.
  • I had it through all three of my kids. Breastfed a total of 7 years. Deep breathing and mindfulness techniques helped.
  • Totally had this. It was like a mini anxiety attack just as I was getting set up to pump and it would go away shortly after letdown.
  • I felt this way sometimes and I felt so yucky! I couldn’t explain it because it almost came out of nowhere and disappeared just as quickly.
  • With my first baby I would ball my eyes out the first 5-10 min of nursing her. I could be happy as could be, start nursing and tears would start flowing. I thought I was crazy.
  • It doesn’t happen all the time but when it does it’s awful. That foreboding, sense of dread and anxiety. Someone said it’s a homesick feeling and that’s such a good explanation. Just dread.
  • I told my mom about how I was feeling and she thought I was on the verge of a mental breakdown.

What to Do If You Have Anxiety While Breastfeeding

If you’re experiencing D-MER the first thing to know is that you’re not alone and you’re not doing something wrong. Our bodies have many changes and responses to pregnancy, birth and postpartum and it looks different for everyone. As your hormones are regulating, you may experience D-MER. If you do, remember it won’t last long and you can get through it.
1. Take deep breaths. (Almost like labor!)
2. Create a mantra Ex: This is only a moment and I accept this moment.
3. Stay connected
4. If it persists or becomes too much, talk with your doctor about

Postpartum

Navigating Your First Period After Having a Baby

What to Expect From Your First Period after Baby- and When Will it Return?!

After giving birth, there is a period of time before you start to experience a menstrual cycle again. You may be wondering if your periods will be different during postpartum after baby or how long it will take for your period to return. While periods after birth vary greatly, there are some things you can expect when it comes to having your first period after baby.

Chances are, it has been awhile since you had your last menstrual cycle. While pregnant, there is no ovulation and no period (except for VERY RARE cases of superfetation.)

RELATED: New Mom New Baby Postpartum Guide

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional.  I am a postpartum coach and mother of 2. While all content on Postpartum Together is created with research and best practices, do not replace any information with the direct care of your medical provider. Also this site may use affiliate links which means, at no additional cost to you, Postpartum Together may receive a portion of commission from any sales.

what to expect from your first period after having a baby

When Should My Period Return After Giving Birth?

The return of your period can happen anywhere from a few weeks postpartum to months- even a year+ after giving birth. On average the return of period is around 74 days, but breastfeeding can draw out the time it takes for your period to return because of the hormone levels.  While it is not common for a woman to ovulate while she is breastfeeding, it can happen (and yes, you can get pregnant while breastfeeding!) Your body produces more prolactin when you are breastfeeding to stimulate milk production. This usually keeps your ovaries from releasing eggs and, in turn, not experiencing periods.

Are Periods After Baby Different?

It’s likely going to take a few cycles for you to feel like your period is back to “normal.”  You may have fewer or more days between cycles, your flow may be heavier or lighter and PMS, cramping and other symptoms can feel different after giving birth. If you are noticing a difference in your menstrual cycles, don’t be alarmed. Pregnancy, birth, and postpartum cause many fluctuations in your hormones and the impacts go beyond the days of birth and early postpartum. This means we can’t give you a direct answer about what to expect from your period after baby, which is probably frustrating, but know that if periods feel different or you don’t know what to expect, you’re in good company. Most women notice some kind of change at least for the first couple of cycles.

RELATED: Postpartum Emotions

Will I Have Less Menstrual Cramping After Birth?

Often women with endometriosis or other painful period experiences are told they may have less cramping and pain in periods after going through pregnancy (I remember being told this when I was in high school and first prescribed birth control for my periods which, in another story, wasn’t great.) The reason you may experience less pain after birth is again hormones. Increased progesterone levels can carry over from pregnancy and birth which impacts endometrial tissue and can result in less painful periods. This can be a welcomes reprieve after birth, though this does not mean periods will continue to be less painful (I know, bummer).

Some women do enjoy less painful periods after birth. This can be from the cervix and uterus changing shapes, sometimes stretch and impacting the cramps you may experience. Also, hormones can cause the uterus to relax and create easier periods.

Why is My First Period After Birth So Heavy?

First, it’s important to know that lochia after birth can last 4-8 weeks (average 6 weeks) after giving birth. Lochia is the bleeding and tissue passing after giving birth as your body heals from pregnancy and delivery. Read more about Postpartum Bleeding here

During this time, it’s important to know what red flags to look out for such as:

  • Red and heavy blood more than a week postpartum
  • Large clots (bigger than golf ball), or high number of clots
  • Discharge has a foul-smell
  • Fever or chills
  • Dizzy and/or nauseous
  • Racing heart

Note: Postpartum bleeding may increase when you are breastfeeding, engaged in activity (walking steps, etc.), straining to use the restroom or when you first get out of bed.

Bleeding is a normal part of postpartum as the body transitions from pregnancy and birth. However, if you feel your bleeding is abnormal, contact your doctor.

In the first period after birth, you may still be experiencing heavier periods which can be caused from the changes in your uterus and the mucous lining throughout pregnancy and birth. As this continues to pass and go “back to normal,” your periods should also.

What is a “Normal” Period After Baby?

Just like pre-baby, normal looks different for everyone and every body. According to the experts at the Cleveland Clinic, an average menstrual cycle is “28 days long; however, a cycle can range in length from 21 days to about 35 days.” The Cleveland Clinic also indicates that most women bleed 3-5 days “but a period lasting only two days to as many as seven days is still considered normal.”

As your cycle returns after birth, you should be thinking of “normal” as your normal pre-pregnancy and use that to identify if anything feels off. This also means if you had struggles like PCOS or endometriosis, they may return after having a baby (though you should have a continual conversation with your provider about this.)

Another consideration is if you were on birth control prior to your pregnancy. Birth control is known to shorten or even get rid of menstrual cycles and so you baseline of “normal” may be different when you are postpartum and not back on birth control.

Cramping During Breastfeeding: Is My Period Back Already?!

Some women wonder if their menstrual cycle is returning just days (or hours!) after giving birth.  Do not fear, you are not experiencing the return of your period. This is most likely involution- afterbirth cramping.

Afterbirth cramping is the process of your uterus returning to its’ regular size after growing during pregnancy and delivering during birth. This can be noticed most during breastfeeding due to the hormonal release.

I Had My First Period, Now Will They Be Consistent?

Once you’ve had your first postpartum period, you might wonder if you can count on a regular schedule. Chance are, it will take a few cycles in order for your periods to be predictable again. This means you want to still use protection if you are having sex and carry your favorite hygiene products with you (um have you tried Thinx Period Panties yet?!) Also remember that the flow, duration and cycle can change as your body regulates again and gets back into a rhythm. If you find yourself with erratic periods for months after you cycle returns, it’s a good idea to talk with your medical provider about this.

RELATED: Am I Ready for Sex After Baby?

So in short, it’s hard to describe exactly what to expect with your first postpartum period. Like pregnancy, birth, and all things postpartum- our bodies all recover and operate in different ways. Do not be surprised by a difference in duration or flow during your first few cycles after you give birth. Know the signs of any postpartum bleeding problems, and have open honest conversations with your medical provider about what you are experiencing so that you can have your periods with confidence.

do period underwear really work to hold bloodThinx Period Undies are my go-to for all periods, but I SO wish I would have known about them for postpartum and the first period after baby. They can hold up to 4 tampons worth, and are created to absorb moisture and smell. Seriously periods suck, but this can make it less sucky.
Plus, with the link you get $10 off your first order.