Dysphoric milk ejection reflex

Dysphoric milk ejection reflex (D-MER) is a condition where women and or other people who breastfeed develop negative emotions that begin just before the milk ejection reflex and last less than a few minutes.[1] It is different from postpartum depression, breastfeeding aversion and agitation (BAA), or a dislike of breastfeeding.[1] It has been described anecdotally many times,[1] yet one of the earliest case studies on the condition was only published in 2011,[2] and not much research was done prior to that.

Dysphoric milk ejection reflex
Differential diagnosisPostpartum depression, dislike of breastfeeding[1]

The feelings described may also occur in people who are not currently, or never have been, breastfeeding. In these cases, stimulation of the nipples produces a similar, dysphoric feeling as described by people with a condition identified as D-MER. A link between local dopamine blockage and the precise location of AMPA-glutamate blockage in the nucleus accumbens,[3] and the subsequent experience of stimuli as negative or positive has been researched but not confirmed as the cause of D-MER and related conditions.

Signs and symptomsEdit

The lactating person develops a brief period of dysphoria that begins just prior to the milk ejection reflex and continues for not more than several minutes. It may recur with every milk release, any single release, or only with the initial milk release at each feeding. D-MER always presents as an emotional reaction but may also produce a hollow or churning feeling in the pit of the stomach, nausea, restlessness, and/or general unease. When experiencing D-MER, a person may report any of a spectrum of different unpleasant emotions, ranging from depression to anxiety to anger. Each of these emotions can be felt at a different level of intensity.[1]


  • D-MER does not appear to be a psychological response to breastfeeding. It is possible for people to have psychological responses to breastfeeding, but D-MER gives evidence of being a physiological reflex.[4]
  • D-MER is not postpartum depression or a postpartum mood disorder. A person can have D-MER and PPD, but they are separate conditions and the common treatments for PPD do not treat D-MER. The majority of people with D-MER report no other mood disorders.[5]
  • D-MER is not the "breastfeeding aversion" that can happen to some when continuing to nurse while pregnant. Breastfeeding aversion occurs upon nipple contact when nursing whereas D-MER is triggered by the let-down reflex, even if it is several minutes after latching.[6]


There is no product that is medically approved to treat D-MER. It has been hypothesized that efforts to raise dopamine may help, and anecdotal evidence encourages a healthy diet limiting caffeine intake and adding supplements.[7]

Many nursing parents manage their D-MER by pumping, either exclusively or only occasionally, which may reduce symptoms and certainly helps reduce associating negative feelings with the infant. Others ultimately switch to formula feeding.

Emotional supportEdit

Awareness, understanding, and education appear to be important. Many people with D-MER rate their D-MER much worse prior to learning what is causing their feelings.[8] Once it is understood that they are not alone in their experience and realize it is a physiological condition, they seem to be much less likely to wean prematurely.[6]


The first documented reference to a hormonally based negative emotional reaction while breastfeeding was found online in a forum in June 2004.[9] Prior to the launch of D-MER.org the phenomenon was unknown, unnamed, misunderstood and rarely mentioned or talked about. The term dysphoric milk ejection reflex (D-MER) came from Alia Macrina Heise who described it in 2007.[7] It was chosen due to the emotional reaction (dysphoria) to milk let-down (milk ejection reflex). The "milk ejection reflex" is abbreviated among lactation professionals and referred to as the M-E-R. In 2008 a team of lactation consultants, headed up by Diane Wiessinger, worked together and consulted with other medical professionals to do a preliminary investigation to better understand D-MER.[10] Case reports and case series have been published on the topic.[11][12]


  1. ^ a b c d e Lawrence RA, Lawrence RM (2015). Breastfeeding E-Book: A Guide for the Medical Professional. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 626. ISBN 978-0-323-39420-8.
  2. ^ Heise AM, Wiessinger D (June 2011). "Dysphoric milk ejection reflex: A case report". International Breastfeeding Journal. 6 (1): 6. doi:10.1186/1746-4358-6-6. PMC 3126760. PMID 21645333.
  3. ^ Faure A, Reynolds SM, Richard JM, Berridge KC (July 2008). "Mesolimbic dopamine in desire and dread: enabling motivation to be generated by localized glutamate disruptions in nucleus accumbens". The Journal of Neuroscience. 28 (28): 7184–92. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4961-07.2008. PMC 2519054. PMID 18614688.
  4. ^ "Is it Psychological?". www.D-MER.org. Archived from the original on 10 July 2017. Retrieved 5 July 2019.
  5. ^ "For Moms Who Feel Bad Before Breastfeeding, This May Be Why". Postpartum Progress. 17 June 2009. Archived from the original on 15 July 2011. Retrieved 5 July 2019.
  6. ^ a b Watkinson M, Murray C, Simpson J (May 2016). "Maternal experiences of embodied emotional sensations during breast feeding: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis" (PDF). Midwifery. 36: 53–60. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2016.02.019. PMID 27106944.
  7. ^ a b "What is D-MER?". La Leche League International. 5 November 2018. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  8. ^ "Specifics of D-MER". Archived from the original on 2013-09-03. Retrieved 2010-12-07.
  9. ^ Bethla (13 June 2004). "Strange Feeling". MotheringDotCommunity.
  10. ^ Wiessinger D. "LCs Concur". D-MER.ORG. Archived from the original on 2013-10-17. Retrieved 2010-12-07.
  11. ^ Cox S (March 2010). "A case of dysphoric milk ejection reflex (D-MER)". Breastfeeding Review. 18 (1): 16–8. PMID 20443435.
  12. ^ Ureño TL, Buchheit TL, Hopkinson SG, Berry-Cabán CS (January 5, 2018). "Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex: A Case Series". Breastfeeding Medicine. 13 (1): 85–88. doi:10.1089/bfm.2017.0086. PMID 29115857.

Further readingEdit

  • Heise AM. "D-MER.org". Retrieved 2021-05-21.
  • Huggins K (2010). The Nursing Mother's Companion (6th ed.). Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Common Press. p. 171. ISBN 978-1-4587-6875-9.
  • Lawrence RA, Lawrence RM (2011). "Chapter 16: The Medical Conditions of the Mother". Breastfeeding A guide for the Medical Profession (7th ed.). Saunders. pp. 550–613. ISBN 978-1-4377-0788-5.
  • Mohrbacher N (2010). Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple: A Guide for Helping Mothers. Hale Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9845039-0-2.
  • Wiessinger D, West D, Pitman T (2010). The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (8th ed.). La Leche International. p. 416. ISBN 978-0-345-51845-3.