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Breastfeeding can be an emotional process, with the decision to stop just as complicated. Or, as NBC meteorologist Dylan Dreyer puts it, a “mind fuck.”
The mother of two boys, Calvin, 3, and Oliver, 6 months (whom she shares with NBC cameraman Brian Fichera), expressed in a Friday Instagram post that “no one talks about the emotional toll STOPPING breastfeeding takes on a mom.”
Since her youngest will only breastfeed in the morning, Dreyer pumps milk from the moment she awakes, in order to produce enough food throughout the day, while supplementing with formula. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, low milk supply is common due to lack of breast stimulation or problems with milk transfer.
The routine challenged Dreyer. “Pumping gave me such dysphoria…a feeling that wasn’t really a depression, just a momentary fleeting feeling of hatred toward everyone and everything in the moment and a feeling of nausea that was sickening,” she wrote.
While Dreyer didn’t indicate that she’s experiencing Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER), the condition triggers dysphoria, an unhappy or uneasy state, or as defined by a 2018 research article published in the journal Clinical Lactation, “a burst of negative emotions in the first few minutes of breastfeeding.”
Researchers suspect that D-MER occurs due to chemical changes during breastfeeding, though some blame the decline of dopamine (a “wellbeing” neurotransmitter) and others on oxytocin mistakenly triggering the body’s fight-flight response. “In some cases, D-MER is so severe that mothers feel forced to wean,” wrote the study authors, adding that evidence for D-MER is anecdotal and infrequent.
“With such a bad experience for a year I thought I’d be so ready to wipe my hands clean of all things breastfeeding related, yet it has been impossible to stop,” wrote Dreyer. “‘One last pump,’ ‘one last nursing session,’ ‘just one more day,’ ‘today’s the day I’ll stop completely.’ Every time I think about completely calling it quits, I feel an ache in my heart and my stomach and I can’t quite do it. Maybe it’s because I know this is likely the end of this era in my life. A sadness that I’m moving into the next phase of my adulthood.”
She continued, “Or maybe it’s the DAMN HORMONES!!!! WTF??? No one, not a single person, not a single doctor, not even myself having gone through this with Calvin, told me what a mind f**k this would be.”
Breastfeeding is a task that requires women to be physically or psychologically healthy and have support, be it through job flexibility, time or family. As the New York Times wrote in 2014, “It is time we stop viewing breastfeeding as a personal choice – one that ‘good mothers’ will make as long as they understand how important breastfeeding is for the health and well being of their baby. Instead, we need to recognize the social and economic realities that can curtail the number of viable options for women who are trying to feed their babies and the rest of their families as well.”
And no matter how long a woman breastfeeds, feeling conflicted about weaning, for emotional or hormonal reasons, is common.
Dreyer, who last year, shared her mastitis diagnosis (inflammation of the breast tissue), which she treated with medication, and her technique for pumping on-air, added: “So to all the women out there who are calling it an end to breastfeeding/pumping, I’m here for you! I get it!. I’m going through it too! It sucks and I hate it and I feel sad, sick, and guilty. It probably won’t make you feel better because we won’t feel better until these damn hormones are completely out of our systems, but misery loves company! Good luck mommas!!!”
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