Approximately 730 hours. Give or take 19,000 ounces.
I didn’t expect to know exact numbers, but I also didn’t expect to keep a pump log counting down the date I could quit.
It’s really crazy when I think back on my pregnancy, how I prayed for my breastfeeding journey. I remember telling one of my best friends “man the only thing (aside from a healthy baby) I’m worried about is his hair and my ability to produce milk” I was terrified my milk supply wouldn’t suffice.. and that he would be bald 😅 i thought as long as God gives me the milk, and cal some hair, I can make things shake after that. I didn’t think much else would stand in our way.
Man did breastfeeding have lot to teach me.
The first time I felt “the feeling” was also the first time I pumped. I chalked it up to stress from cal being in the NICU, the insane hormones from birth, and just trying to cope with all the changes happening. I fought through it, and told myself “it’ll pass”.
We started going through the motions of being NICU premie parents and I realize “the feeling” happened every. single. time. I pump.
It was to the point I KNEW my let down was starting in 60 seconds after the feeling began. I realized these intense feelings and my letdowns were correlated. I told myself once calvin was home and latched it would stop.. it had to be because I was using pumps. Right?
Cal was discharged and I realize getting him to latch would be no easy feat. When we weren’t playing battle of the boob and he actually nursed there was no change.
Okay, so I’m just some freak. Great.
I could literally be mid laugh with Danny, then get my letdown going and BAM. It’s instant, nothing feels right. I feel almost disgusted with myself; emotions that are too intense for what is happening. Then, it’s gone. Almost like it was never there. Just leaving me confused and convinced I was crazy.
Near the four month mark my postpartum anxiety was at it’s peak and the feeling was even more pervasive. I dreaded pumping. Talking to someone helped me get through the feeling, yet I didn’t wanna be around people. A conundrum. And I felt stuck in it.
One evening, during my middle of the night pump, I had enough. There had to be someone on the internet that’s felt like this. So I typed “sadness and milk let down”. I scroll past the first two ads then see Le Leche League mention something about overwhelming emotions before a milk letdown. Then I see a few blogs.. then some .org sites, then a few academic articles, and then there it is. A name. D-MER. Dysmorphic Milk Ejection Reflex. Sounds crazy right?
Turns out it’s not. When our bodies produce milk our dopamine levels must lower to increase our prolactin levels (what makes the milk). Generally the fall in dopamine goes undetected, the mother never even knows it’s happening. But for some this drop is detectable by overwhelming negative emotions. It has nothing to do with the act of breastfeeding more the act of milk releasing. It’s like when the doctor tests your reflexes.. it doesn’t matter what you’re doing when he hits you, the reflex is the same, your knee jerks. Same goes for the milk ejection reflex. It doesn’t matter if you’re actually trying to pump or nurse, or if you’re walking around, when the milk is ejected the feelings are unavoidable.
This was all information overload to me. I was so excited. I felt like I had a breakthrough. I woke Danny up and attempted to explain this science to him at 4 in the morning. On my hunt for new information about this physiological phenomenon I joined a Facebook group 😅 I read all the different emotions and different intensities these women experience.. I was so glad to not be alone. But then I started thinking. If I had not gotten fed up and started researching I would have never known.. my lactation consultant didn’t warn me to watch out for this, no one in my birthing class went over the symptoms my pediatrician didn’t give me a DMER checklist at our 2 month appointment. As I read over other stories, aside from the feelings, another common denominator was NO ONE had heard of it. Not their OB, not the pediatrician, not even most of their lactation consultants.
I wonder how many mothers this is happening to that dont even realize it’s a real thing? How many mothers attempt to nurse but are over come with this negative funk and think they’re crazy, or it’s postpartum issues being made worse by breastfeeding or how many women push through and feed but suffer in silence because they don’t even know this thing has a name.
This journey taught me a lot. Our bodies are so intricate.. and still misunderstood, everybody’s journey is unique, but we’re never alone, if you ask God to provide He will deliver (hello👋🏼 overproducer), ziplock bags work better than breastmilk storage bags, lavender and thieves oil work wonders for mastitis, got a clog? Get your man to take one for the team, if you gotta hand express you better have good aim, always keep a snack in your pumping bag, and document everything, you’ll be glad you did.
I’ve been going strong for 8 months, I’ve built up a freezer stash to last until he’s a year old. So that’s a wrap. Cue credits.