Thursday, May 5, 2011

Why I Hated Breastfeeding

Successful breastfeeding can be attributed to many different factors. Some include a mother's willingness, and the support she receives from family, medical professionals, and of course lactation education. There are many more reasons women are successful at breastfeeding and I admire ANY reason a mother chooses to breastfeed her baby, but today I'm going to talk about my breastfeeding experience.

I gave birth in a hospital and my son was given 1/2 ounce of formula right after he was born because his blood sugar was "low". Despite telling the nurses I wanted to breastfeed, I fell for their scare tactic and even fed him the bottle myself. Thankfully I know better now. I do consider myself lucky that the 1/2 ounce of formula was the only formula he was given. Besides that one instance, the nursing staff at the hospital was incredibly supportive and I visited with a lactation consultant several times a day during my brief hospital stay. I was given breastfeeding information and business cards for independent lactation consultants if I needed any help once I got home. I was NOT sent home with any formula and wasn't even offered any.

My son's pediatrician was very supportive of me breastfeeding and praised my efforts every time I saw him. He also gave me information and referrals to lactation consultants if I needed help. He offered me no formula and advised me not to supplement.

I also had amazing breastfeeding support and encouragement at home. My husband and I lived with my parents when my son was born and my mom was an enormous help. While I was still pregnant, she contacted LLL representatives in our area and found out the meeting schedule. She bought books for me. She asked everyone she knew for suggestions on breast pumps, pads, tips, books, etc. She was wonderful. I had a live in lactation cheerleader! It didn't matter if it was 3 in the morning, if I needed help, she was there for me.

With such tremendous support and encouragement, it would seem impossible to hate breastfeeding, but I did. I hated it! I later learned that I was likely experiencing Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex or D-MER.

D-MER is a medical condition that causes dysphoria during letdown. This can mean varying symptoms for different women. Sadness, anxiety, anger, restlessness, irritability, and depressed mood are all symptoms of D-MER. It is not a dislike of breastfeeding. It is not postpartum depression and it is not a psychological response to breastfeeding. For more information on this very real but little known disorder check out

I am certainly no expert on D-MER and won't try to be, but I would like to share my personal experience breastfeeding and the feelings I struggled with. I hope by doing so, other mother's experiencing something similar can understand that they are not alone.

As mentioned before, I had wonderful support and help breastfeeding, but when I would breastfeed my son I felt trapped. I felt depressed, and frustrated. During breastfeeding I didn't feel any bond with my child at all. I felt like I was nothing more than a food source to my son. When I was breastfeeding, I couldn't wait for it to be over. It wasn't physically painful, but I still hated it. My husband sensed my dislike for breastfeeding and would often try to keep me company while I was feeding my son even during nighttime feedings. As much as I loved having him around, even his presence didn't help. I felt so alone and depressed.

During the time between feedings, I felt such an intense bond with my son. My heart was bursting with love and I couldn't be happier. I was so proud of my adorable little family. I never felt like I had postpartum depression. Beyond your typical baby blues, I didn't experience any negative emotions outside of breastfeeding. I didn't understand why I hated breastfeeding so much. A neighbor had a baby around the same time I had my son and she loved breastfeeding her daughter. She would talk about how it helped them bond. I honestly thought she was exaggerating or making it up. Nobody could feel that way about breastfeeding. It seemed so unnatural to enjoy it when to me, it was depressing and lonely.

I started to dread feeding my son. I hated doing it, but I plugged along knowing it was best for him. I made sure to breastfeed him in front of the tv to distract myself from the flood of negative emotions. Those who know me personally know that I don't even get local channels on my tv let alone cable. I'm strictly a movie buff, or I watch seasons of a select few tv shows if they are on netflix. I never watch tv. Camping out in front of the television was very unusual behavior for me. (At the time we lived with my parents who have cable, but now that we have our own place we don't even have our tv hooked up to local channels.)

Pumping was even worse than breastfeeding. A successful pumping session would give me 2 ounces total and took 40 minutes. It was even more depressing than breastfeeding. Due to my work schedule and not having adequate time to pump, I began supplementing with formula. My son began to prefer a bottle especially during the summer months and eventually refused to breastfeed at all. I was sad and relieved at the same time. I didn't have to feel those negative and depressing feelings anymore, but I wanted to give my son the best nutrition possible.

I am so proud I lasted 7 months breastfeeding my son. It was a difficult experience and I wished I had been able to talk about or even acknowledge my feelings. I felt guilty for feeling the way I felt. I felt like no one would understand. I even felt like people wouldn't believe me. I am so glad that I found out more about this very real physiological (NOT psychological) disorder. It validated my feelings and made me finally feel at peace with my breastfeeding experience.

Despite my difficult experience, I truly believe breastfeeding is the best option for babies. I can't wait to breastfeed again! I am empowered with knowledge and experience. I still have a great support system and next time will be even better! I know that mothers experiencing D-MER can be successful breastfeeding mothers. Again, I'm SO proud I made it 7 months and can't wait to beat my record with a future baby!

This mama wrote a great post about her own experience with D-MER. If you experience anything like this as a breastfeeding mother, please know that your feelings are real and okay. There are treatments available and most importantly people out there who understand what you are going through. Breastfeeding isn't always a loving, bonding experience, but it's worth the struggle. Please know that what you are feeling is real. Help spread the word about this disorder so we can empower and support each other. For more info:


DoulaSummer said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you for sharing your experience! I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for you and you definitely have much to be proud of!!

Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you so much for sharing this! You are an inspiration!

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