Q&A: Is there a link between milk letdown and crying?
In the early weeks of breastfeeding, I felt like crying occasionally when I felt my milk letdown. Is there any relationship between the two?
After you deliver your baby, there are big fluctuations in your hormones—just when you just got used to how it felt being pregnant! Along with the hormonal shifts, you are physically recovering from delivering your infant and are probably suffering from a lack of sleep. Many new moms will experience some emotional ups and downs in the first few weeks after having a baby (i.e., crying unexpectedly). This is what many people refer to as the baby blues.
After a few weeks, you should start feeling better. But if you are experiencing more crying and feelings of depression (loss of appetite, loss of interest in bonding with your baby, loss of interest in socializing) after two to three weeks, check in with your healthcare provider for support and guidance.
But what you are talking about sounds like something a bit different from mommy adjustments or baby blues. There is a condition called D-MER (dysphoric milk ejection reflex), which can make a woman have feelings of sadness, anxiety, nervousness, anger, and in some cases (perhaps yours), tearfulness. This is not a new condition, but one that is being more recognized, talked about, and actively researched. A committed group of lactation consultants and women who have experienced D-MER are making headway in learning about it: Many women felt it was a psychological issue, and placed blame on themselves for not enjoying and oftentimes even dreading breastfeeding. But what we know now is that this condition is physiological, not psychological.
What those studying this condition have concluded thus far is that it is related to dopamine levels. Dopamine is a hormone that plays a big part in many functions, including affecting your moods. Dopamine also helps to regulate prolactin (which is your milk-making hormone). When a baby latches on to the breast and stimulates your body, dopamine levels dip, allowing prolactin to rise. In women with D-MER, the dopamine levels seem to drop too low, causing negative feelings. There is a wide range of D-MER intensity, with symptoms running from mild to severe. In the case of severe D-MER, it is suggested that possible use of medication to help regulate the dopamine levels may be necessary.
For many women, simply having it validated as a really physiological issue, as opposed to a psychological issue, can go a long way in helping them cope with the symptoms. Check out this D-MER information and support site for more info. Many health care professionals may not be aware of D-MER, so educate yourself and talk to your doctor if you think you may be suffering from these symptoms.