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How One Mom's Discovery Changed the Science of Breastfeeding

A few months ago, I happened to stumble on a fascinating website dedicated to raising awareness about a breastfeeding-related medical condition I’d never heard of before, something called  “Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex,” or D-MER.  D-MER refers to a sudden and often overwhelming feeling of sadness that some nursing moms experience with milk letdown. For many women, it can be so emotionally debilitating that it leads them to stop nursing or even to develop full-blown clinical depression.

In her “Science of Kids” column at Babble today, supersmart blogger Heather Turgeon takes a closer look at D-MER, and tells us more about Alia Macria Heise, the mom who first identified this condition after experiencing it herself. Unable to find any information on what she was dealing with, she kept knocking on virtual doors all over the internet, trying to get the attention of the medical community. Finally, one prominent lactation researcher was willing to listen to Heise and to recognize the growing number of women sharing their own D-MER stories on the independent D-MER website Heise had established.  The result of Heise’s determination and grassroots mom-to-mom research is the current wave of medical interest in D-MER as a legitimate area of study within the field of women’s health.

Before the revolutionizing communications impact of social media on the experience of motherhood, it’s possible that D-MER would have continued to remain a medical unknown. But now, a whole lot of women are being heard on this topic, mostly online. Treatments for D-MER are now being developed, meaning that many women will be able to continue breastfeeding their babies, and to feel healthy while they do it.  That’s a good thing for individual women and children and a major win for public health.

So whether you happen to have any specific interest in the topic of breastfeeding or not, be sure to read Heather’s column on the  developing science behind D-MER. It’s interesting science, but it will also make you cheer for the hard work of  an individual mom with a medical problem and an internet connection who managed to connect the dots on D-MER  before anyone else had even noticed the issue existed.

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