Mastitis is an infection of the breast. Mothers with cracked nipples are at much greater risk for mastitis. Some, but not all women will develop high fevers. Most women report flu-like aches. Localized pain and redness on the breast occur along with reduced milk flow from blockages caused by internal swelling. Milk supply almost always decreases during episodes of mastitis. The supply stabilizes as mothers recover.
A woman with symptoms of mastitis should telephone her doctor or clinic. The treatment for mastitis is bed rest for two days, breast emptying, and treatment with antibiotics. Some women report good results from the use of homeopathic remedies. Hot and cold compresses may be used, but some experts discourage prolonged use of heat. Some women will need pain relief.
The baby should continue to nurse. The milk is not dangerous for the baby, but scientists have discovered that it can taste salty during a bout of mastitis. This may be the body's way of controlling bacteria levels in the milk. Unfortunately, some babies will reject the mastitis breast because the milk tastes bitter. In that case, the baby can nurse on the other side while an effective pump or hand expression keep the affected breast drained. Authorities discourage abrupt weaning during mastitis because of the risk of abscess formation.
Mothers aren't the only ones affected by the hectic pace. It can be tempting to hand the baby over to someone else to bottle-feed in order not to interrupt holiday activities; however, as many mothers look back over their experiences, there can be a sense of regret that they allowed the holidays to interfere with breastfeeding. Infants are tiny for such a short time, and it is a special time in the lives of both mother and baby. While a few bottles here and there probably will not adversely affect most newborns, too much separation during the early weeks postpartum can create a sense of detachment that interferes with the attachment process we call bonding.
The baby, over-stimulated by being handled by so many new people, becomes anxious about the separation from his mother during this critical time period. The baby may become fussy and distracted at feeding time, as if to say to the mother: I'm mad at you! As a sort of protest, some babies will begin to refuse the breast. Mothers notice that their baby arches, pushes away, or cries when placed in a breastfeeding position. Some babies will bite the breast, although they happily accept the bottle.