Mastitis is inflammation in the breast. A part of your breast is red, hot, and very painful when touched. It may lead to infection and flu-like symptoms like fever and body aches. Some sources will tell you to immediately get started on antibiotics. If that sounds right to you, then please do it. But if you'd like some other options to try first, then read on.
Here's what I'd like you to remember about dealing with mastitis:
#1. Keep the breast as empty as possible.
#2. Rest and relax.
#3. Prevent or deal with the infection.
(There are other factors to consider, such as cracked nipples and engorgement, but I'm not dealing with those here.)
Let's go back to #1 and see how to keep the milk flowing out of the breast, so it can sweep any bacteria right on out. Moist heat can really be your friend with mastitis. Very warm compresses right on the red area can help during feeds, and even better if you have some parsley, chickweed, or comfrey leaves to boil in some water for 10 minutes and then use them wrapped in some gauze or thin cloth.
Massage also helps loosen any thickened bits and move the milk out. Even though it really hurts, try to firmly massage the sore spot towards the nipple while feeding. Hot showers are a great place to do some massage and hand expression so you don't have to worry about dripping milk. Soaking your breast in very warm water with a handful of Epsom salts while you massage is another option.
Feed baby very often. The letdown is often excruciating with a full breast, so if you feed baby as often as you can it will help with that. Try different positions so that all the areas are getting drained properly. Feeding baby while he's laying flat and you're above him is called dangle feeding, and takes advantage of gravity. If baby is having a hard time latching or doesn't seem to like the taste (mastitis milk is saltier), then use a pump or hand express.
Don't skip over #2! Stress is a major factor in mastitis. it's our body's way of telling us to slow down...or else. Go to bed and relax. Milk flows better when you're relaxed, and your immune system functions better. Make sure you're eating healthy and getting plenty to drink.
#3-Infection may or may not happen with mastitis, but especially if you're having all-over symptoms, you need to deal with it. A raw potato poultice directly on the red area between feeds can help draw out any infection. Echinacea in either tea or tincture is a popular remedy. I make a Mastitis Tincture, which contains herbs you probably won't find in stores, but are very good at preventing and reversing mastitis. I also make a Mastitis Salve especially for cooling mastitis and drawing out infections, which is easy to apply. Homeopathic Phytolacca americana is another choice if you'd like something without any possibility of side effects.
If at any point you notice a raised lump forming in the red area that is incredibly painful, then you NEED antibiotics. If you've done these things for 24 hours and are feeling worse, then you probably NEED antibiotics. Be sure to use a probiotic regimen if you take them.
If you're feeling better, then keep it up for the next several days to prevent it reoccurring. Your milk supply may have taken a temporary hit in the affected breast, but it should come right back with frequent nursing.