Mastitis is a nasty infection of one or both breasts that can occur in breastfeeding women. It can be caused by a plugged milk duct, or an overall infection. Mastitis manifests as a hard, very painful spot in the breast, and a warm-feeling breast. Mastitis can certainly be very unpleasant, but you can beat it often even without antibiotics! Here are some tips on how to beat mastitis, whether you are already a nursing mom or still pregnant and preparing for breastfeeding. Mastitis is often caused by a plugged duct. You can help solve the problem by frequently massaging your breasts, making movements towards the nipple. This can be done while you are breastfeeding and in between feedings. Some women say that pumping as much milk as possible helps, and others swear by pointing the baby's nose in the direction of the problem spot. This makes for some weird nursing positions, but it helped me in the early days of breastfeeding my son. Cold compresses (which can be combined nicely with herbal infusions) or cabbage can help you ease the pain that mastitis brings with it. Some mothers also like hot cloths on their breasts, but because mastitis is an infection and produces heat all by itself, the cold is a pleasant way to offset the temperature of mastitis. Some of my friends who had multiple bouts of mastitis told me that taking very large doses of Vitamin C for the duration of their infections helped mastitis pass more quickly. This is certainly something you can try. An over the counter anti-inflammatory pain killer like ibuprofen can not only help you feel better (because mastitis hurts!), but it also works towards getting rid of the inflammation and curing your mastitis. If you find that your mastitis is not getting better, but is getting more painful and worse, see your doctor. Sometimes, you need antibiotics to cure mastitis.
You may also be interested in reading about sore nipples while breastfeeding.