I was hesitant to write on this subject. I may have had a few qualms about scaring people with my labour story (which really isn't that terrible), but I definitely had misgivings about relating my challenges with breastfeeding. Why? Because I think most women expect some suffering during labour, whereas I know for my part I was completely ignorant of some of the trials of breastfeeding. Nipple blisters anyone? It is easy enough to get discouraged in the process, I don't want women to be afraid from the onset. It is useful to be aware that it is common to run into problems with breastfeeding, so that you don't feel like a "special" case. I will not describe all of the details of my experience, but suffice it to say that Rebecca and I have run the gamut of techniques and devices.
The bottom line is - if you are committed to breastfeeding, it can be done. The city has ample resources available for those who need support and guidance (it is really quite impressive). The La Leche League can also provide support. And finally, should you wish to pay- you can always get a lactation consultant.
The caveat it - it may take some time to achieve success. It took me six weeks. So, it is a question of your patience and will power. You may need to spend quality time with your punching bag. You may need to speak to other women (that certainly helps). If you decide it's not for you, there is no shame whatsoever in going the alternate route - no matter what anyone may tell you or say to you.
I gave Rebecca and I 6 weeks to master breastfeeding before I was willing to quit. I had decided that if we couldn't get our act together by that point, then I was just being a masochist.
However, I am happy to report that Rebecca and I have now mastered the challenging and unnatural art of breastfeeding. It's taken 6 weeks but we have finally "arrived" (I rewarded myself with leopard print nursingwear, to help maintain my positive attitude - you have to have a positive attitude if you are going to place sensitive body parts into the maw of the amazing snapping turtle). I have to say, the number one surprise about motherhood has been how difficult breastfeeding has been. It has been a journey fraught with frustration but things have finally come together. I had no idea how complicated and problematic it could be. It was a learning experience for the both of us - with a steep curve. Truth be told, there were many factors which contributed to the difficulty in learning - Rebecca being born prematurely, Rebecca being jaundiced, the fact that I had prior surgery which may have severed some nerves and ducts, the size of her mouth versus the size of my breasts etc etc etc.
In the course of learning to breastfeeding the following has become obvious to me:
1 - There are a multitude of opinions on how to best address a particular breastfeeding problem (this is overwhelming) and it is hard to know beforehand what will work best for your particular baby
2 - Sometimes the notion that feeding the baby (period full stop) is the top priority - as opposed to breastfeeding the baby - gets lost in the shuffle
3 - If you do run into difficulties, the emotional support of your spouse (or whomever) can make the difference between giving up and persevering
4 - If a woman was at risk of post-partum depression or even just baby blues, the pressure to master breastfeeding (if she was brainwashed to believe alternatives were unacceptable - and believe me, there is a great deal of brainwashing going on) would contribute to her unhappiness
Anyhow, success is not perfection, but I am pretty pleased.