a) BOOBIES! (*giggles like a boy*) It's hard talking about breasts without blushing. This is probably a less-than-healthy example of American culture's weird taboos. But it's breast cancer awareness month, so I should get over it.
b) I've been lucky. I know that a lot of women struggle with breastfeeding, or can't do it at all, and that in some cases they feel bad about themselves because of it. I haven't wanted to add to that baggage, so I've avoided talking about it much at all, in case I inadvertently made someone feel inadequate or bad.
So, I'll put my story behind a cut, with this disclaimer: these are my personal experiences, and not intended to be judgmental or hurtful. And, I talk about boobs, because they play a pretty big role.
I've been breastfeeding for seven months now. In the last month, I've added a single meal of rice or oatmeal cereal, thinned with breastmilk, but other than that, it's been all dairymom!
And I am incredibly proud of that.
Breastmilk, depending on what you read, can prevent illness (in baby AND mom), promote health, provides better nutrients, and guarantees that the baby will be smarter and probably become president. Okay, not really, but it's generally accepted that breastmilk is really wonderful stuff, and the best food that a baby can get.
It's not always easy. I was ready to give up at three weeks. We were having latching difficulties, and my nipples were cracked and bleeding. Getting Elsa on at the start of each feeding made me flinch in agony, and sometimes outright cry. Neither of us had any experience, despite classes on my part, and we were fumbling through as best we could. I bought a little cheap handpump and we spoonfed her a little expressed milk, but that was really... unsatisfying. For both of us. (And it still hurt.)
So, I finally broke down and called the public health office, and they sent out a lactation nurse to come by and help out. This is a service they offer for free - an in-home consultation to get you back on track, to offer tips and advice, or in some cases, just to listen to a new mom blubber about things that are hard. I can't say enough about this service, or the wonderful people they have working for them. I waited longer than I should have to call them, and if you are struggling with breastfeeding, find the service in your community that does this and GET HELP. Don't wait, don't feel shy, don't be embarrassed about your house or your hair or your boobs. People doing this job are way over that stuff, and want to help you do your best. And they can!
The nurse gave me a handful of amazing tips - stuff you read about online, or that is described to you, or even things you see video of, that doesn't really make sense until it's YOU and YOUR boobs and YOUR baby, and someone is showing you how to make it work for YOU.
And when you're doing it the right way, it DOESN'T hurt. Even with nipples that were still cracked, we went from OW-FLINCH-OHGOD to Oh! I'd give you the specific tips, but our specific tips may not be the ones you need, and there are websites out the wazoo that list the same things. It's just so individual, and sometimes you've got to have someone SHOW you!
Breastfeeding itself is really pretty amazing. I've got my iPad set up in an iHome holder where I can reach it and read, browse the Internet or play games (I watched a lot of Netflix the first few months, but noise distracts her now, so it has to be quiet things), but sometimes it's just nice to cuddle with the baby and enjoy the experience. Sometimes she wants to scratch or grab things, but more often, she's content to curl up against me and get to work. The human body encourages this kind of thing by making it feel pleasant, and it's a little like a light massage or a warm shower - not sexual or weird, just... comforting.
Her bottom teeth haven't been a problem but a few times, when she was apparently teething and wanted to do a little chewing, but rubbing her gums before nursing helped that need to munch. I'm a little nervous about the top teeth coming in.
I haven't had supply problems (except for the end of one day, when Elsa insisted on feeding 21 times in 24 hours), and I appreciate how lucky I've been in that regard. From the very first hour in the hospital, I had lots of colostrum to offer, and I've been able to feel her everything she wants and pump extra if I want to. Indeed, I can sit down and express 5 ounces in 10 minutes with a dinky little handpump, whether I've just fed her or not. I've even found that I don't actually have to pump - I just give some squeezes on the pump to get the pressure low and I can just hold it there and let my breasts drain into the bottle, with a pump every once in a while if it starts to slow down. I can squirt several little streams of milk across the shower at a pretty high velocity (and sometimes do so for fun because I'm very easily entertained...).
And, for all that, I rarely, rarely have oversupply problems. A lot of women who produce as much as I do would end up at the other end of things, with too strong a let-down, making a firehose for their baby that they couldn't nurse from, leaking uncontrollably, or ending up with uncomfortably full breasts when they couldn't nurse very regularly. I wake up maybe once a week or every other with sore, full breasts and need to pump them, but not more than that. Elsa never has a problem staying on.
In short: THESE THINGS ARE AWESOME.
I'm enjoying breastfeeding a lot, and I feel good about being able to do it. I'm planning to breastfeed her as long as we're both comfortable with it, however long that ends up being. I'm happy to answer questions about it, but would never replace an expert. I only know what's worked for us.