Then I had Sterling, and breastfeeding was a really painful struggle. I was shocked. I knew what I was doing - didn't I? Why was I having amateur-level problems? Why couldn't I just figure it out, like I had with my other two babies? Did those 38 months of experience count for nothing? There were many times in those first few weeks where I wanted to give up. It hurt so much, physically and emotionally.
I came to a few realizations that I will share with you here.
1. Breastfeeding hurts. Those people who say breastfeeding is natural and doesn't/shouldn't hurt? They are wrong. IT HURTS. Especially at first. After a while you and baby will probably get the hang of it and the pain will probably go away. But in the meantime, your nipples are basically being chewed off by a rabid animal and that is ouchy.
2. Every baby is different, so with every baby, you become a breastfeeding novice again. There is some carry-over knowledge, sure, but even those of us with months and months of experience should be prepared for beginner problems.
3. Ask for/accept help, even if it's not your first baby. When Sterling was just 10 days old, I ran into a neighbor at the grocery store who happens to be a lactation consultant. I mentioned off-hand that I was having problems nursing and she insisted on bringing over some DVDs and pamphlets for me. I said "sure" even though inwardly I was rolling my eyes because I thought I knew everything. But guess what? Those DVDs and pamphlets totally saved me! I learned some great techniques for improving the breastfeeding experience for me and Sterling and it meant the world to me. I am so grateful for my neighbor and her insistence on helping me almost against my will.
As I write this, I'm on breastfeeding month almost-14 with Sterling, bringing my total months of experience to almost-52. And I'm dealing with a (thankfully mild) case of thrush, and one side isn't producing as much as the other side so I'm all lopsided, and right after I gave away my breast pump, we figured out that Sterling is too sensitive to cow's milk to drink it, so I've upped his nursing, and so on and so forth. Breastfeeding is a new experience every time.