Well 11 weeks into breastfeeding and I can tell you quiet categorically that breastfeeding is NOT easy, breastfeeding is HARD.
When Orren was first born he just wanted to sleep, he did not want to breastfeed at all. I had to hand express milk and feed it to him on my finger, he was getting dehydrated and the next step would have been to express milk into a tiny syringe and feed him that way. This really wasn't what I wanted so I kept on with trying to feed a half asleep baby and squeezing some out onto my finger and putting it into his mouth. Eventually (thankfully) he got the idea of feeding and I was discharged from the hospital with the view that breastfeeding was established.
Three days after Orren was born my milk "came in" and it really did look like I had had breast implants, Jordan step over! My breasts were so stretched that the skin on them was shiny. And boy did they hurt. I had to go out and buy a new bra that next day. After that I got dry nipples because, as I am sure you can imagine, having wet nipples for a lot more of the day that you used to can take its toll.
Eventually I felt confident with the breastfeeding, and then of course comes the issue of breastfeeding in public, controversial in some forums. My view was that everyone should breast feed in public, it wasn't a problem get your boobs out, that is what they are for, if someone stares and has a problem with it then that's their problem not yours. But then when I started actually doing it myself I didn't feel altogether comfortable about it, and it got me thinking; before I had a baby I didn't used to whip my boobs out for all and sundry, basically it was my husband, or on occasional my doctor who saw them, other than that it was just me and them in the shower etc. All of these outings were in very private intimate situations so why then, after having a child would I suddenly feel comfortable getting them out in public?! It took a lot of practice and much fiddling before I felt comfortable doing it in public, and only then with a discreet breastfeeding top and a quiet corner.
The challenges that I have faced breastfeeding have been pretty small compared to those faced by some of my friends. (I wept when my friend told me about expressing a tiny amount of milk one day and thinking that it would probably be the last breast milk her baby would have, then her baby kicked it over and it was gone.) However even the small challenges have felt incredibly overwhelming and they have totally changed my opinion of breastfeeding. It isn't easy, it doesn't always come naturally and not everyone can do it. A well meaning friend of mine couldn't understand why every woman couldn't breastfeed for the same reasons that I gave above and I said to her that you have to remember that 300 years ago there would have been someone else in the clan or village who could breastfeed and had plenty of milk who would have fed your baby if you couldn't. Yes breastfeeding is natural but so is childbirth, and 300 years ago many many women and babies died during childbirth because they couldn't do it. It being natural doesn't necessarily mean that it happens.
The idea that women absolutely must breastfeed or bust (pun intended) is not always easy to accept, one friend of mine was encouraged to express milk in between every feed to top up feeding on her underweight baby, thus tying her to her home all day as a milking machine. Thankfully she went against this poor advice and topped up her baby's feeds with formula enabling her to get out and about to post-natal classes, NCT meets and lunches with friends thus saving her sanity. If breastfeeding means mum suffers from depression then this is not going to make for a happy baby no matter how good the milk is.
Yes breast milk is absolutely the right and normal thing for babies to have but women must not beat themselves up if the can't do it, there is a lot they can offer their baby's apart from breast milk and a happy mum makes for a happy baby. If you were like me and thought breastfeeding was easy spare a thought for the thousands of woman sat in their homes in tears because they can't get their baby to latch or they just spilt the last few millilitres of their expressed milk onto the carpet, and thank God that scientists have come up with a wonderful alternative that enables mothers to feed their babies.