I exclusively breastfeed my son. It feels somewhat simple now but it wasn't always that way. Yes, feeding him is still challenging at times but it's nothing like it used to be.
6 months ago:
I am a brand new mom. I've read many books and been around lots of breastfeeding women but I've never fed a kid myself. Nursing at home is awkward and nursing in public is even more awkward (for the both of us, really). My son doesn't know what he's doing and neither do I. He's tongue-tied and nursing every 1-2 hours. I'm using a nipple shield to help him latch and nurse more efficiently. I set alarms on my phone so that he doesn't miss a feeding. We're worried he's not gaining enough weight.
It's 2am and my alarm just went off. So, I roll over and wake my sleeping baby. Turn on the bedside lamp. Grab my Boppy pillow. Reach for my nipple shield. Place baby on Boppy and proceed to stick nipple shield on my breast. Baby knocks shield off. I put it on again. My other breast begins to leak. I grab the nursing pad that's fallen out of my shirt while sleeping and stick it back in. After a couple of attempts, baby is on and I feel somewhat comfortable. My breasts begin to feel softer. I turn on Netflix and watch a show. After thirty minutes or so, my baby is fast asleep. I set another alarm from the time the feed started. I log our feeding time so I can track how often he's eating. I place my baby on his back and put all of my breastfeeding tools to the side. I grab a new t-shirt since the one I've got on is wet. I've caught on that my son typically needs a diaper change around 5am, so we'll wake up, put on a new diaper, and do this thing all over again.
We just celebrated my son's half birthday. When he's hungry, he shows cues that he's ready to eat, I pull out my breast, and he latches. It's never painful. I don't use a Boppy or a nipple shield. I've ditched nursing pads as I'm no longer leaking as much. He's teething. This means comfort nursing more often but his attention span causes him to pop off frequently. We like to nurse while baby wearing or in a dark, quiet room to avoid the distractions. Nursing in public no longer feels awkward. I've flashed a handful of people by now and I really don't care.
I wake up to my son head-butting my chest and whining. It's about 4:30am, and he's trying to latch onto my shirt. Hold on, little dude. Let me unbutton my top. He whines louder because I'm obviously not fast enough at this. I present my breast to him and he latches on instantly. We nurse in the side-lying position in our dark bedroom. He begins to hum, grabs at my lips, and smacks at my chest. Pops off, rolls to his side, stares at the wall, and begins to jabber. Da, da, da, da, da, da. Rolls back to me, latches on, starts pinching the skin on my chest with his razor-sharp nails. I really need to cut those. He then pulls back from me and passes out on his back. All of this happens within ten minutes and we're both back to sleep. When I feel him rooting around my chest again, I open my eyes to see sunlight. It's 8:30am and he's ready to nurse and play.
Breastfeeding mamas: There is a learning curve. Those first few weeks are hard. They're exhausting and confusing. Learning something new while you're sleep-deprived and sore seems almost impossible, but you can do it. Soon, your baby will be latching effortlessly. He will show off his flexibility as he pulls a heel stretch out of nowhere while you nurse him down for his afternoon nap. You will cough and he will pull off and give a big 'ol belly laugh. Because babies are weird and think that kinda stuff is funny. He will yell, "Na na na na na!" at you like, "Mom, I know you didn't just put me in this car seat. Nurse me NOW!" You will get him and he'll get you. In just one sitting, he will take in all sorts of new information through his senses while he is at your breast. It's pretty incredible to watch.
The days when our babies are super tiny feel very long; however, that amount of time in comparison to the big picture is short. After those first few weeks, you'll know each other a little better. You will know his cues and he will trust you more. You'll get into a groove and find what works for you. There will be new hurdles along the way but you'll learn to adapt, just as you're doing now. It will get easier.
Hang in there, mamas. You've got this.