When I became a mom, breastfeeding — and all its related challenges — took the struggle of parenting to the next level. I was warned breastfeeding could be tough, but I remained optimistic. It had to work for some people, right? I mean, women all over the world and throughout history have figured it out, and without the same resources mothers have today. Still, it pulled the rug out from under me, and I faced a number of unexpectedly intense things about breastfeeding I wasn't even remotely prepared for. By "intense," of course, I mean "extremely stressful situations that made me want to quit on more than one occasion."
I'm gearing up to do it all over again with the birth of my second baby, and I'm trying, once again, to remain optimistic when it comes to breastfeeding and the impending (probable) challenges ahead. While I feel slightly less naive than I did before, since I have been through it all already (my son and I ultimately ended up breastfeeding for over two years), I want to be realistic about the realities of nursing.
Still, in my first months as a mother to my firstborn I learned way more details about my own anatomy, various ways to hold my baby so that his mouth connects to my breasts, and the basics of plumping —yes, plumbing — than I ever cared to know. That knowledge has to carry me into my second round of breastfeeding a newborn, right? Sure, not all lessons are created equally, but I hope I'm ready for the unknown a little more than I was back then. So, in the name of necessary preparation, here's a peek at the most intense parts of breastfeeding that gave me the steepest learning curve imaginable.