Ah, breastfeeding. A seemingly natural function that doesn't often come naturally.
When my first daughter was born, she and I both became frustrated when she just wouldn't latch for hours (even days) after she was born. In the hospital, the nurses taped a tiny feeding tube to me, also known as a supplemental nursing system (SNS), to supplement her at the breast with formula. It essentially tricked her into thinking she was getting my milk while also teaching her how to eventually latch on to me. I still felt like I was going to miss the window of opportunity to successfully breastfeed my baby. I was sore. I was tired. I wasn't prepared for how incapable it would make me feel.
My second baby had no trouble in the feeding department, thankfully. Granted, I had plenty of practice my first go-around after nursing for 15 months, so it taught me a thing or two that helped me be a little more prepared for the second go-around.
With my first, I dreaded pumping. In the early days, I felt like it would take me forever to fill up those tiny bottles. The second time around, I invested in better pumping supplies, and let me tell you what, they make all the difference.
First off, I invested in a handheld pump. It made pumping on the go (usually in the car) a breeze and helped me maintain my milk supply. There's something about pumping on the go that makes you feel like some kind of superhero.
The second time around, my body wasted no time and the milk was a'flowing in those early days! Thank goodness for overnight nursing pads. I love the Overnight Washable Nursing Pads from Bamboobies. To me, they are more comfortable than disposable pads and kept me drier for longer.
As for the cracked, tired, and sore nipples, keep some coconut oil or nipple balm nearby to apply after every feeding and pumping sesh. It is a lifesaver and will make the experience much more enjoyable!
If you choose to go the breastfeeding route, equip yourself with the tools you need to be successful. It may not come naturally at first. If it doesn't happen at all, you may grieve the fact that it didn't work out like you anticipated. But mama, let me say it loud and clear: Fed is best! Breast, bottle, feeding tube, whatever means you use to feed your little one doesn't matter, as long as they are fed. Please don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
You are a champion, no matter what.