Having grown up in a family that believes in nursing, I didn't know how lucky I was until I grew up and began the experience myself. I firmly believe in the merits of breastfeeding, and I am glad that doctors these days are not selling out to the formula companies but instead tout the truth, breastfeeding is best for your baby. It was easy for me to choose to nurse, and it never crossed my mind that I wouldn't, but I understand there are many women out there who feel some sort of peer pressure NOT to, even if they would be open to it. This makes me sad, and I would like to offer all the support I can to anyone who is in this particular boat.
Nursing is not hard to do, once you and baby get past the first two weeks of figuring it out. Let me rephrase that, it is usually not hard to do. Once in a while, for some reason or another, either your body isn't up to it, or baby just won't figure it out. This is where baby formula is useful. Otherwise, nursing should always be attempted first, for your better health and the best health of your baby. Many studies have shown how nursing gives your baby and you a much better start on life after delivery, affecting growth, allergy development, weight gain (or loss, for mom), even brain and nerve development.
When I was forced to stop nursing (because I conceived again, and my milk production dropped a lot) I found out what it was like to bottle feed vs. nurse my baby. My experience is that it is rather less convenient all around. The only advantage is that I can give him a bottle and leave him to go do other things for 10 or 15 minutes. What sort of advantage is that? Babies are meant to be held while they eat, and though I admit to doing it, I don't like how easy it is for me to leave him alone with his bottle. The disadvantages are: He has to wait while I make a bottle when he wants one, and screams the whole time. I get WIC help, but still have to buy a few cans each month, at $15 bucks a pop. Plus buying the bottles, nipples, brush to clean it, etc. Then there is the cleaning of the bottles each day which is time consuming and sort of hard to get right, unless you just boil the suckers to make sure you get every germ. I am constantly forgetting either the formula or a bottle when I go out. The list goes on.
So, I am a huge advocate of breastfeeding, but I know how hard it can be the first couple weeks. There were a few things I used to help with the soreness, and a couple that I had that were lifesavers! In addition to a lot of cold and hot packs when my milk came in (yikes I was so not ready for that!), the hospital had given me a sample of some fantastic products. I had to go get more because they just worked so well.
The first thing I used was Medela Lanolin, which you apply to help with the dryness and cracking that can happen the first few days. The lanolin, I found out later, is also useful for baby bum salve or pretty much any little owie, or rough dry skin anywhere. I use it on my lips a lot in summertime to protect them from drying in the sun and wind. Its even safe for newborn baby to eat, if they happen to!
The other thing I used were HydroGel Pads, also from Medela, that you put on inside your bra to soothe and cool things in there. These were my favorite! I think they are the number one reason I was able to stick the first two weeks out and why I'm able to be so enthusiastic about nursing now. The lanolin helped so much for dryness, but those HydroGel Pads took away the stinging and pain, and it was just heaven to use them.