There is a great mystery in the world of breastfeeding support. How can so many women fail? How can so many women have such problems with pain and supply? We know that this isn't normal, women in other cultures don't have the problems we do.
What do we do? We blame the women: "She should have called the lactation consultant sooner! She should have called more than one! She should have gone to LLL while she was still pregnant! She should have danced naked in counterclockwise circles while spreading fenugreek on her doorstep and rubbing oatmeal on her breasts!" We blame those that should have been supporting her, we blame bad advice given at the wrong moment, we blame lawsuit-phobic nursery staff that pushes the canned food at the merest sniff of an elevated bilirubin level, we blame the high rate of c-sections that makes high bilirubin that much more of a common occurance.
But, we never answer the central question: WHY IS BREASTFEEDING SO FUCKING HARD?? It shouldn't be. If evolution worked the way it's supposed to, feeding our young would not be something that involves some of our tenderest bits getting bloody and scabbed. It would something relatively surefire.
Clearly, it's not. And there's no predicting which women will have serious problems and which will sail through with a little discomfort.
My completely unsubstatiated theory is that because we don't expose our nipples to sun and air, they are more tender than they would have been in a culture that doesn't sexualize and hide the breast. The very act of covering our breasts and shaping them with bras as soon as they make their appearance in adolescence might cause the kind of subtle structural changes that would result in the problems that are common here and rare in other places; low milk supply, flat nipples, high sensitivity, plugged ducts, bleeding, scabbing, PAIN.
So, there's nothing to be done, short of burning our bras and letting our breasts be seen* for what they truly are. And, uh, good luck with that. I can love my real-life working breasts until I'm blue in the face, it's not going to make a shred of difference to the readers of FHM, or to the industry that tells us what parts of our bodies can be deemed attractive.
As a breastfeeding educator, I have come to accept that there are unseen forces at work that make our success rates lower than they should be. I do what I can to help women mother the way they want to, but sometimes there's nothing I can do.
ps- this was the gist of the Lost Post, but the Lost Post was longer, more linky, and all around better.
*Edited to add a very relevent link to Shape of a Mother.