Let me preface this by saying that I like nursing, I really do. It is a very natural, nutritious way to feed your baby. It is a great bonding experience for mother and baby.
BUT, I find those pictures of cozy newborns nuzzling happily against their mother while nursing to be slightly misleading. In the beginning, it was hideously painful. I would clench my toes when I saw him coming near me with his mouth open. I had a gash where no one should ever have a gash. I have developed multiple infections and even had a blister making it felt like someone was stabbing me with a hot poker.
Lately, our nursing relationship as they like to call it in the "Lactivist" circles can only be described as dysfunctional. Henry has always been a little rough, but we did experience a good stretch. Now, things are slightly more challenging. First, he has two teeth. Need I say more? Second, he is 17 pounds of squirming, flailing little boy. Holding him on your lap when he is attached to a very sensitive part of your body is like holding a slippery octopus. He pulls my hair, yanks my necklace and fish hooks me in the mouth with his little razor nails. Third, he is now very aware of his surroundings. He turns his head at the slightest noise and often forgets to open his mouth before he turns his head. Ouch. Fourth, he treats me like a water fountain. He might be a little thirsty, he might be very thirsty. You just never know. He keeps coming at me until he gives his "done" signal which these days is a nice, solid bite. Once I unclamp his jaw and the stars before my eyes clear the magical feeling comes back.
On the flip side, nursing burns 500 calories per day. I ate half a coffee cake last night before bed (I am not kidding) and still woke up 2 pounds below my pre-pregnancy weight. I think I am going to nurse until he is five. As they said on Desperate Housewives, it is like having a treadmill strapped to your chest.