It hurts. A lot. And yes, I've heard it said that if nursing hurts after the first two or three weeks, it's because the little guy has a bad latch.
So let's get that out of the way: his latch is fine.
Also, I don't have thrush. Been there, done that. It was massively painful, and the pain I feel now is merely muffled-scream-inducing. I no longer break out in a sweat at the mere thought of nursing.
I've bought into the "breast is best" philosophy. And into all the accompanying romanticized imagery: the drowsy, contented baby who's just finished a nighttime feeding, a drop of milk dribbling from the corner of his contented mouth. And yes, I have experienced that. It's nice—especially since it means the most painful part of breastfeeding is over, and that I have a break for two hours or so.
Of course, breast is best for Lucas. And over the long haul, it's best for me, too—I concede that. However, on a day-to-day level, breastfeeding is kind of wretched. As I mentioned before, it hurts. And it's kind of boring; there's not much to do except watch TV, as turning the pages of a book, magazine, or newspaper can be a challenge when Lucas is actively nursing. Breastfed babies wake up more often during the night than do formula-fed babies, which means Pete and I are at least mildly sleep-deprived a good deal of the time. (In fact, Lucas is sleeping shorter stretches than when he was younger. Grrrrrr.)
Plus, Lucas nurses for at least half an hour at a stretch. That's down from his previous marathon sessions of 45 minutes to an hour, thank goodness. But he nurses vigorously—his suck is so strong, in fact, that he frequently bears indentation marks from a pacifier on his face. Yikes!
Despite all these obstacles, I aim to stick it out for a year, mostly because I'd feel unbearably guilty about depriving Lucas of mother's milk, and I imagine I'd miss the closeness engendered by nursing several times a day. He does get 2-3 formula feedings each day (and my milk production doesn't appear to have decreased at all, despite this supplementing), so that provides me with some relief. But for the record, it's still damn hard.