Before having any children I did a lot of reading on Breastfeeding. Some of the advice was very helpful, like the fact that because I have large breasts (42DDD when breastfeeding, normally 38DD) the football hold is great when you are feeding a newborn.
Some things did not translate though.
The first month of breastfeeding (and I'm on my second child) is a little painful. I am extremely sensitive to having my nipples touched on a normal basis, breastfeeding is a little more than just touching. Thanks to using lanolin, much of the pain is avoided as everything stays supple. If I forget to use lanolin over several feedings, I eventually dry out and it hurts way more. With my first child I was able to forgo using the lanolin after about 6-9 months (can't remember exactly when as it was a while ago). I thought something was wrong with the way I was breastfeeding my first child because it initially hurt to start the suckling process but the pain went away after a minute or two and the rest of the feeding didn't hurt. I brought a La Leche League adviser to my house to help me and she couldn't explain why I might be hurting and flipped back and forth through her massive breastfeeding book for about an hour. She suggested that I pull my child off and on a few times to get a better latch. That was not fun. What I learned was that that gave me blisters and if I'm going to try for a better latch to only do it once, not several times. I also learned that a little pain was probably due to me just being sensitive. I liken it to people calling labor pains, "surges" and that they shouldn't hurt. Ha! I think it depends on a woman's body and pain tolerance as to if she is going to feel pain. Some are much better at handling things than others and sometimes they don't feel the pain at all.
Another thing I noticed was that everyone claimed that you would know when your milk came in by the firmness of your breasts and that would also tell you if your child had drained your breasts of milk. That wasn't true for me. Perhaps it is because I have very large breasts, but they always felt squishy and never firm. I do feel a pins and needles pain when my milk is in need of letting down, but that's about it and it doesn't always happen. I had to go by my child's diapers to find out if he was drinking any milk. We have 12-15 wet diapers a day in the beginning and now it is starting to taper off to 8-12 per day.
Just because a breastfeeding experience is similar with most women does not mean it will be the same for all women. And what some might perceive as a problem, is not a problem for others.
As far as weaning goes, yes my first child weaned when he was 13 months old. I did not ask him to even though it hurt so much when he did nurse. I'm not sure if the pain was from him gnawing with his two bottom teeth or if I was extra sensitive because I was four months pregnant at the time. My best guess as to why he weaned was because I was pregnant and the flavor of my milk had changed. Another guess was that my milk was drying up. I often felt like I wasn't nourishing my child properly because he wasn't gaining weight in line with where he had been measuring. He was in the 20th percentile from birth to 9 months, then he dropped and dropped until he bottomed out in the 4th percentile.
Had my first not weaned on his own I don't know how long I would have continued. I was prepared to continue breastfeeding as long as he wanted as I feel that breast milk has a lot more nutrients than store milk.
With my first child I dealt with a lot of insecurities as to my ability to provide. I had blisters and blocked ducts. My back hurt from nursing in awkward angles. I never mastered the cradle your child in your arms with the breast in their mouth (I was sure I was suffocating the child with it's massiveness). I stained shirts and leaked.
I don't know what will happen this time around with breastfeeding but I will march along and deal with things as they come.