Forget that old advice about "gently rubbing your nipples with a towel." If you really want to feel ready to breastfeed, here's what to do.
Day 1: Gently rub your nipples with sandpaper.
Day 2: At bedtime, set your alarm clock to go off every two hours. Each time it rings, spend 20 minutes sitting in a rocking chair with your nipples clamped in a pair of chip clips.
Day 3: Draw branching lines all over your chest with a blue-green marker, then stand in front of your bathroom mirror and sing "I Feel Pretty."
Day 4: Open your already-crowded freezer and make room for five dozen plastic milk bags.
Day 5: Fit the hose of a vacuum cleaner over one breast and set on "medium pile." Turn off vacuum when nipple is three inches long. Switch breasts.
Day 6: Obtain "DO NOT CROSS" tape from your local police station, then wrap firmly around your chest. When your spouse asks about it, say, "Get used to it."
Day 7: Tape a water balloon to each breast and squeeze into a maternity bra. Repeatedly hook and unhook the nursing flaps with one hand while using the other to balance a sack of squirming puppies.
Day 8: Dine in the fanciest, snootiest restaurant you can afford, making sure to arrive with a big wet spot directly over each nipple.
Day 9: Record your mother proclaiming, "Just give the baby some cereal like God intended, and she'll sleep right through the night." Play in an endless loop at 1 A.M., 3 A.M., and 5 A.M.
Day 10: Slather your breasts with peanut butter, top with birdseed, and stand very still in your backyard.
Day 11: Go someplace public -- a museum, a courthouse, the steps of your office building -- and stuff a lifelike baby doll under your shirt. Use the doll's arm to suddenly hike the shirt up past your collar bone. Lower shirt. Feign nonchalant smile.
Day 12: Suckle a wolverine. Congratulations! You are now ready to nurse a baby. Maybe.
Melissa Balmain, a freelance writer living in Blacksburg, Virginia, is a two-baby nursing veteran.