New moms are the best moms. You tend to be the most attentive, most doe-eyed and in love type of mom there is. Your baby is new, and healthy, and you would do anything to keep him that way. It's why you chose to breastfeed, to give him the very best right from the start.
Then you come home from the hospital and suddenly, latching baby on is excruciating. Hopefully you didn't make it that far before your cracked and bleeding nipples began to make feeding time feel like someone was poking your breast with large hot needles every two hours. Hopefully you were still at the hospital, so the staff could put you at ease.
No, it isn't normal, but neither is it all that abnormal. Breastfeeding isn't supposed to hurt, but for some unlucky few us, it does. Try watching the way baby is latching on, maybe he isn't getting a proper latch, and causing friction. Be mindful of the latch-on moment, as that is the most likely culprit, barring any underlying medical issues with you. Some people, like myself, are just among the fortunate few to have extremely sensitive breasts that just didn't like being fed off of. Fear not new-mom-of-the-year, there are things you can do to alleviate the pain, and no, it won't last forever.
First off, hang in there, I know it's no fun, and I know it's likely that no one warned you about this particular parenting joy, but your baby needs you to stick this out. I used to bite down on the nearest pillow until the initial pain subsided to a manageable level, because latching on is just going to hurt for a while. In between feedings however, there are few things you can do to help the dry chapped skin on your areola.
Coconut oil is an affordable, safe fix for your cracked and bleeding nipples. you can pick it up just about anywhere food is sold, and probably a few places it's not. It's good for skin, safe for baby and is a mild antiseptic, which can help ward off any kind of infection the cracks in your skin could cause. I use it for just about everything, and it soothes chapped skin almost as well as more expensive brands made to do the same thing (I've also heard its good for cradle cap, so it's like a two-fer).
When I was nursing those first few weeks, my product of choice was always Lansinoh HPA Lanolin for nursing. It soothed me like no other, and I've basically been providing them with free advertising ever since. You probably received a free sample or two from the hospital. If you haven't used it yet, now is that time (trust me). This product is also widely available. While coconut oil is used with a generous slather, Lansinoh HPA Lanolin works with just a drop and offers the kind of relief typically reserved for actual pain killers.
Boob Ease Natural Nipple Balm is another product on the market, I've never tried it myself, but I hear it works fairly well, and to be honest, I'd try it just to tell them well done on the name. You can pick some of this stuff up at Toys-R-Us.
Breastfeeding should be a time of joy and bonding between you and your child. When issues arise it can hurt more than on the outside, but don't panic, because you're not alone. Many of us have been there and made it out the other side. I promise you can too. Make sure you mention it to your doctor so they can rule out any real health issues, and maybe set you up with a lactation specialist who can address any feeding issues you might have. It gets better, just hang in there, and try to enjoy it anyway.