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3336779168_cc009ec7ebIs the sexualization of the breast responsible for low levels of breastfeeding? A report in Pediatrics said that breastfeeding babies for the first six months of their lives could eliminate 1,000 infant deaths a year and save billions in healthcare costs. But fewer than one-third of babies are fed exclusively on breast milk by three months of age.

Meanwhile, another kind of breast is in the news. Actress Kate Hudson flaunted augmented breasts, while images of reality TV star Heidi Montag were everywhere, thanks to her new F-cups, which look like they're 25 percent of her total body weight.

Call it the battle between breasts and boobs. Are breasts milk dispensers or sexual accoutrements?

In the Playboy era, people used to sniff that men's fixation on breasts was an urge for their mommies. Then, modern conveniences freed many women from the drudgery of housework, and let them become more ornamental. Mommies were freed from having to use their breasts to mother, thanks to formula, just like having a dishwasher let them keep their manicures. It's not surprising that women's fashion become more artificial in this era. Hair was teased and sprayed into a bouffant and long fingernails became de rigueur. No wonder breast augmentation was invented in this era.

Thanks to technology, breasts kept getting bigger and bigger, as the rest of a woman's body shrank. Look at the movie stars of the early 1960s; none of them would be able to get a job as a waitress in Hollywood these days. Today, Marilyn Monroe would be considered a fat cow. Not only was her waist huge, but her breasts were floppy.

Lane Bryant, maker of plus-size fashion, charged that Fox and ABC refused to run TV spots featuring a woman with ample, pillowy breasts. Real flesh is more shocking than the hard, compact balls of silicon we see on most models. http://www.familygoesstrong.com/real-curves-dont-make-it-tv

And an infant actually drawing milk out of a breast seems like a perversion. It's dirty and disgusting, like poo on a white carpet.

This is a shame. Breastfeeding is crucial not only to a baby's physical health, breastfeeding is crucial to the development of a baby's attachment system, tying the sensual pleasure of physical intimacy to trust and love. Even the U.S. Department of health and Human Services calls breastfeeding an important health choice.

Certainly, working outside the home is one of the biggest barriers to breastfeeding for a new mother. But so are the discomfort with breastfeeding in public places and a woman's fears about losing her primary sexual asset.

It's difficult for today's woman to have it both ways. We can work toward the standard of artificial beauty or give up and spread out. Pregnancy and child birth are where many women hit this split in the road. Becoming a mother should be a natural transition point, as it has been for eons. But the expectation that she'll maintain her virginal charms makes her want to get that baby off the breast so she can get back to the gym.

Let's put the breast back in its place: out in public, serving as a baby's first experience of sensuality and pleasure.

PHOTO: clairegren