Christina Hammond is at that point. By her own admission, she no longer walks, she "waddles." Her first child is due in a week. It is a time of exhilaration and expectation at the Hammonds' home - but it is also a time for decision.

Mother's milk of formula? The time-honored way or the newfangled way? To breastfeed or not to breastfeed?

These days, the decision is fraught with irony and danger.

Irony because options are only a few decades old, and lots of humans survived lots of babyhoods before Similac got into the act. But danger because mothers' milk has been found in some cases to contain dangerous chemicals.

Mothers' milk dangerous? In a world of Red Dye No. 2 and cyclamates, is nothing safe or sacred any more?

Evidently not. According to testimony at a Senate hearing last month, and according to independent research at Harvard University, mothers' milk has at times and in some areas of the country been found to contain toxic herbicides and pesticides.

There is also growing concern - and some evidence to support it - that some breastfeed babies do not gain weight as rapidly as bottlefed babies. Meanwhile, there has been a resurgence of the argument that breast feeding a child monopolizes its mother's life. That has been an especially tough one for some women in this age of female careerism.

All this leaves Christina Hammond concerned and a little confused.

As of 10 days ago, she had made the decision to breastfeed her child, despite any dangers. "It's no more of a risk than cow's milk," she said. "There are far more dangerous things. Tap water is probably dangerous. You really can't be sure of any of the foods you're eating.

"If breastfeeding makes my child more comfortable," said Christina Hammond, "that outweighs the risk."

And yet . . .

Just the week before, Hammond's mother had seen a TV program. Experts were warning of toxins in mothers' milk. She called her daughter to warn her. That got Hammond's mind churning on the question all over again.

Just two weeks before, Hammond had gone for a prenatal chat with a pediatrician. Another very pregnant woman was there. She planned to bottlefed. "The doctor was more supportive of her," said Hammond, a little bitter at having her confidence shaken.

Some months ago, in another discussion with her mother, Hammond had been warned that breastfeeding might "tie her down." That cut some ice - Hammond has decided not to nurse her child beyond the age of eight months, although many mothers and authorities urge breastfeeing for as long as three years.

And although her husband supports her decision to breastfeed, Hammond has heard the whispers - that breastfeeding mothers run the risk of appearing unattractive, or a of damaging their figures.

But Hammond, who lives in Potomac, did not make her decision on the basis of whimsy or wives' tales. She sought advice from an organization that specializes in the breastfeeding question. It is called a La Leche League ("leche" means milk in Spanish), and it is dedicated to the proposition that breastfeeding produces healthier kids and happier mothers.

The league has about 45 chapters in the Washington area. Each meets approximately monthly for mutual support and discussion. Men are barred to avoid embarrassment, but both babies and nursing are welcome.

While LLL does not solicit members, it is quick to provide literature and glowing words to any woman mulling the question of nursing. The basic pitch, said Mary Emma Middleton, of Waldorf, Md., president of the local chapters, is that "it's a way of mothering, a way of loving a baby. And the benefits so far outweigh the disadvantages."

Middleton admits concern that publicity about toxins in mothers' milk may turn Washington women - who are assumed to be a little more savvy than many women elsewhere - away from breastfeeding.

But she also feels the storm will pass. "By the time toxins pop up in breast milk," said Middleton, "they're everywhere. What are you going to do about it?"

One thing LLL recommends doing about it is to avoid potentially or demonstrably harmful foods.

LLL literatures stresses that toxic breast milk has been found in significant quantities only where mothers have eaten meat vegetables treated with certain preservatives, or in parts of the country where the chemicals are used extensively on farms. Toxins have not been reported in any mothers' milk in the Washington area.

In addition, LLL stresses that breastfeeding provides a child with immunities that cannot come from anywhere.

LLL also urges mothers to seek full information from their doctors, and offers support to women who want to breasrfeed despite medical advice. "You're not crazy for disagreeing with your doctor," said Carol Juran, a leader of the Lanham LLL chapter. "Half the battle is being confident."

Local LLL leaders grant that confidence may not extend to breastfeeding in public. "But you see a lot less of the female breast (during nursing) than you do at the beach," said Middleton. "A woman in a two-piece bathing suit who's 50 pounds overweight - that's immodest," added Terry Cravato, an LLL member from New Carrollton.

Christina Hammond does not plan to nurse her baby in public, and she does not plan to nurse it whenever it asks for fear of creating dependency. Nor, she says, is she committed to breastfeeding in general. If her baby becomes ill or if she soes not enjoy it, she plans to stop.

But Hammond will be a breastfeeder at the start, and that's the key decision. "I can see where it would be a very close feeling," she says. Then she smiles a smile that says, "Hurry up, calendar, so I can get the chance."