Dear TIME: Are you LAME enough?

The new TIME cover, featuring a beautiful blond woman standing upright and breastfeeding her almost-4-year-old son, is creating waves already. Personally, I’m tired of the whole conversation already. And not interested in reading the actual article. And a great fan of Dr. Sears and attachment parenting, for the record.

What I did enjoy, however, are some “alternative covers” created by Babble, with some headlines that really reflect what TIME is trying to accomplish here.

My favorite is this one:

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Amen to that. The only time it is socially acceptable to put breasts on a family-style magazine is when it come to breastfeeding. Then it’s OK to let it all hang out. There is nothing about this cover that reflects the values of attachment parenting– nothing wholesome or nurturing about it. Instead, it’s suggestive, obnoxious, and obviously  meant to get attention. Come on, TIME, get a life!

See more great alternative covers at Babble!

Photo Books: The Books Your Baby Will Love Forever

From when I was a kid until now, one of my favorite activities is looking through old family photo albums. Seeing the familiar faces of family and friends, remembering the good times we shared, and laughing over the silly photos we couldn’t bear to throw away (remember a time before digital cameras?!)… it’s a surefire way to put a smile on our faces!

Way back when I was growing up, if you wanted to see your photos, you had to actually get the film developed, and then you had a nice package of tangible photos that you had to sort through and arrange in albums. Now, I  have hundreds of digital pictures of family and friends, milestones and celebrations, family trips and holidays stored on my computer. But albums? Not since my firstborn was a baby!

Imagine the Possibilities with Photo Books

This is why my family and I absolutely love photo books! It makes the process of taking the images from your camera and putting them into beautifully arranged books that you can treasure forever a piece of cake.  And with all the fun and creative designs and layout options, its like a cross between a gorgeous scrapbook, an engaging story, and an old-fashioned  photo album. No scissors, no glue, no mess!

Using photo books, you can create beautiful, organized memories of every special occasion, every holiday, every vacation, and all the sweet every-day moments in between that you don’t want to forget.

Soft Photo Cover

If you’ve never tried putting a photo book together, there are many good reasons to give it a try!

1. It’s so easy! There are lots of great sites that make it a snap. Once you’ve uploaded your pictures, they’ll even arrange them for you. But be forewarned– it’s so fun to pick colors, themes, and layouts, you may find yourself spending hours fixing it up!  They come in all shapes, sizes and materials!

2.  Another amazing thing is that once you’ve finished, you can order one for yourself, one for your grandparents, and one for anyone else who wants it! You can save them and reorder any time. It’s already put together, and it makes a great gift for those special people who share your life.

3. It keeps everything organized and looks so pretty lined up on the shelf! You won’t have to deal with loosing photos and bending edges as your little ones turn the pages. I know from experience that when my little ones look through our older albums with the “real” pictures in them, they tend to get rearranged and sometimes lost!

As your babies grow up, they’ll love looking at these books as much as you!  So don’t keep those cherished pictures stored away on your hard drive where no can appreciate them! Get started on a new photo book right away. We hope you’ll have fun!

Cloth Hard Cover

Colic and the Elimination Diet

The difference between a fussy baby and a colicky baby, according to Dr. Sears, is that a fussy baby can be comforted when being held and soothed, while colicky babies are actually in pain and don’t respond to any sort of comforting. The term “colic” comes from the Greek kolikos, meaning “suffering in the colon.” These babies are hurting, not just high-needs.

So what can you do to help them?

If your baby is breastfeeding, you may have to sit down and think about your diet. The foods you eat affect your baby, and something in your milk could be causing his horrible tummy-aches and ear-piercing cries.

The idea of an elimination diet was developed by William G. Crook, M.D. (Detecting Your Hidden Allergies, Jackson, Tenn: Professional Books, 1987) and adapted by lactation counselor Martha Sears as follows:

The diet is based on eating the least allergenic food in each of the food groups. It can take up to two weeks for the offending foods to get out of your system, and bring your baby some relief.

1. For the first 2 weeks, eat only the following foods:

  • range-fed turkey and lamb
  • baked or boiled potatoes and sweet potatoes (with salt and pepper only)
  • rice and millet as your only grain
  • cooked green and yellow squash for your vegetable
  • pears and diluted pear juice for your fruit
  • Drink a rice-based beverage drink in place of milk on cereal or in cooking. Do not yet use soy beverage. (Rice products, such as rice beverage, rice-based frozen dessert, rice pasta, rice flour, and millet are available in nutrition stores.)
  • Take a calcium supplement.

2. At the end of two weeks (sooner if the colic subsides)  gradually add other foods to your diet, one every four days. Begin with those less commonly allergenic such as sunflower seeds, carrots, beets, salmon, oats, grapes, California avocado, peaches.

3. Wait a while before you add wheat, beef, eggs, nuts, and corn. Avoid for the longest time dairy products, soy products, peanuts, shellfish, coffee, tea, colas and other beverages containing caffeine, chocolate, gas-producing vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, onions, green peppers), tomatoes, and citrus fruits. Vegetables and fruits are often tolerated in cooked form sooner than in raw form.

4. Keep a record of the foods you eat and the problem behaviors. You’ll hope to see a correlation between what you’ve eaten in the past day or two, and baby’s fussy spells. Writing everything down helps you stay objective, which is hard to do when you are sleep-deprived. This is especially important when baby has stayed fussy past four months of age.

5. Do not starve yourself. Although your choices will be very limited at first, you can still eat a nutritious diet. Eat more of the “safe” food until you determine what your baby can tolerate.

6. Older babies are often less sensitive to fruits and veges, so protein elimination is generally recommended. This means cutting out dairy, beef, eggs, chicken, shellfish, soy, corn, wheat, and peanuts, in addition to any other foods you suspect bother your baby.

The good news: Dr. Sears states that colicky babies usually respond to mother’s diet changes dramatically and quickly, often within one or two days. It may take longer with an older baby who is night-waking. Often , mothers will find that their baby may sleep better for a few nights only to start waking again a lot for a few days or a week, at which point the sleep again improves. It’s important to know this so you will not think “it isn’t working,”  and give up.

For more information on colic and tips to help you through it, visit Dr. Sear’s Coping with Colic page!

feature photo via Hug Your Baby

Looking Beyond the Label: Family Health & Nutrition

When you are shopping for food and snacks for your family, do you see words like “pure” and “natural” and “contains real fruit” and toss it in the cart, thinking it’s a healthy choice?

Don’t be so quick to judge a package by it’s label! Many of these appealing descriptions are simply misleading, and it’s always advisable to get out  your reading glasses and try to decipher the list of ingredients on the back of the package (they do put some of those lists in tiny letters, don’t they?!).

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While the labels usually don’t outright lie, they can use tricky terms that stretch the truth more than you’d believe. As a parent it’s especially important to ignore the hype and be aware of the following trendy terms:

  • Pure: Well, you don’t want contaminated food, do you? But “pure” actually has no regulated meaning in food labeling and doesn’t tell you about things in the package that perhaps should not be there.
  • Natural: It sounds so appealing, but is probably the least trustworthy term. Consumers think it means that this food is as good as freshly picked off the tree… but it really says nothing about the nutritional quality or safety of the food.
  • Made From… The food may have started out with whatever is printed on the label, but who knows to what extent the food is then diluted, processed, or hydrogenated. It may be quite far removed from the actual food it is originally “made from.”
  • Made with real fruit/veges: The law does not require the label to say how much real fruit is in the product. So you may have a tiny percentage of fruit in a product that is mostly sugar.
  • Made with whole grains: Check the list of ingredients and you may be surprised to see that the product contain mostly refined flour with just a small amount of whole wheat added.
  • Fat Free: Suppose a food is labeled 95 percent “fat-free.” This means that five percent of the total weight of the food is fat, (which may not seem like much), yet a single gram of fat contains nine calories – compared to four calories in a gram of protein or carbohydrates. Five grams of fat in 100 grams of dark-meat turkey represents one-fourth of the calories in that serving.
  • Enriched: This often means that after doing something to the food that removed many of it’s nutrients, another process was required to put some of the good stuff back in. For example, enriched white bread is not as healthy as its whole wheat counterpart.
  • Smoked: This term legally describes the flavor of the food. So while you might imagine your food being smoked in an old-fashioned smokehouse, it could actually be artificially or chemically smoked, or just contain smoked flavoring.
  • Fruit drinks: These may contain little or no real fruit juice, and might be mostly sugar and water. If it says “high in vitamin C,” it may have added vitamins but still be a long way from real orange juice.
  • Organically grown, organic, pesticide-free, all natural, and no artificial ingredients: None of these terms say much about the nutritional value or safety of the product. Trust only labels that say “certified organically grown, which means that the food was grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides, in soil free of these substances.

For more information on family nutrition and being label-savvy, visit AskDrSears.com, or click on one of the following links!

Incredible: Understanding Your Baby’s Language!

I just saw this fascinating clip from Oprah featuring Priscilla Dunston and her secret to understanding your baby’s cry!

To start out with, Priscilla has a photographic memory for sound. She remembers everything she hears. When she was 4 or 5 years old, her mother would play Mozart concertos and after hearing it only once, she could play them back by ear. In school, she didn’t have to take notes because she remembered everything the teachers said!

After she gave birth to her son, she realized that each sound he made signaled something– hunger, tired, needs to burp, etc. By listening to the pre-cry sounds he made, she would know just what he wanted before he got hysterical. At first, Priscilla thought this was just a personal language between her and her baby, but after going out and hearing other babies’ sounds and cries, she realized that she had actually discovered a universal baby language!

You should check out her website, dunstanbaby, to learn more. But for a basic preview of the 5 baby sounds and what they mean, check out this video:

To summarize, these are the sounds to listen for:

“NEH This sound mimics the way a baby sucks, and means “I’m hungry!”

“OWHThis sound, similar to a yawn, means “I’m tired!”

HEH (listen for the “h”) signals discomfort- something is bothering him, needs to change diaper, change position, too hot, too cold, etc.

EAIR This sound means your baby has lower gas and needs some help releasing it. You may also notice him pulling his legs up.

EH Baby has an air bubble in his upper chest and needs to burp!

Note that these sound are reflexes that are natural in all babies age 0-3 months. After 3 months these specific reflexes may disappear. If your baby has been responded to according to his needs (and the sounds he makes) he may continue using them beyond 3 months.

I am gonna go out looking for babies to test this on! If you have any experience with the Dunston Baby Language, let us know by leaving a comment below!

Co-sleeping: Cause for Alarm?

A few weeks ago,  the City of Milwaukee launched a provocative ad campaign warning parents of the dangers of babies sleeping in adult beds. The ad depicts a baby sleeping in an adult bed, surrounded by puffy pillows and blankets, with a large knife is tucked in the covers nearby. The headline reads, “Your baby sleeping with you can be just as dangerous. Babies can die when sleeping in adult beds. Always put your baby to sleep on his back, in a crib. If you can’t afford a crib, call (414) 286-8620.”

Not surprisingly, this ad caused a huge stir. Personally, I kind of rolled my eyes and went on with my day, since I’ve happily and safely slept with all my three babies in my bed (currently sleeping with my 19-month old). What’s the big deal? I know that when done in safe manner, co-sleeping can actually be more beneficial for your baby than sleeping alone in a crib can be.

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image from Babyphotos.co.in

Not that I think we should ignore the safety of the world’s babies. The men who unveiled the campaign, Mayor Tom Barrett and Commissioner of Health Bevan Baker, have the admirable goal of trying to reduce the city’s sky-high African-American infant mortality rate by 15% by 2017. At least nine children have died this year in Milwaukee in an unsafe sleep environment.  But is scaring responsible parents away from co-sleeping really the answer?

I would say no. For the record, there is no correlation between co-sleeping and SIDS. I’m with Dr. Sears, who states:

Every night millions of mothers and babies the world over sleep close to each other, and the babies wake up just fine.  Instead of alarming conscientious parents, like the recent shocking and insensitive ad campaign in Milwaukee did, as reported in the Journal Sentinel, sleep advisors should be teaching parents how to co-sleep safely.

You can check out this article by Dr. Sears for the “show-me-the-science” proof, but from my own experiences I can say that throughout the night, however deeply I may be sleeping, I am always aware of my baby. And not just the baby in my bed, but even my kids in the other room… I wake at the slightest movement. It’s like I’m subconsciously wired to jump out of bed at the tiniest rustle or whimper.

Or, as Dr. Sears puts it: “Mothers enjoy a heightened awareness of their baby’s presence, what I call a “nighttime sleep harmony,” that protects baby.  The co-sleeping mother is more aware if her baby’s well-being is in danger.”

Despite being easily and frequently awakened, I think my babies and I get a good night’s sleep together. I nurse them “on demand” and we enjoy each other’s warmth and closeness.  I know that this is not the most comfortable situation for every mother, but for me and my babies, it’s what works. And I know my babies feel the same way, because our older kids still love jumping into bed with us (although it gets a bit squishy with all those elbows and knees)!

Says Dr. Sears: “Research shows that co-sleeping infants cry less during the night, compared to solo sleepers who startle repeatedly throughout the night and spend 4 times the number of minutes crying. Startling and crying releases adrenaline, which can interfere with restful sleep and leads to long term sleep anxiety.

And less crying and anxiety (I know I feel anxious when my babies cry, especially in middle of the night!)  is obviously beneficial for everyone involved! Then there are the extended health benefits of breastfeeding for babies and moms. Plus the research showing that “infants who sleep near to parents have more stable temperatures, regular heart rhythms, and fewer long pauses in breathing compared to babies who sleep alone.”

I should point out that Dr. Sears defines co-sleeping not as bed-sharing, but as “sleeping close enough to baby for easy comforting.” This could be in a crib in your room or a bedside sleeper. But for now, I’ll keep my babies in my bed, thank you very much!

So, how to do it safely? Here are Dr. Sears‘ guidelines:

  • We recommend using a bassinet that attaches safely and securely to parents’ bed, which allows both mother and baby to have their own sleeping space, while baby still enjoys sleeping close to mommy for easier feeding and comforting.
  • If bed-sharing, practice these safe precautions:
    • Place babies to sleep on their backs.
    • Be sure there are no crevices between the mattress and guardrail or headboard that allows baby’s head to sink into.
    • Do not allow anyone but mother to sleep next to the baby, since only mothers have that protective awareness of baby.  Place baby between mother and a guardrail, not between mother and father. Father should sleep on the other side of mother.
    • Don’t fall asleep with baby on a cushy surface, such as a beanbag, couch, or wavy waterbed.
    • Don’t bed-share if you smoke or are under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or medications that affect your sleep.

Dr. Sears concludes:

We have enjoyed sleeping close to our own babies.  I have promoted safe co-sleeping in our pediatric practice for nearly 40 years and have witnessed only positive outcomes, such as: babies sleep and grow better; promotes better bonding; breastfeeding is easier; and infants grow up with a healthy sleep attitude, regarding sleep as a pleasant state to enter and a fearless state to remain in.

Because I highly value safe sleeping arrangements, I have thoroughly researched this subject.  If you wish to read my research references that go into co-sleeping and bed-sharing in scientific detail, as well as more practical and safe nighttime parenting practices, consult the following:

Scientific Benefits of Co-Sleeping
Safe Co-sleeping Habits
7 Benefits of Sleeping Close to Your Baby
Co-Sleeping: Yes, No, Sometimes?

As well as our books, which can be ordered here.

Happy co-sleeping!

THE GREATER GOOD: Making Vaccination Safer for your Child

The Greater Good is an award winning documentary that offers a fresh look at what’s behind the sharply polarized vaccine debate in the U.S., and offers the opportunity for a new, more rational discussion about how to create safer and more effective public health policies to help our children stay healthy.

I watched it and I recommend that all parents or parents-to-be watch it too. Although you may have wonderful, caring doctors and friends who generally give good advice, when it comes to this controversial topic it is worthwhile to get the facts for yourself.  It’s so important to educate yourself in order to make the best possible choices for your family’s safety and health.

The producers of this powerful film are allowing a full and FREE preview through November 5th!

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image credit

THE GREATER GOOD looks behind the fear, hype and politics that have polarized the vaccine debate in America today.

The film re-frames the emotionally charged issue and offers, for the first time, the opportunity for a rational and scientific discussion on how to create a safer and more effective vaccine program.”

This film recently received the 2nd annual “Koroni Award for a documentary feature addressing an issue of importance to public health” at the Sidewalk Film Festival.

It also received the Cinematic Vision Award at the 2011 Amsterdam Film Festival.

From my point of view, this film couldn’t be more timely and if you have any interest in the vaccine controversy is a must see.

I sincerely hope you will share this article with family, close friends and social networks while free viewing of the film is still available, and urge everyone you know to take the time to watch it.

Barbara Loe Fisher summarizes the purpose of the film rather succinctly when she says that the issue of vaccines, “has become so polarized—you’re either pro-vaccine or you’re anti-vaccine.

When you take a centrist position, like the National Vaccine Information Center, you are automatically put into the category of being anti-vaccine.

But the truth is, we’re just trying to make vaccine policies and vaccines safer.” (Dr. Mercola)

Click on this link to watch the film: THE GREATER GOOD


Mom Pumps and Donates Breastmilk in Stillborn Baby’s Memory

Here is a beautiful, heartwarming story that shows us all that even as we grieve, we can reach beyond our personal sorrow to make the world a better place.  According to The International Breastfeeding Symbol, Jennifer Coias gave birth to a still baby boy, Jude, on September 15, 2011. To honor his memory, she decided to pump her milk, and donate it to a milk bank in Brazil, where she lives.

Jennifer continues to pump about 7-8 times a day to keep her milk flowing, in order to help other babies. Cafe Mom reports that her donations compose half of all the milk that the hospital’s bank receives, and hers is the highest in calories and fat, which is important for the babies in the NICU who drink it. According to her reports on Facebook, before she started donating, the hospital had to ration out the milk for only the “sickest and smallest of the NICU babies.” Now, thanks to her, they have enough to feed every NICU baby with human milk.

Jude's milk pumped on the weekend of Sept. 24-25, 2011

photo via www.breastfeedingsymbol.org

I find this story very inspiring, especially for any women who have ever thought of donating breast milk. Mothers who have lost babies or simply have an overabundance of milk can really do a lot of good by donating it to babies who’s mothers can’t produce enough milk or who do not have access to breast milk for other reasons.

Visit Human Milk 4 Human Babies to learn more about donating or receiving breast milk.

If you want to help Jennifer continue her great act of kindness, you can send donations of milk bags or any other small, non-breakable containers to:

Jennifer & Miguel Coias
Unit 7500, Box 1381
DPO, AA 34030-1381

You can also find more ways to help by visiting her Facebook page:  Love & Light for Jennifer Coias & Family or by sending a donation via PayPal: donation page for Jennifer Coias.

Benefits of Probiotics Found in Breastmilk

There’s been a lot of talk over the past few years about the importance of probiotics, and specifically the probiotics found in breastmilk. But what exactly are they, and what benefit do they serve us and our children?

laughing baby playing with motherimage credit

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are live bacteria that live in our gut and benefit us in various ways. Humans carry around about ten times as many bacterial cells as there are actual cells in our bodies, and most of them live in the digestive tract. They help digest food, absorb minerals and other nutrients, and help with synthesizing vitamins. Probiotic therapy is being used to treat a range disorders including irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, yeast infections, asthma, allergies, and other inflammatory responses.

According to the Harvard website: “An estimated 100 trillion microorganisms representing more than 500 different species inhabit every normal, healthy bowel. These microorganisms (or microflora) generally don’t make us sick; most are helpful. Gut-dwelling bacteria keep pathogens (harmful microorganisms) in check, aid digestion and nutrient absorption, and contribute to immune function.”

Where do they come from?

Babies are actually not born with any of this beneficial bacteria in their intestines, but they quickly become colonized with exposure. Babies born via vaginal delivery tend to have more beneficial bacteria (which they get from their mother as they travel through the  birth canal), and so do babies that are breastfed. Probiotics are found in breast milk, and due to the growing body of research showing their benefits, they are also being added to infant formula.

You can also get your probiotics in supplement form or better yet, by eating fermented foods like yogurt, fermented cabbage and fermented soy products. Certain foods called prebiotics are also helpful in rejuvenating your body’s colony of flourishing intestinal flora, by feeding the probiotics that live inside you. These foods include oats, bananas, berries, greens such as kale, chard, leeks, asparagus, whole grains, almonds, flax, onions, and honey.

How probiotics benefit your baby

Breastmilk contains the probiotic lactobacillus reuteri (l. reuteri) which is passed from mother to baby.  Studies have show that the consumption of probiotics by children and infants may:

  • shorten bouts of diarrhea and acute viral gastroenteritis
  • lessen side effects of antibiotics
  • reduce the severity of symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
  • significantly reduce colic in newborns
  • promote oral health by killing streptoccocus mutants which cause tooth decay
  • avoid skin problems such as eczema
  • avoid or delay the onset of asthma
  • contribute to the development and functioning of baby’s immune system
  • lessen doctor visits, fewer sick days, and better overall health

A  nursing mother who consumes probiotics and prebiotics is not only benefiting herself, she is also passing along the beneficial bacteria to her baby.

It’s World Breastfeeding Week!

August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week, and in honor of this momentous occasion, Parents.com has compiled a list of 10 things you didn’t know about breastfeeding. Are you a new mom? Or maybe you think you know everything there is to know about breastfeeding, already? Check out these facts, test your knowledge, and be an educated breast-feeder!

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image from Little Mountain  Homeopathy

Have a coffee, or a martini! A healthy diet is important for everyone, but you don’t have to feel guilty if you have a few too many cookies, or have a drink with your husband.  “Your body is designed to make healthy milk,” says Laura Viehmann, M.D.  The purpose of eating well is to maintain your own health and energy… your body will do it’s own work of using the nutrients you provide to produce wholesome breastmilk.

Nursing may cause cramping: But just for the first few days after birth! It’s a sign that your body is healing properly. “The same hormone responsible for triggering milk letdown, oxytocin, causes your uterus to shrink back to normal, which reduces the risk for uterine bleeding,” says American Baby advisor Laura Jana, M.D.

Your milk is not always the same: At first, you produce a sticky, yellowish-white colostrum that’s rich in protein. After a few days, you start producing “real” milk which contains two parts (you might see them separate in the fridge). Foremilk is thin, watery, and pale; hindmilk contains more fat, and will be slightly thicker and creamier.

Nursing pads will save your life: OK, not literally, but they’ll save you a lot of embarrassment from leaky nipples. Anything that makes you think of your baby, even hearing another baby cry, causes your body to release oxytocin which makes the milk come in! So don’t leave home without them!

You may get antsy: A friend of mine called it “nervous milk” and her baby weaned himself off of it pretty quickly. She just couldn’t relax and enjoy the feedings, and this nervousness transferred to her baby. If you think about it, it can be boring: feedings can last as long as an hour, and babies need to be fed every couple of hours at first.  Try to use this time to do something enjoyable– check email, read, or catch up on your DVR queue, call a friend to chat… or take a nap! Of course it would also be time well spent if you can focus on bonding with your baby using eye contact, touch, and talking or singing to him.

It might be worse than labor: On second thought, maybe not, but it can still be painful. It’s normal if your nipples feel irritated at first because they’ve never had that degree of stimulation, but if you are writhing in agony you need to make sure the latch is right.  You should rule out mastitis or blocked ducts, and speak to a lactation consultant. Once you baby is latching on properly, you may find your cracked, bleeding nipples healing within days! Use a purified lanolin product, like Lansinoh, to soothe nipples after feeding or pumping.

It may not work out: Some moms do all they can to make breastfeeding a success, and despite their best efforts it doesn’t work out. This can be for a myriad of reasons, including low milk production, infections, or medication. We do believe it’s important to try, but nourishing, nurturing and bonding can happen without breastfeeding too.

It may feel like heaven: Those hormones are at it again– this time in a good way!  Oxytocin, a hormone involved in milk production, ushers in a cascade of blissful emotions, and prolactin makes you feel drowsy when you’re done. There’s nothing quite like the sweetness of a happy baby at your breast as you both drift off to sleep together!

Your turn! If there’s something that surprised you, or that you wish YOU had known about breastfeeding, let us know! Help out our readers by sharing your wisdom and leaving a comment below!

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