Parenting

Taking back my Boobs!

Moose turns 1 tomorrow.  And I am done with breast feeding… I mean done.  Stick a fork in these puppies (and drain them for the love of FSM!)

The American Acadamy of Pediatrics recommends boob juice for at least 12-18 months.  So honestly, I feel no shame in falling short of my 18-22 month goal. But according to the interwebs, I should.  It seems no one weans at 12 months.  I’m the first.  The very very first.  I am a pioneer on the frontier of boobs.  I am Amerigo Vesboobi.

But I don’t want to be.

It’s pretty rare that I do anything involving Moose (or not involving Moose for that matter) without researching the hell out of it.  It’s difficult for me to just wing it when the health of my son is on the line.

Now I’ve got the added burden of tender, painful boobs and an angry baby who won’t stop grabbing and poking them while crying in frustration.  He doesn’t sleep well without nursing  which means I do not sleep well without nursing.  We’re both exhausted.

According to what I’ve read though, if he’s a year old and doesn’t want to wean, I shouldn’t make him do it because he’s not ready.  Apparently my choices for weaning him are either to do it early (and only because I’m going back to work) and gradually swap out a bottle for each nursing session until he’s 100% on bottles, or to just let him do it on his own –  you know, when he’s ready to swap milk on tap for beer on tap.

Neither of these seem like good options for me. Since being introduced to the exciting world of straws and sippy cups, Moose thinks bottles are, well… for babies.  And cups are not nearly as satisfying as boobs.  (Try this experiment: call each of your friends and ask them either  a. “Hey, who wants to play with bendy straws?”  or b.”Hey, who wants to play with some boobies?”)

So that leaves me with either being a bad mom or letting him use my nipples to play his favorite new game called Look What my Teeth Can Do! Maybe I’m just a wimp because I can’t handle being bitten by tiny, sharp, pearly white flints on body parts already swollen and bloodied by those flints.  Or maybe I just hate my kid.

I understand that breastmilk is the best food for infants and toddlers.  When Moose was 6 months old, I quit my job to stay home and breastfeed.  The whole pumping on the job thing was not working out.  I decided that nursing was too important to give up, so I put in my notice.  I gave up a second income and human adult contact, not to be a martyr of a mother but because nursing was that important to me.

But now I’m done.  And there’s nothing out there to help me help him.  Because there’s no rational middle ground in the world of breastfeeding information.  To say, “I’m weaning my son at 12 months.” Results in looks of disapproval and confusion from most people I’ve talked to.  It’s either disturbingly (or nauseatingly) too long or neglectful and selfish for me to do it so soon.   Can it be both?  Can it be neither?

Either way, I don’t really care what anyone thinks except Moose.  All I’m trying to find is information on how to wean him from the breast after weaning him from a bottle but before he takes his SATs.  I’m looking for advice on how to do it, not whether to do it.  And it’s not out there.

Why does this topic have to be so devisive?  Can’t we just get over the whole “OMG A BOOB!” thing and just talk about it like adults?  For the sake of our kids?

(Probably NSFW:  I do know Rystefn is going to be disappointed to read this.)

Oh, and happy first birthday, Moose :)

Elyse

Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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59 Comments

  1. If everyone else except you agrees on the same thing, chances are that they’re right. If everyone disagrees with you but are completely divided on the issue, chances are that you’re right. :)

  2. Are there such things as milking machines for humans? Surely it’s possible to engineer a teatcup that’s less unpleasant than an infant’s toothy mouth. This approach would probably have its drawbacks, but feeding a baby your own own milk from a bottle would still give the same nutritive benefits.

  3. As a veteran of the boob wars (Breast feeding was one of those things that everyone felt was their business when talking to my wife when the kids were infants) I will simply repeat what our pediatrician said: What is ‘best’ is for both mom and baby to be happy. If one is miserable, the other’s going to be miserable and that is healthy for nobody.

    So do what works for your situation and ignore what other people say.

    As for *finding* what works: well that’s always the real challenge.

  4. It’s all about doing what’s right for your family. It’s not just about Moose or just about you. You have to find the right balance of meeting everyone’s needs and desires. And if people give you crap, fuck ’em (not literally, as that would be way too kind).

    We took a lot of crap from my mother-in-law and a bunch of people as we struggled over these decisions. My wife and baby literally became the poster child for the breast-feeding clinic at the hospital (Their picture is in the brochure). I had no idea how many things could go wrong with breast-feeding and know way more about it than any man should now.

    Anyway, people would just assume that my wife was wimping out or this or that. But frankly, they don’t know what we as a family went through. And it really is easier and harder on different women to a large degree. Most women never even heard of some of the diseases and disorders it caused, like Renaught’s Syndrome (sp?). Any way, my son did so much damage to the nipples that she could not produce milk. So she pumped every meal for 5 months. When our second son came it got even worse. My wife went into the hospital with an accute breast infection. We stopped after 3 weeks with him, and all sorts of people gave her crap. I was so pissed!

  5. Jacob:

    Yes, they make breast pumps. I have one. But my son doesn’t want breast MILK, he wants breast. I could give him a cup of milk, but it’s no use. He wants to nurse.

    everyone:

    I am SO okay with my decision. 12 months, in my opinion, is a job well done. I have no regrets. My beef is with the lack of information on how to wean. The info is either for young babies not yet on solids or just being introduced to solids OR, if you’ve already made the decision to commit and nurse for the first year or more, that the child should wean himself. The rest of us have no help and are stuck just trying to wing it.

    My boobs hurt and I’m exhausted and Moose is frustrated. He’s too young to sit down and have a conversation with me about my decision and I’d just like to make it easier for him.

  6. Breast pumps don’t hurt. At least mine doesn’t. They’re not really all that convenient and whether you’re giving the kid formula or breast milk in a cup, he still needs to be weaned from the breast.

    It’s the emotional connection to physically being on the breast that is hard. Otherwise it’s just a few days of hurty boobs.

  7. Yes, they make breast pumps. I have one. But my son doesn’t want breast MILK, he wants breast. I could give him a cup of milk, but it’s no use. He wants to nurse.

    What about a boob-like contraption that fits over a bottle and seems just like a boobie? Surely someone, somewhere has made such a thing.

  8. What about a boob-like contraption that fits over a bottle and seems just like a boobie?

    I think they have those for men who want to be involved in the boobie feeding… you wear it like a vest. I dunno if it would fool a full-grown baby though.

  9. Elyse,
    Congrats on a great year of breastfeeding! You did a good job- never doubt that. As for weening- you just have to do it cold turkey. I never breastfed but getting my one year old (at the time) off the bottle was cold turkey– now drinks from sippy cups. My son just turned 2 and he doesn’t have his pacifier anymore. We did that cold turkey. I think it was harder on me though!
    Ultimately you do whatever you feel comfortable; that’s important!
    Uh….. does Moose’s dad know about that pic of Rystefn? :)
    Happy Birthday Moose!!!

  10. Amerigo Vesboobi. Christopher Columboobs. Ferdinand Magellanipple. Vasco da Mammaries.

    Yes, all of these are among the greatest… globetrotters… in all history!

    (In all seriousness for a moment, though: Facebook? Do I have to?)

  11. I am in a similar situation, I would really like to wean my daughter but she’s not having it. The best I have come up with is setting guidelines. I will nurse before bed and in the morning and occasionally for a nap but that is it. All the other times I try to distract her to do something else and sometimes I just have to tell her ‘no’. Mine is just a tad (o.k. a lot) older than yours though.

    I know when mine were about 6-8 months and I was tired of wearing nursing bras and clothes, I would stop nursing in public. Distraction was the key and consistently giving them a sippy cup. But I was only trying to postpone. I wish you luck. I know my 1yo wouldn’t give it up without a fight. I can give you a bit of advice on the biting though. The instant you get bitten, pulled, pinched, etc. take them off, put them down and say ‘no!’ Do it every time and it will stop for the most part. At least it did with all 3 of mine.

  12. You might want to contact a La Leche League leader (llli.org). While they may encourage you to keep breastfeeding, their job is to help you find the info you need. There are resources out there, but you are right that they tend to focus more on the opposite ends of the spectrum.

    It tends to be easier physically to gradually wean, but if that doesn’t work for you, there’s nothing wrong with stopping suddenly. Weaning definitely works differently for everyone.

    I’ve heard some people suggest having the dad comfort the child so he isn’t frustrated with being near you and not getting to breastfeed. Or go away for a couple of days and leave the child behind, and it can make it easier.

    Also, if Moose isn’t comforted by a sippy cup (understandably), can you try to offer some yummy food instead of milk to replace nursing? And maybe extra cuddles and special storytime with mom?

  13. I think there are way too many guilt issues for women dealing with the whole breastfeeding issue. I know it’s better, but you know what? Sometimes life just doesn’t let it happen in the ideal way. I had a difficult pregnancy and didn’t produce enough milk from the beginning, so my daughter never breastfed. I got pretty damn tired of the kneejerk guilt trips other women tried to put on me because of it. But my daughter will be three next week, and is as healthy and happy as she possibly could be, formula-fed and all.

    I’m sure you’re doing just fine with Moose, Elyse. I took away my daughter’s bottle a little after her first birthday, and it only took her a couple of weeks before she was done with it completely. Happy birthday to the little boy :)

  14. Joshsmom:

    Off the bottle was easy peasy. I gave him a cup and he never wanted a bottle again. I think weaning him from the breast would be a whole lot easier if he’d still take a bottle though. And he weaned himself off his pacifier when he was 6 months old. I was so worried I’d never get him away from it and he just stopped wanting it.

    GreyDuck and Sam:

    No one’s making you… unless you want to see my sweet sweet boobies… and Rystefn.

  15. No one’s making you… unless you want to see my sweet sweet boobies… and Rystefn.

    The divine sweetness of your boobies is undeniable, but unfortunately, the presence of Rystefn can negate the sweetness of even the most glorious rack.

  16. Sarah and jrfinney:

    He was already down to nursing only at nap time and bed time. The trick is now teaching him to self-soothe without the boob.

    Last weekend I was in NYC without him. I tried to get him to wean before that, but he wasn’t having it. When I got home I felt bad and forgot why I was in such a rush to get it done… until he bit me.

    I tried every suggestion to get him not to bite (except the one where I bite him back… that’s just mean). He’s now learned that biting means he gets put down, so when he’s all done, he gives me a good chomp. Also, if he startles me with it, he thinks its HILARIOUS.

    After several weeks of this, I’ve just decided I’m done. My vegetarian baby is turning into a vampire!

    everyone:

    Thanks for the birthday wishes! I can’t believe it’s been a year!

  17. He’s now learned that biting means he gets put down, so when he’s all done, he gives me a good chomp. Also, if he startles me with it, he thinks its HILARIOUS.

    Conceptually, it is hilarious. I’m sure it’s not at all pleasant in practice, and I’m sure that you’re in a goodly amount of pain. But the fact that you were (let’s face it) outsarted by your one-year-old does make me chuckle a little bit. I suspect I’m in for a good bit of being made to feel stupid once I’m a father.

  18. Actually you’re not the first ever, you’re the second ever. My son weaned at 12 months, and that was 1.5 months ago. Ha! I iz teh awesum!

    *cough*

    You’re asking him for a major transition at around the same age he’s exploring the power of tantrums and his personal opinion. It isn’t easy, but it wasn’t much easier at 18 months (the age when my daughter finally gave it up).

    Anecdotes aren’t necessarily going to get you very far, since every baby is different, but just for kicks… In our case, his horrible little fangs were starting to cause intermittent vasospasm, so I refused to let Junior anywhere near the nipples anymore — cold turkey. I did still pump milk, so he had a bottle every morning, and at night to mellow him out. He preferred to drink it when being snuggled, getting his cuddle time in while having some milk. I swapped in whole (cow) milk eventually in the mornings, then a week or so later swapped the evening drink as well.

    Had you considered putting expressed milk into a sippy cup rather than make him have a bottle? He’ll get the better drinking vessel, the nutritious milk, and can be snuggled. That way you can make it a more gradual transition off breastmilk. jrfinney’s idea of an alternative tasty treat is a great one if you want to have a clean break from breastmilk. Finally, I personally think cuddle time is integral to any weaning strategy, because the kid’s gotten used to comforting physical contact from the day he was born.

    And… cold cabbage leaves in the bra are surprisingly soothing for engorged breasts.

  19. Don’t overanalyze every decision you make as a parent. It’ll all be proven wrong in 10 years anyway, so love your kid, take care of him and relax a bit. Think about all the stupid things your parents did and how well you turned out*.

    *I’m assuming you turned out well, based on the evidence I have

  20. I read your post, and immediately called my mom. She’s 75 and weaned three of us. Her first comment was, “Oh dear, she’s doing it the hard way.” Then we got down to the nitty gritty. There is no easy way, but there are a few things that will help. First of all, for your comfort while you’re tender, get a well-padded bra. It won’t keep him from grabbing your boobs, but it will keep him from pinching so badly. Second, wear shirts that do NOT open in the front and that DO have a higher neckline. Put up a physical barrier between him and what he wants. Third, try to substitute new, soothing activities for those times he used to nurse. He’s going to keep throwing a fit for awhile, but eventually he’ll learn to be soothed by the new thing.

    She says to tell you you’re going to have to be firm and stick to your guns. It’s going to be difficult but he’ll catch on quicker than you think. Children don’t pursue behaviors that don’t get them what they want for very long. And she says, “Good luck.”

  21. Wait, it’s weird *not* to breastfeed now? I recall comments my mom got for breastfeeding instead of using formula…granted, that was in the 60 s ‘n 70 s.

    I imagine the folks giving you grief for stopping breastfeeding after a year would, in another generation, have been giving you grief for breastfeeding so *long*. :)

  22. How a bout some two cents from a mother of none, aunt to three? I kept thinking, “well, just don’tgive him any boob…he’s not going to die of hunger or suffer ptsd”..

    then I saw @30 : “In our case, his horrible little fangs were starting to cause intermittent vasospasm, so I refused to let Junior anywhere near the nipples anymore — cold turkey.”

    My sister, 3 years my junior, mother of a 5, 3 and 1 year old, came to visit last winter. We were trying to decide what to eat, and she was saying something about the kids only eating this or that..and when we finally went to the Mexican restaurant, those kids had FITS. She was telling me about how the middle one in particular pretty much only wants to eat chicken nuggets…

    I was like “well, why don’t you just not serve that?”. She responded with “they won’t eat”.

    What BS! A kid will not starve to death if there is food available. eventually they’ll come around. Probably it’s smart not to even introduce those little virgin palates to salty french fries and other junky food that they will prefer. I mean, it’s not like a 5 year old is going to go on his own, well, anywhere.

    Then there was the eldest one refusingto be potty trained. I just couldn’t understand why she let him use diapers. I was like, “just don’t put a diaper on him. He WILL get tired of shitting himself without one pretty quickly.” It was a really crazy situation (IMO, brought on because with his brother so close in age and all that attention being lavished on #2 (the brother,not feces..), still getting your diaper changed is a few minutes of total focus on the changee..).

    So,yeah, what if you just don’t give him any boob? He’ll get over it. We all do. Well, MOST of us:

  23. Good for you for bfing so long, and for knowing when it’s time for you to quit. I don’t have an experience with weaning, yet, but I would take a look at askmoxie (http://www.askmoxie.org/). It’s the best site I know for non-judgmental parenting advice. There’s a little bit of woo right now, but the advice is still good.
    Other than that, it may actually be easier if you wait a month. IIRC 12 months is a growth spurt and a developmental leap, which will make it harder on both of you.
    For the bitting, for us it did not work at all to put her down each time she did it. It made everything worse. What did help was breaking the latch (but still holding her) and then immediately giving a piece of cold, raw celery or a chunk of frozen bagel.
    Good luck!

  24. Any way to wean using the “environment” of breastfeeding? Such as feeding in the same place and putting the bottle near the boob, etc… That way the source of milk is different and the circumstances are less jarringly so. Then just keep going from there.

    I’m just thinking back of when I used to train rats to press levers. We rewarded little approximations until eventually they got it outright.

    Rats and babies are the same, right? :)

  25. Our son just turned 1 yesterday, and my wife is now weaning him too. She’s so ready to be done. We weaned our other two kids at 12 months as well, with no apparent ill effects. Happy birthday to Moose!

  26. @whitebird — I’m advocating against the “just don’t put him in diapers” strategy, if only because it curses parents with constantly changing wet, shit-laden clothing and carseats instead of diapers. But then, potty-training is an area of parenting almost as contentious as breastfeeding… I bet we’ll get to revisit the topic when Moose turns two! ;)

    You are, however, right about food — they won’t starve if they miss a meal or two due to their own stubbornness!

  27. You only have one option really. Make him go cold turkey before you end up like this and hear the plaintive cry of “bitty, mummy”. Cold turkey is my serious suggestion, it may be very difficult for a few days but it is more effective than cutting down or offering alternatives.

  28. Wean him now. I like beer and boobs but I didn’t start kegging the beer I make until I was 33 and that many years of breast feeding could cause you some physical damage and him some problems in school.

  29. I weened my son after 12 months. Actually, he didn’t even notice, I swear! We had been feeding him breast milk from a bottle while I was at work, so nothing was missed (especially because soy-based formula and soy milk taste surprisingly like breast milk – how would I know? Don’t ask.) I’m a “breast is best” kind of girl, but they’re our tit’s, not the baby’s! Do what works for you.

  30. Okay. This sounds weird.

    Cabbage Leaves. Frozen cabbage leaves. In your bra.

    Apparently, this helps with the soreness. Or so Girl told me when I asked why she was putting a cabbage leaf in her bra.

    The Highlander weaned at 12 months. He seems to be okay.

  31. The booze/ boob discussion coupled with the picture (in which I have not-so-innocent bystander status) keeps making me think of one thing… a new skeptical drink containing breast milk .

    The Skeptical Boobsicle:

    1 part breast milk of a skeptic
    (skepticism necessary to avoid woo aftertaste)
    1 tablespoon Tang
    1 Part Vanilla Schnapps

    Still well, serve over ice.

    Elyse, happy birthday to the Moose, and congratulations on reclaiming your wonderful boobies!

  32. Because I am not a mother yet (thank goodness! Still too young for that)…I don’t know how to contribute to this lovely post. However, I would like to ask a question…

    I’m reading a FABULOUS book right now (Clan of the Cave Bear, if anyone cares)…and the main character, Ayla, refuses to nurse her son for so long (out of grief for the death of her mother) that she cannot produce any more milk, and has to pass her son along to the other women of the Clan to provide for him. Does anyone know what is this is about?

  33. You will eventually dry up if you don’t nurse. Women who formula feed still produce milk at first but if a baby does not suckle, it will dry up. However, another woman that is nursing can take over. Her body will produce enough milk for two (or more) as long as the demand is there. I currently nurse two (of my own) :)

  34. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOOSE!!!

    Some thoughts ….

    Are you still on two feedings (nap and nighttime)? Perhaps you can stop one for a few days (or a week) and then stop the second one. OR if your done *NOW* and not done in a week) then maybe you can try to avoid doing what you “normally” do at that feeding time. For instance, if you have a special place you sit at nap time try to be someplace else (or maybe have the Moose be someplace else — this might be a good time to have him sleep on your bed/the floor/the couch/the dog’s crate)

    Try (he may not love it – but he may) to have him snuggle with you (while you’re wearing a high collar shirt without buttons :^) ) or rest his head on your chest. Or perhaps at bedtime give him a bath or read to him.

    If you’re trying to get him down at nap time without nursing perhaps you can plan nap time for drive time — my son would often sleep in the car (but gas was not $4.00 a gallon back in the day). Or drive him around at bedtime.

    You’re a great mom and he needs you – you just have to figure out ways to show him that you still love him and want to cuddle him and comfort him without getting chomped on. You’ll figure something out — you’re a smart gal.

    OH — sorry I wasn’t supposed to say that — I was supposed to say that you’re an evil mom for wanting to wean him so early and now he’ll be totally destroyed for life (and he’ll have something to talk to his therapist about). We’ll have to contact that social worker that’s following you around and tell her about this so that she can check on the evil weaning mommy. (Something tells me that the boy will somehow survive).

  35. It was one of the happiest days of my life when my son suddenly weaned himself at 10 months. (One of the others was the day he first pooped solid…… I don’t care what anyone says about “breastfed baby poop doesn’t stink”; to me it smelled revolting in addition to being uncontrollably messy.)

    I was losing as much as 2 lbs. a week and getting too skinny (to my eyes, I was almost starting to look like an anorexia case), I was sick and tired of stuffing myself silly just to keep up with him, I was just plain tired all the time, and my ligaments were still loose enough to make walking uncomfortable. (Running? Fugeddaboudit!) I didn’t feel like I really recovered from his birth until he was weaned.

    Guess he just decided he liked big people’s food better. I’d already started giving him any regular food I didn’t think he’d choke on – he would never eat baby food or anything gooshy. (He stuck one finger in the icing of his first birthday cake and FREAKED! I had to take the icing off his piece.)

    I must say there was one really cool thing about breastfeeding in my case. I’m so flat, no one could believe I could actually do it. I only wore a bra – one of those stretchy ones – for the first 3 months to keep the pads in place while I was still leaking. After that stopped, I dispensed with the bra completely. But I had a great big healthy rugrat to show for it, on “nothing but mom” for the first 6 months! :-)

    I’m not sure I’d go near La Leche League if I were you. I went to 2 meetings and decided they were a bunch of contented cows and way too sold on silly quasi-nutritional woo and having the whole family sleep in the same bed. One woman was still nursing her 3-year-old, who would walk up to her, pull on her shirt, and announce loudly, “I WANNA MILK! I WANNA MILK!” Everyone else except me thought it was cute and funny, but that was the thing that made me decide to run like hell in the other direction and never go back.

    Hang in there, mom. Check with your pediatrician – maybe he/she can give you some good advice.

  36. After following the posts on this thread I have 2 comments:

    1) I’m glad I’m not a woman… Raising kids is apparently more complicated than I realized, and as scared as I am of the eventuality of that happening, at least I don’t have to deal with biting babies and sore boobies.

    2) Yaaay boobies!

  37. My son, now just eighteen and heading to the UK for up to a year, bit my poor wife quite hard while feeding at ten months old. That was the end of that and the poor little guy hated bottles. It was sippy cups from then on and he turned out just fine. (Personally I was happy to have the boobs back)

  38. My father swears that I was breastfed until I was two. My parents both say that I spoke like an adult by the time I was two and would look my mother in the eye and say “Roll over mom this one is empty.” Every time he tells the story he laughs and laughs. Makes me feel really weird. Like a teenager who was still breastfeeding.

  39. Detroitus,
    Raising kids is the most compicated thing I have ever done. I was single dad for a long time after my divorce. (You have no idea how hard it is for a father to get custody of the children in Texas after a divorce.) You read the books and you do the best you can and you love them no matter what. It is harder than war, harder than working a max security prison, harder than having multiple death threats against you. I am also glad not to be a breastfeeding mom.

    Boobs are great.

  40. Elyse,

    First off, congrats to you on your decision to reclaim the boob! I personally felt soooo liberated after weaning to no longer have to plan my life and wardrobe around easy boob access.

    Secondly, you seem like a fantastic mom! How dedicated you must be to have quit your job to provide your little one with breast milk! Obviously, you care deeply about providing the best for your child. It is really outrageous that anyone would make you feel incompetent for choosing to wean after 12 months (12 months was my goal…I made it to 8.5 months).

    You are entering, what I found to be, a difficult developmental stage–toddlerhood. During the infant stage, parents are often advised that babies cannot be spoiled by giving into their demands; however, that does not hold true indefinitely. Eventually, as a parent, you have to start setting limits. This is difficult. No longer is it prudent to give in to your child’s every request (bring on the power struggles!).

    So, how do you help your child self -soothe? Truly there is little you can do except (1) remain patient and loving while he throws a temper tantrum for not getting the boob and (2) remain consistent in NOT giving in to his demands for the boob. It will be uncomfortable, but you’ll be teaching your child a valuable lesson–when mom sets a limit, she means it and no amount of fussing will change that. Geez, guess that sounds a little non-nurturing-like, but I am a firm believer in consistency!

    Well, sister, you have a difficult road ahead! I wish you the best and know that you will come out of this experience having learned a lot about parenting…a lot more than you’ll ever learn by browsing the parenting web sites :). I hope you will keep us updated and can provide other moms a valuable resource by posting YOUR solution to the weaning problem when you are done.

    Oh, and thanks for the link Stacey. Those are some lovely ta-tas Elyse :).

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