How aware are you about the importance of vitamin D for your baby? And how informed are you about the consequences your baby might have to face due to a vitamin D deficiency? Vitamin D is one of the most needed nutrients for your baby, and it is something you, as a mother, should definitely know about.
This post talks about vitamin D with respect to babies. Would you like to know more? Please go ahead.
What Is Vitamin D?
The vitamin that maintains healthy bones and overall good health is Vitamin D. It also plays a major role in fighting infections and makes sure the muscles, heart, and brain work efficiently. (1)
- Strengthens the immune system
- Improves muscle and cardiovascular function
- Helps the respiratory system
- Promotes brain development
- Has anti-cancer effects
Unlike other vitamins, Vitamin D can be generated by the human body. An exposure to sufficient sunlight leads to its synthesis in the skin. On the other hand, no food can help you in replenishing the vitamin D content in the body. Therefore, a regular exposure to the sun along with intake of supplements, if necessary, is advised.
Also, when there is a sufficient quantity of Vitamin D, the body converts it into a hormone called calcitriol, or “activated Vitamin D”. This in turn helps in regulating the levels of calcium and phosphorous and in the mineralization of bones.
How Does Vitamin D Work?
When the human body is exposed to sunlight, a number of chemical reactions take place. The absorbed sunlight in the skin is converted to vitamin D and is sent to the liver. Similarly, when all the sources of vitamin D enter the body, be it in the form of food or other supplements, the gut sends them to the liver. This in turn changes into a substance called 25(OH)D, which is sent to all the parts of the body.And as it reaches the kidneys, it converts 25(OH) into activated vitamin D. The two major roles of activated vitamin D are:
- Vitamin D manages calcium in the blood, gut, and bones.
- Helps cells all over the body to communicate properly.
Symptoms Of Vitamin D Deficiency In Babies:
Often, symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are not visible. Rather, they can be vague or even non-specific. A general irritability or fussiness might be the only pointers. But this can easily go unnoticed. Hence, watch for some of these symptoms in your babies to find out whether your little one is vitamin D fit.
1. Soft Skull:
Unlike in healthy babies, the solidification process of the skull bones to join together right after childbirth is limited in infants that have a Vitamin D deficiency. This results in an unusually soft scalp in the infant that puts her in danger of sustaining a severe fall.
2. Delayed Achievements Of Milestones:
One major reason your Paediatrician keeps on asking whether your baby has achieved milestones appropriate to her age, is to check the baby’s vitamin levels. For instance, a Vitamin D deficient baby is likely to find it tough to sit up by herself or effortlessly crawl. In some cases, her limbs may even appear swollen due to abnormally wide bones. She might even show restlessness due to weak muscles and subsequent pain in the bones, which can develop as a result of Vitamin D deficiency.
3. Bone Deformities:
Outwardly bowed legs and a crooked spine can be the signs of bone deformities in your baby. Insufficient Vitamin D levels, hence, deter healthy development in babies.
4. Poor Growth:
Height is usually affected more than the weight. It is seen that babies with insufficient stores of vitamin D take a longer time to take their first walking steps.
4. Tooth Delay:
Children with Vitamin D deficiency will show signs of delayed teething. This indicates that the growth of milk teeth has been affected.
5. Weak Immune System:
Babies are more prone to infections and some diseases when they have an acute deficiency of Vitamin D. Respiratory disorders, in particular, are visible in such babies. This occurs due to weak chest muscles and a soft rib cage.
Who Are At Risk?
Though every baby requires sufficient proportions of vitamin D to stay fit and fine, some of them can have a highter need of the vitamin. This can be due to an insufficiency in the quantities transferred to the fetus from the mother’s body, which in turn is vitamin D deficient. As a result, such a baby has a higher risk of having a vitamin D deficiency than others. Similarly, there are other instances also where few babies are likely to suffer from a vitamin D deficiency. Take a look at them.
- The body is unable to make enough vitamin D
- Lack of vitamin D in the diet
- Those who cover the skin mostly
- Who are mostly indoors
- Have darker skin
- Who are breastfed for a long time
- Whose mothers suffer from a Vitamin D deficiency
Major Diseases Due To Vitamin D Deficiency In Babies:
Vitamin D primarily takes charge of maintaining healthy bones and muscles in the body. Vitamin D for infants is extremely crucial. There are a number of other roles it plays for the proper functioning of the human metabolism. A discrepancy in the required quantity of its levels in the body can result in a number of disorders in babies. A few of them are:
A deficiency of vitamin D, calcium and phosphate causes rickets. It leads to the softening and weakening of bones and is most commonly visible in babies between 6 to 24 months of age. In adults, a similar complication that arises due to vitamin D deficiency is Osteomalacia. Both these diseases retard the strength and appearance of human bones. If left untreated, or if the treatment is delayed, it can lead to permanent bone deformities.
In rare cases, an extremely low vitamin D level can cause weakness of the heart muscle. This refers to Cardiomyopathy.
3. Other Diseases:
Vitamin D deficiency also finds a link to a number of other diseases like cancer, heart diseases, infectious disorders, autoimmune diseases and diabetics. It is not that lower levels of vitamin D essentially mean you will get any of these diseases. Studies indicate the deficiency can be a contributing factor to the cause.
Pregnancy And Vitamin D Deficiency:
The amount of Vitamin D stores in the body of a pregnant mother has enough impact on the fetus and, therefore, an intake of supplements should begin during pregnancy. However, some women are more prone to be deficient in Vitamin D compared to others. For example, woman,
- Who are obese
- Who spend more time indoors
- Who have dark skin
The Food and Nutrition Board advises pregnant women to take a daily dose of 600 International Units of Vitamin D supplements to ensure the new born baby is Vitamin D fit.
Breastfeeding And Vitamin D Deficiency:
A baby’s vitamin D store goes up while in the womb and falls down after birth until she receives the vitamin D from exposure to sunlight and diet intake. Only small amounts of Vitamin D are transferred from the mother’s milk to the baby. And if the mother herself is deficient, then the baby is severely at risk of falling short of vitamin D.
Interesting information in this regard is that, not always does breast milk fall short of sufficient Vitamin D content. The vitamin D concentrations in Africans who are living ancestral lifestyles are high enough to give an infant all the vitamin D he/she needs.
But, as it is not possible to make all lactating mothers to imbibe the ancestral equatorial lifestyles, measures have to be found to incorporate high levels of Vitamin D in the blood content of lactating mothers. This refers to 5,000-6,000 International Units of Vitamin D in the mother’s blood. But, vitamin D doesn’t stay in the blood for long. So, if the mother stops taking her vitamin D supplement for a day or two, the vitamin D content in her milk will decrease.
But another argument in this regard is, although a deficiency of Vitamin D in babies can be replenished by feeding the lactating mothers with large amounts of Vitamin D supplements, this is not advisable according to doctors. Findings suggest that the deficiency can be prevented by moderate maternal supplementation, increasing sunlight exposure for the pregnant and lactating women, along with routine supplementation of Vitamin D drops to the infants. (2) Vitamin D drops for infants helps supplement the deficiency.
Unlike breast milk, formula milk has high proportions of Vitamin D and hence the formula-fed babies are at lower risk of being deficient.
Newborns’ Need for Vitamin D:
Vitamin D for newborns is extremely important.Recent studies indicate the drastically low levels of vitamin D in the blood of a newborn can increase their risk of developing respiratory infections during infancy, and accelerates the occurrence of wheezing during early childhood. Though no results have proven an incidence of asthma as a result of this, the studies reveal the fact that widespread vitamin D deficiency contributes to risk of other infections also. An associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, Camargo, says, “Since respiratory infections are the most common cause of asthma exacerbations, vitamin D supplements may help to prevent those events.” (3)
It is interesting to note that respiratory infections are seen more in the winterswhen vitamin D is also low due to the limited supply of sunlight. Researchers think that this may be a determining factor for someone’s chance of developing a respiratory infection. While it is thought that having enough vitamin D may help to prevent a respiratory infection, more experiments need to be done to determine if taking vitamin D supplements can prevent respiratory infections, or make the duration of the illness shorter.
How Much Vitamin D For Babies?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend a Vitamin D supplement of 400 International Units per day for a breastfed baby. Babies who are formula fed but drink less than 32 ounces of formula a day also need 400 IU of supplement.
Studies indicate that during the first year of life, less than one-fifth of all infants ever get as much as the recommended 400 IU per day from any source, and fewer than one out of 10 breast-fed infants meet the requirement.
How To Give Vitamin D For Babies?
There are quite a number of Vitamin D supplements that are readily available. But stick to the name suggested by your Paediatrician. Ideally, liquid drops are given to babies. These vitamin D drops for babies can be given to the baby in many ways. You can either give them directly to the baby, or if she shows a disliking to the taste, you can even mix it with her food and ensure she has her daily quota of Vitamin D.
At the same time, babies who are breastfed by mothers, and who regularly take a supplement of 6,400 International Units, get 800 International Units of Vitamin D in a litre! This means, such babies would not have a need to depend on supplements for ensuring enough Vitamin D supply.
What If You Exceed The Dose?
Verifying accuracy in the dosage of drugs while administering drugs to babies is always important. No side effects are associated with vitamin D supplements for babies when had in the prescribed proportion. Yet, very high doses can increase the quantity of calcium in the blood. This can lead to unusual thirst, frequent urination, nausea or vomiting, dizziness and headaches. Call your doctor if you find any of these symptoms in your baby, especially when you doubt whether you have exceeded the dosage of her daily vitamin D drops.Vitamin D drops for baby are administered in the prescribed amount only.
Babies Under The Sun:
Usually, infants below 6 months are not exposed to sunlight much and hence, a Vitamin D supplement from the early days after birth is important. At the same time, an overexposure to the sun is also linked to skin cancers. The extra delicate skin makes her more vulnerable to sunburns. Hence, caution should be exercised while bringing her to sunlight and don’t forget to put her in protective clothing.Follow sunscreen measures as well.
Factors That Reduce Sunlight Synthesis In Babies:
In spite of human bodies generating Vitamin D with regular exposure to sunlight, some factors detract this ability in us. This is significantly evident in babies. Here are those factors:
- Living at high latitudes (closer to the polar regions), particularly during winter months
- Air quality conditions: high levels of air pollution
- Weather conditions: dense cloud covering
- The degree to which clothing covers the skin
- Use of sunscreen
- Skin pigmentation: darker skin types (4)
How To Prevent The Deficiency:
With vitamin D deficiency becoming a much talked about paediatric health issue, it will be wise on our part to take enough measures to keep our baby from falling short of the desired vitamin D levels. Complications including hypocalaemic seizure, rickets, limb pain and fracture are associated with the deficiency. Therefore, it would be good to stick to the dictum that prevention is better than cure. These are some steps to prevent vitamin D deficiency in babies:
- Pregnant women, especially the dark skinned or veiled, should be screened and treated for vitamin D deficiency in order to ensure the infants do not suffer.
- Breastfed infants of these women should be administered a daily dose of vitamin D supplements compulsorily for the first year of their life. The dosage ideally should be 400 IU per day. If compliance is poor, an annual dose of 1,50,000 IU may be given. (5)
Regular yet controlled exposure to sunlight for the infants for cutaneous synthesis of vitamin D can be helpful. However, this is not largely encouraged for the fear of causing a sunburn, which can prove cancerous later in life.
Treatment Of Deficiency With Symptoms:
Below is a table that suggests the treatment dosage for both infants and babies.
|Category||Vitamin D dose and frequency||Duration|
|Upto 6 months
6 months-12 months
|1,000 to 3,000 units daily
6,000 units daily
It is essential to check whether the baby has a sufficient dietary calcium intake, and that a maintenance Vitamin D dose follows the treatment dose.
Food Sources Of Vitamin D:
Vitamin D is one of the trickiest components to deal with while attending to the well being of your little one. This is due to the fact that an insufficiency in the vitamin cannot be fully addressed even by the best diet. A judicious balance of enough exposure to sunlight, a vitamin D rich diet, along with the prescribed dose of calcium drops only can help to keep the deficiency at bay. Here are a few foods that are loaded with vitamin D.
- Oily fish ( such as sardines, pilchards, herring, trout, tuna, salmon and mackerel)
- Cod liver oil
- Fortified foods ( this means they have vitamin D added to them) such as margarine, and some cereals
- Infant formula milk
- Orange juice
Those who are strict vegetarians are likely to have potential risks of suffering from vitamin D deficiency as they do not have fish in their diet. At the same time, it would be good to note that even adults can’t fully benefit from food sources to replenish Vitamin D deficiency and hence, supplements are not to be missed in babies. Talk to your baby’s dietician to find the best supplements for your baby. (6)
Ragi Dishes For Your Baby:
Talk about calcium and vitamin D, you can’t miss ragi. A vital component for increasing bone strength, you can resort to some delectable ragi recipes to bid adieu to vitamin D deficiency to a great extent. One of the best super-foods you can give to your baby, there are a number of ways to cook those boring-looking brown beads and come up with some lovely dishes. Here are few beautiful ragi concoctions that are worth trying for your baby.
- The classic ragi porridge – one of the first solid foods you can confidently give to your baby.
- Ragi malt – a natural energy drink for your little one.
- Ragi Idli – its more than the coloured version of those boring idlis.
- Ragi wheat bread – with yogurt, wheat, spinach, gur and ragi, you can make an unforgettable bread.
- Ragi malpua – have fun with a healthy combination of oats and ragi to make this lovely dessert.
- Ragi cookies – give your biscuit loving baby a healthy treat with these crispy munchers.
- Ragi roti – give a healthy and spicy twist to your daily roti with this recipe.
- Ragi oats ladoo – another sweet dessert for your baby is here.
- Ragi wheat dosa – make your baby’s breakfast a little more exciting with this new dosa avatar.
- Ragi mudde – another crispy bite for the babies who have already started showing their white pearls.
Vitamin D is indisputably one of the vital ingredients your little one will need since her early days of birth. With life term consequences, she might suffer in the absence of sufficient quantity of vitamin D in blood, and so you can’t afford to ignore any of the deficiency symptoms.
Is It Safe To Take Caffeine While Breastfeeding?
Giving in to all your food cravings can be an issue when you are breastfeeding because what goes into your diet goes into your breast milk too. Not all foods that you have may end up in the breast milk, but most do. Caffeine is one such food that is craved for by a lot of women. It is a part of many day-to-day foods that is debated upon for its safety and consumption when you are breastfeeding.
As per the guidelines from Medications and Mother’s Milk, caffeine falls under the Lactation Risk Category L2 (safer) category. It was classified as a ‘Maternal Medication Usually Compatible with Breastfeeding’ by the American Academy of Pediatrics. In fact, caffeine has been directly given as treatment for breathing problems in premature babies for years, that too in much higher amounts compared to what is found in the breastmilk! MomJunction helps you understand all about caffeine and breastfeeding, how much to take and when to avoid.
Does Caffeine Affect Breast Milk?
Yes, caffeine gets into breast milk! Once you drink a cup of coffee, the caffeine is rapidly absorbed into your blood, and diffuses passively across the epithelial layers of the mammary glands. But, very low levels (less than 1% of what is consumed) may end up in the breast milk and clinically significant amount of caffeine is not found. Caffeine appears in the milk within 15 minutes of intake, while the concentration levels would be at its peak after an hour (1).
Dr. SK Gambhir of Paras Bliss hospital in Delhi says that the effect on breast milk stays for a maximum of 120 minutes.
Are Babies Sensitive To Caffeine Intake Of Nursing Mother?
Some babies, especially those under six months of age, may be sensitive to mother’s caffeine intake. More reactions can be observed in nursing infants whose mothers entirely avoided caffeine during pregnancy (2).
Caffeine may get accumulated in breastfeeding babies if their mothers consume high amounts and can cause irritability, insomnia, and constipation. The accumulation is due to the inability of the baby’s body to break down and eliminate caffeine.
Newborns take more time to metabolize caffeine compared to older infants because of their immature liver and kidneys. Preterm or sick infants may also have problems because of their inability to metabolize caffeine.
|Age Group||Half Life (Hours)|
|Premature neonates (3-32 days)||102.9|
|Term neonates (0-4 days)||80.0|
|1-2 1/2 Months||26.3|
|3-4 1/2 Months||14.2|
*Half-Life is the time taken for a substance to become half inside a human body.
Even though babies show sensitivity to caffeine, it may disappear as they grow older. Babies will begin to process caffeine more efficiently at about three months of age (3), and it would become much easier over time. By the time the baby is nine months old, he would develop the ability to eliminate caffeine at the same rate as you do!
How Much Caffeine Can You Have While Breastfeeding?
According to Dr. SK Gambhir, a breastfeeding mother needs to limit her caffeine intake to less than 300mg a day.
An acceptable amount of caffeine while breastfeeding varies based on factors like baby’s health, age, and tolerance levels. Moreover, caffeine is diuretic and causes dehydration, and it is important to be hydrated particularly while nursing. Thus, it is advisable to limit caffeine consumption while breastfeeding with not more than two or three cups of tea, coffee, or caffeine beverage each day (4).
In the US, not more than 200mg caffeine a day is recommended for breastfeeding mothers. It comes to about two mugs of tea or one mug of filter coffee or two mugs of instant coffee, a day. NHS recommends that you have caffeine drinks occasionally, rather than every day, if your baby is young.
As per the Breastfeeding Answer Book, caffeine consumption of over 750 mg per day by nursing mothers may result in babies showing signs of caffeine stimulation, such as:
- less sleep hours
Ways To Decrease Caffeine Stimulation
If you observe signs of caffeine stimulation in your baby, avoid caffeine for two to three weeks and check the difference. Reintroduce to observe if the baby shows irritability.
Few ways to decrease caffeine stimulation are:
- Limiting the consumption of caffeine while nursing
- Spreading the coffee intake over the course of the day
- Breastfeeding before or after an hour of caffeine ingestion or pumping breast milk
- Monitoring the baby’s reaction when exposed or withdrawn from caffeine consumption
- Taking few glasses of water after caffeine consumption to dilute its effect in the body
**If you consider caffeine withdrawal as a way to soothe your fussy baby, make it happen gradually. Abrupt withdrawal may give you a headache, anxiety, fatigue, and depression.
Does Caffeine Decrease Breast Milk Supply?
No research or evidence supports the myth that caffeine decreases milk supply in nursing mothers. In fact, a study indicated that caffeine does not change breast milk composition, and rather, stimulates milk production (5). Even if the decreased milk supply is observed in few cases, it could be due to the decreased nursing of fussy babies, rather than the caffeine intake.
However, few studies suggests that the chronic caffeine ingestion could lessen the iron content in milk, which may lead to mild iron deficiency or anemia in some breastfed infants.
When Should Nursing Mothers Completely Avoid Caffeine?
If you are a nursing mother having a Raynaud’s phenomenon, a circulatory disorder, avoid caffeine. The condition is due to the constriction of blood vessels, which leads to lesser blood flow. It even affects your nipples and the constriction worsens with caffeine, ending up in painful breastfeeding.
Caffeine consumption may affect a nursing mother’s let-down reflex (the milk ejection reflex from the breasts), in case of nipple vasospasm.
What Are Different Caffeine Sources?
Caffeine can be found in:
- soft drinks
- sports, energy drinks
- few prescription medicines
- over-the-counter medications for cold, headache, and allergy remedies
- coffee ice cream
- herbal products containing kola nut/cola nitida, guarana/paullinea cupana, yerba mate, or green tea
Caffeine Content In Common Drinks
|Drinks||Caffeine Level (mg)|
|Coffee, Brewed(8 oz)||>80-135|
|Coffee, Instant(8 oz)||>65-100|
|Tea, iced(8 oz)||47|
|Tea, brewed, imported brands (avg.)(8 oz)||60|
|Tea, green(8 oz)||15|
|Hot cocoa(8 oz)||>14|
|Dark chocolate (1 oz)||>20 mg|
|Diet Coke(12 oz)||45.6|
|Red Bull (8.2 oz)||>80.0|
A nursing mother can enjoy caffeinated drinks and foods without any concern, as long as it is within a limit. In case the baby shows discomfort, it is better to seek a doctor’s advice and chalk out the caffeine consumption plans.
Q. What Can I Have Instead Of Caffeine Drinks?
A. A great option would be to have decaffeinated products like coffee free from caffeine, decaffeinated green tea, or herbal tea. You could also have flavored water with a slice of lime or lemon, semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, no-added-sugar squashes. Instead of cocoa or hot chocolate rich in caffeine, go for a hot malt drink.
Q. How Many Cups Of Coffee Are Okay Each Day?
A. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not more than three cups daily, while La Leche League considers five cups of coffee while breastfeeding each day to be safe.
Q. How To Limit Caffeine Intake Through Coffee Or Tea?
A. Opting for espresso drinks like lattes or instant coffee, which have less caffeine than the regular brewed coffee would be better. Take a tea that is brewed for less time or tea bag steeped in water for a lesser time.
Q. Are Energy Drinks Containing Caffeine, Safer During Breastfeeding?
A. It is advisable to cut down on energy drinks altogether as they are loaded with caffeine.
Q. Is Coffee Bean Extract Safe For Nursing Mothers?
A. Green coffee bean extract is a herbal, homeopathic product helpful in lowering the blood pressure and body weight. Even though no study talks about the safety of the product for a breastfeeding mother, it is important to note few points before going ahead.
Green coffee bean extract contains caffeine if it comes in dosages of 43 mg, 93 mg, or 185 mg. The higher the dosage, the more the caffeine. Opt for low dosage product or avoid caffeine if your baby shows reactions against it.
Moms share your experiences about consuming caffeine during breastfeeding here. How addicted or not were you?
4 Amazingly Different Ways You Can Use Fenugreek During Your Lactation Period
Mommies, who are concerned about how to increase breast milk, need not worry, as Fenugreek can rescue you. Fenugreek has been used popularly as a spice of an herb for ages. It is known to induce labor and also assist in childbirth.
Fenugreek seeds can be a safe answer for you as well as your baby for increasing breast milk. How?
Fenugreek For Breast Milk Production:
When it comes to increasing your milk supply, it is always better to try the non-pharmaceutical measures first. The herbal medicines will have lesser side effects compared to the prescribed medicines to increase breast milk supply. Here we shall explore the link between fenugreek and breast milk production:
- Mothers should have noted that they find increase in milk production after 24-72 hours of taking fenugreek.
- You need to take around 3,500 mg of fenugreek in the form of pills, seeds or herb to see the effect. With regular intake, you can slowly find increase in your milk production. After some time, you can see your urine and sweat beginning to smell like maple syrup. You must try alternative methods, if in case you face any discomforts.
- Per Kathleen Huggins says, “Most mothers have found that the herb can be discontinued once milk production is stimulated to an appropriate level. Adequate production is usually maintained as long as sufficient breast stimulation and emptying continues.”
Different Ways You Can Use Fenugreek For Increasing Breast Milk:
Fenugreek can be taken in different ways during your lactation period. Here are some possibilities:
1. Tea: You can add around 3 teaspoons of fenugreek seeds in a cup of water and bring it to boil to make the tea. You can have this around three times a day.
2. Capsules: The seeds are available in the form of capsules as well. You need to consult your lactating doctor about the doses. You can begin with three capsules a day, and then increase it slowly till your urine smells like maple syrup.
3. Sprout The Seeds: This is one of the easiest and tastiest ways to take fenugreeks. Soak the seeds in a clean glass of water and do not disturb them for around 5 days. You can see the sprouts after few days. You can add them to your salad.
4. Fenugreek Powder: Fenugreek can be taken in the form of powder. You can mix a teaspoon of it with fruit juice and take them daily. Discontinue its use if you experience muscle cramps.
Be Careful Of The Side Effects:
You must consult with your herbal specialist or lactation doctor to know if your baby is exposed to any sorts of dangers when you take fenugreek daily. Here is a list of side effects that you should be careful while taking fenugreek for breast milk supply:
- Fenugreek seeds induce labor, and thus it is suggested that you avoid them in pregnancy.
- If you notice any allergic reactions, inform it to the doctor. You may be allergic to fenugreek if you have allergies from peanuts or soy.
- If you begin with heavy doses of fenugreek, it might lead to diarrhea. The herb also passes through your breast milk and your baby might develop diarrhea as well. Thus, it is important that you start with the small dose and then increase the intake slowly.
- See if your urine, sweat and breast milk smells like maple syrup. You must inform your baby’s doctor about your fenugreek intake.
- You must consult your doctor in case you feel you are not producing enough milk, despite trying different measures.
- Your lactating consultant may suggest you to take fenugreek to augment your milk supply.
- Make sure you are starting with a small dose to keep away the side effects.
- You must follow the advice of your doctor at every step. This will free your mind from all concerns like if you are harming your baby in any way.
Let us know if fenugreek helped you to augment your breast milk production in the comment section below.
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