32 answers

At What Age Do You Let a Baby 'Cry It Out'?

I have a 7 week old son who was held day and night by his well-intentioned grandmothers for the first 5 weeks. While we greatly appreciated their help, they are now gone and our son wants to be held in order to go to sleep. He won't go to sleep unless he is in his swing (another one of their practices) or in someone's arms. After he has fallen asleep we have to lay him down with the greatest of care and pray that he doens't wake up. We have tried laying him down while he was drowsy but not completely asleep and it fails miserably every time. At what age is it too early to start trying some of the suggested methods for getting them to sleep on their own (including letting them cry it out). Is it too early? I love holding him but I don't want to create a problem that will be incredibly painful to remedy later on. I've read horror stories of babies who won't sleep on their own for several years and I can't imagine that. But he seems so little and so needy right now that I feel it's too early for the 'tough love' approach. Am I wrong? I would love to hear what has worked for others, especially in regards to what age you worked on this issue.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone for your thoughtful responses! You gave me a wealth of information to draw from. We started by reading the books everyone suggested and in the end we didn't have to take much of a 'tough love' approach. (Thank goodness!) Everyone's suggestions and all the readings helped us figure out a 'middle ground' we felt comfortable with. The best part was getting feedback from people who have tried different methods and were supportive of finding what worked for us. I've spoken to people who thought we were awful for even considering letting him cry but most of the Mamasource responses were far more thoughtful. While they did lean away from the 'cry it out' method, they reassured us that we weren't going to 'ruin' our baby! Sometimes he will cry just a little when he goes down for a nap (no more than 3 -4 minutes) but it doesn't happen with every nap or when he goes down for the night. You have no idea how much your suggestions and support helped my family through a difficult time.

More Answers

Imagine being paralyzed and completely dependent on other people to care for your every need. Imagine how vulnerable you would probably feel if you could not even sit yourself upright, much less nourish yourself. Imagine how frightening it would be if your caretakers refused to acknowledge your requests for food or comfort so that you could learn that you must be "independent."

Our children have a very unique needs-based relationship with us. There are many studies that show that crying it out actually has a very negative impact on children. In one, primitive women in Africa were shown a video of an American mother letting her child cry it out. They were horrified and asked why she wasn't taking care of her baby.

Another study showed that permenent negative changes occured to the baby's brain when left to cry it out.

Infants cry to communicate.

I have two children, one three years old and one three months old. I have never let them cry it out. My oldest son is very independent. His first day at daycare he ran off to play without a backward glance in my direction! He readily spends the entire night with his grandparents and potty trained himself on his own initiative at 15 months. People comment on his self-assuredness.

Obviously independence comes from feeling secure. Children who know their needs will be met are less likely to be clingly.

I suggest looking into obtaining a good baby carrier. I use a Maya Wrap and an Ergo, but there are many different kinds of baby wraps availible online. When you wear your baby, it is easy for them to nurse or sleep while you have your hands free to do other things.

Babies love to be carried. Did you notice when you were pregnant that your baby would start kicking when you settled down? They like to be moving around with you. It stimulates their inner ear and actually helps their brain develop. They are close to you, and so feel secure.

These are innate desires--in human history, babies were always carried on their mothers. It has been shown that babies who are carried walk sooner than those who are set down or put in strollers.

The reasons to heed your baby's crying and your own mothering insticts are numerous.

Good luck! They grow up so fast--it's only a few months that they are so dependant on you. It seems like an age in the moment, but it really is not a very long time!

Angie Minno

2 moms found this helpful

Hi A.,

Tough love is not appropriate for an infant. Of course your son wants to be held all the time, he just came out of your womb---this is natural. Crying is his way of saying help me, I'm scared, hungry, tired, my tummy hurts... Imagine how different being out in the world is compared to being wrapped up tight in your belly. My daughter is now 6 months and the first 2 months were really hard. She would only sleep ontop of one of us and had colic. I know friends who had a very easy time of it, and then others that had experiences like mine. It is very tough, and will sap a lot of your energy. But, it doesn't last too long and you will have a happier well adjusted baby if you can meet his needs.
My recommendation is to buy a sling. I liked Infantino. It was a life saver for me. When my daughter was upset, I would put her in the sling with a pacifier and she was content (it mimicks the womb). Harder for you, but again, it won't last forever.
Different things work for different babies/parents. But, I truly do not believe you will create any problem by holding your son, he needs it. He just entered a cold bright scary world and needs you to comfort him.
Best of luck,
39 y.o. mom of a 6 monhth old baby girl

2 moms found this helpful

What age should you let a baby "cry it out"?? I say never. It's just not necessary. I know someone who did it with her daughter (she wore ear plugs and let her cry for like an hour before she fell asleep--) and her daughter still cried herself to sleep every night for quite some time. Seemed cruel and unncessary to me.

You'll get different opinions because there are different schools of thought on this. My best advice to you is the middle of the road approach taught by Secrets of the Baby Whisperer. She teaches you that you can start at BIRTH with her methods. I didn't start until my son was several months old, so I had some un-parenting to do and it took me a bit longer, which may be the case for you since he already has bad habits. To be honest, it's hard NOT to hold a teeny baby! But you're right that you don't want to be doing this when he is a toddler (which is what happened with by first born). I've heard BabyWise has a similar approach. There is way more to it so it's worth getting one of the books, but you basically only hold him until he settles down, then you put him down awake. If he cries (which he WILL), pick him up and hold him only until he stops crying-- whether it takes 3 seconds or 3 minutes to get him to stop crying-- but as soon as he isn't crying anymore, you put him down. I had to pick up/put down like 30 or more times the first few nights, then about 10 times for a little over a week. I now have the world's BEST sleeper!

1 mom found this helpful


I have a 21 month old daughter, and she was the same way when she was that age. We ignored what all of the people kept telling us about spoiling our child. We would hold her and cuddle her whenever she needed it. She is now a very independent little girl who does not cry that much anymore. You can not spoil a child at that age. They actually say that it is healthier for them to feel the comfort and security from parents at this age. It makes them into a happier baby in the end, and I believed that it works. We have really never had a problem making adjustments as she got older. She sleeps in her own crib, and she goes down just fine at bed time. We have a routine that we follow each evening and now she even request that we put her in her crib before she falls asleep. I honestly believe it is because we meet that need of holding a comforting her while she was so young.

My husband is in the military as well. Tell your husband thanks for all that he is doing for our country.

1 mom found this helpful

Baby's are made to be held. They love to be close to you. That's their "save" place and they will wonder of into the world from there. Please enjoy this time together. The dependence will gradually grow less and less but there is always a "save" place to be even when your 18 years old.

1 mom found this helpful

You have a SEVEN WEEK INFANT....a BABY...I BEG YOU TO HOLD YOUR BABY as much as you can...they crave it..they need it..IT IS WAAAAY TOO SOON to "teach" him anything...HE NEEDS to know that all of his needs will be met to survive. Please hold him..as much as he needs it..hold him. He will figure out everthing else when he's ready.
Enjoy this time with him...it will go so fast...

1 mom found this helpful

i dont think you can ever hold you baby to much. my lil guy is 19 months old now and wont let me hold him much at all. trust me you need to hold them all you can now, they dont stay little for ever. plus it is a bonding thing for you snd your baby. your baby is crying for a reason, even if it is to be held. maybe he is feeling unsecure for some reason.. i hope this helps.

1 mom found this helpful

I don't like the cry it our method! If your little one needs to be held--Hold him! He is only going to be this little for a very short period of time. My advice is this- one day when you look back on this time you don't want to be filled with regrets of what you should have done. If you don't mind holding him for him to go to sleep then go ahead. Don't listen to what averyone else says to do. Do what you know is right in your heart!
I have a six year old, twin three year olds and take care of my 16 month old nephew. I have held all of them to go to sleep for nap and bedtime. They can ALL sleep on their own now and have been able to since they were months old. I liked holding them and watching them while they slept. Now, they are too big for me to hold them (not my nephew- he doesn't want to be held anymore), but I am ok with it because I know I did what they needed when they needed it.
Have you ever heard of Dr. Sears? You should read his book about getting a baby to sleep. He is wonderful!
Hope this helps. Sorry it is so long winded.

1 mom found this helpful

You can not spoil a child that young. They are way too young to associate crying with being held. He is definately way too young to let him cry it out. He is a new born!!!! Newborns need love, attention and 2 hr feedings, not rejection. At this age you don't get sleep, you don;t get time alone that is what it is about when you have a newborn. What ever you decide to do please don't let him cry it out at this age. TAlk to your pediatrician they will confirm that.

1 mom found this helpful

I know who hard it is. My youngers wouldn't sleep through night even after "crying it out". I found out that I am not a "cry it out mom" and my daughter was not a "cry it out baby". When I realized this I held and nursed her to sleep and when she woke I went to her and held her. The best advice I can offer is do what you feel is right for you and your family. Just know you know your baby better than anyone. There is no magic age that things will happen. Most of the time they just happen.

Hope this helps :)

NOT this young. A child this young only cries if in need of something, even if that something is human touch it is a very real need. I am a mother of four ages 4-25 and grandma of five, ages 2 months to five years. There is no magic age to let them cry it out, each child is different. When it became clear that the crying was a tantrum, not a need, and believe me you will KNOW the difference, was the time to toughen up. That time never came for any of my children before the age of one. The good news, in a few months he will not want to be held and rocked to sleep if he feels secure that you will respond to his cries. The cost of that security is holding him as much as he needs now. Around the time he can sit up and have a few soft toys in his crib he will also become able to amuse himself for a few minutes until drifting off to sleep. Follow your instincts, you can never love your child too much. BTW I never had to hear more than "fussing", not real crying out of any of my children or grandchildren! The oldest any of them were when we didn't have to hold or rock them to sleep was five months.

Hi A.. I can completely relate to your situation. I am a 33-year old mother of one 18 month old son. I had to literally hold my baby 24hours a day (except at night when he was in bed with me) for the first 3-4 months. He would wake up if I put him down for a nap at any stage of sleep. My husband was a little concerned about how much we had to hold him, but it just felt right to me, and I could not imagine making him cry for no reason. After the first few months he started tolerating more and more time on his own. He slowly adjusted on his own time to sleeping without us. Around age 13 months he weaned himself from breast feeding and let us lay him in his crib at night to fall asleep on his own. It was actually hard for ME at first to let him put himself to sleep, but now it is fantastic! Now my son is one of the most independent, non needy toddlers that I know. He is very well adjusted and does not usually show separation anxiety. I recommend that you just be patient and listen to your baby and your own intuition. Good luck and enjoy every minute of your little baby...it really doesn't last long before they are walking and exploring life away from you.

For me, 7 weeks is too young for crying it out for more than 5 minutes. Something is causing this, usually gas. The holding thing is a part, but babies need to build trust, so I wouldn't worry at this age about holding him, except for that it's hard on you! I used a swing for my girl and sometimes, she took her whole nap in her swing... I am a single mom, so I HAD to do certain things and once I went back to work, couldn't hold her anymore. I was lucky at night, though... once it got dark, she seemed to know it was time to sleep in her crib, but she would not nap in her crib for the LONGEST time as an infant and now, is a champion sleeper. I highly recommend the book, "On Becoming Babywise" to get him on a good schedule of feedings, play and naps, but don't worry about holding him too much or putting him in the swing to sleep if necessary at this age!

Good luck!

I think now would be the perfect time! I bet you'll be surprised at how easy it will be. Make sure he's fed, dry and burped, put him down pat him, tell him you love him. Leave the room. If he cries for a little while, you can go back in and pat him again, but the second or definitely by the third time, don't say anything at all. Just comfort him a little with your hand. Be prepared for him to cry a while (possibly) on the first night. You can stand by the door and spy if you need to. By the second night, I'll bet you'll see an improvement. And don't forget, you are doing yourself and your son a HUGE FAVOR!! I cannot tell you how many people I have worked with who have 3-year-olds, 5-year-olds, and even 12-year-olds who will not sleep in their own beds. Trust me, it's a lot easier to create this good habit now before he can get out of bed on his own!

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child (available on Amazon)did wonders for me and my twin girls!I started implementing it at 4 months and they have sleep through the night pretty much since 6 months)It is broken down by age and addresses naps too!

I am new to Mampedia...I am looking for the answer to this very question (especially the swing part)...Is writing an answer how I can see other people's answers?

I'm a mother of three and feel your pain. I babysit for a 10 month old who still has to be rock, swung to sleep. It's exhaustive. My advice to you would be to try to put him down when he's almost asleep. 7-weeks is still very little, but you can set your goal now. When my kids were babies I gave them 10 minutes - set your timer, because it feels like eternity - and very rarely did they ever make it that far before drifting off. Good luck and enjoy your baby!

Hi A.
My son is now 21mo. old and we had a very tough time w/sleep for him....for many reasons, however my ped. told me ____@____.com can begin the cry it out stage. That may feel like forever to you now, but I had a papasan chair (from target) and he loved to sleep in that because it is like arms. That helped us get to longer and deeper sleep times. I also swaddled him every time I could and that seened to help him too. Hang in there it does get better....promise!!!! J. j


7 weeks is too young to let a baby "cry it out." I have found that it is true what people say about not being able to spoil a baby. With that said, I do believe that around 4 - 5 months old, most babies are ready for sleep training and there is a certain amount of crying associated with that process. My daughter is now 18 mos. and is a very good sleeper and has been since she was about 4.5 months old. At taht time, it is very important to establish a consistent bedtime routine and to allow the child time to soothe themselves so they can put themselves to sleep initially and back to sleep during the night. Most babies at 4 - 5 months can learn this within a couple of days as long as the parents do not rush in and pick them up at the first sign of whimpering. If you feel you must comfort your baby at this point, just pat him gently for a couple of minutes without picking him up from his crib. By 7 - 8 months, a sleeping pattern is pretty well established of either the child relying on their parent in order to go sleep or being able to self-soothe. And my pediatrician told me that by 1 year - it is very difficult to try to teach them to go to sleep by themselves if they they have been rocked, held, etc...that entire first year. Please know that the closer you get to 1 year before you try to sleep train, the more tears you will have to endure and for longer periods of time. A 1 year old is much more likely to exert their will to be held/rocked than a 5 month old. All of the advice I gave above is for older babies - - no earlier than 4 months old. For now - enjoy your little baby and hold him as much as you and he like and don't be worried that he will be spoiled from it. He is too young at this point for the "tough love." Coming from a mom who held her 7 week old, let her 4 month old cry it out, and now has an 18 month old that sleeps exceptionally well.

Hello A.. I know your pain! My daughter wasn't spoiled as yours was but has always refused to go to sleep by herself. She is almost 13 months old and I can only lay down with her and move her to her crib if she is completed knocked out and pray that I don't wake her because she doesn't go back, or she will fall asleep nursing still. I'm trying to ween her of that though. We have tried to let her cry it out since about 4 months old but it doesn't work. She will cry for an hour until she is almost hyperventilating. So, now I am playing with her in the crib during the day to show her it's a nice, safe place, usually when she's ready for nap time. It seems to be working but slowly. She now sleeps up to 4 hours in the crib and I pray the next step is to get her to fall asleep. My best to you and I'm not sure I helped but wanted you to know that you're not alone. :)

Let me say that I am no expert, but I am a mother of 2 little girls, ages 6 and 3. I can relate to the issues you are going through. I had my first baby at age 35 and was acutely concerned about every aspect of her development and my affect on it. I experienced the "going to sleep" issues with my second child, moreso than my first. What I did was to set a nightly routine for her and put her in her crib at the same time every night. At first, I would let her cry for 1 minute only and, if she didn't calm down in that 1 minute, I'd go and pick her up, comfort her and rock her to sleep. Over the course of about a week, I would let her cry for slightly longer periods of time (1 min, then 2 min, etc..), never more than 5 minutes though. Within a couple of weeks she became accustomed to her nightly "routine" (bath, lotion, milk/formula while rocking/cuddling, crib)came to accept it. It's not a perfect solution, but it worked for me and my little Emily. She's now 3 and wakes up during the night only to crawl in bed with daddy and me...another battle...another stage. Best of luck to you and your little one.

I feel your pain. My husband have a three month old and this is the first grand baby on both sides of our family. We took him back to Nebraska for the first time at Christmas and he was held constantly. When we got back home to Georgia, we had problems with him wanting to be held all the time, so what we did was put him in his bouncer that vibrates. If you don't have one...invest. It is the best thing ever. Our son loves his bouncer and we let him fuss in it for a while until he started to get used to it. He loves being in it now and whenever we need him to calm down, we put him in it and he is fine. I love to hold my son too, but he needs to be independent and sooth himself. Good Luck. Hope I helped.

i've done the cry it out approach with all 3 of my boys. i've researched this online, you can do the same. what i found was you can start the cry it out at 3 months old. and you have to let them cry for a minute or so and then go in,calm them down, but dont pick them up, let them know everthings ok, then leave the room again wait a little longer before you go in(if still crying) and keep this up and they will eventually go to sleep. the first night is the hardest. i sat in front of the door crying watching the clock. but the next night my son maybe cried for a minute and was asleep. it worked with all of mine. i actually to this day have to close the door to the room so they know its night night time, and within 10 minutes they're out.

ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!! not at this age... even at 6 months is too early!!!! my son had colic and wouldnt sleep unless we held him a certain way to releive his pain... then i bouhgt a book called: "tracy hogg: solve all your problems" and in there she gives you detailed explanation on how to get your baby to sleep through the night. I bought it when mine was about 3 months old b/c by then his colics were going away, and it was God sent!!! it took us about 3 weeks of consistency (it wasnt easy at all) but we achived it and since he's been sleeping by himself. he is now 2 and still sleeps 10 hours at night and a 2 1/2 to 3 hour nap!!! it is fabulous!!! please give it a try... and the main thing is to be consistant, if you are not, then it is not going to work!!! I even kept a log of his sleep and everything... well good luck

My son is three months old and he still needs some help going to sleep. I usually rock him and put him in his crib while he is still drowsy. However, I usually hold his pacifier while he's in his crib until he falls asleep. During the day I rock him until he's drowsy and then I put him in his swing for his nap.

I also wonder how this will affect him later but everything I read says you can't spoil a baby at this age. Some books go as far to say that it may even lead to more self confidence later that they can rely on their caretaker to be there for them. Good luck.

You'll choose what's best for your family, but for me, crying it out is not an option. My baby also wants to be held quite a bit, and these are the things that have helped me: Some people talk about how human babies need 9 mos. of pregnancy & an extra 9-12 mos. *after* birth for their systems to mature. Talk to grandmas and others whose children have grown; they will all tell you how fleeting this "in arms" period is in the grand scheme of things, and many will admit they wish they'd enjoyed and held their children more, and they will wholeheartedly tell you to enjoy this time as much as you can, no matter how exhausting it seems now. I have now happened into an "Attachment Parenting" style of parenting, by doing what I feel is right with my child, and that means cuing in to what she needs right now, which is probably quite a bit of holding - slings or other baby carriers help you hold baby and still get things done:) You may find some of the advice at www.askdrsears.com, www.attachmentparenting.org or www.connectionparenting.com to be helpful. I know I have. If you still need another option, there are books out there about no-cry sleep solutions, which will be less traumatic for both baby and you, in the short- and long-term.

My son is 12 months now and the way that we did it was as long as he was fed, changed and comfortable and we held him long enough to go asleep and he was just crying because he was tired, we let him. I mean start out at 7 minutes, if it starts to sound like he might be calming down then let him finish and he'll be asleep soon after. I know what you are saying....my husband is in the military as well so when company comes to visit they want to continuously hold them but it really make things horrible for you! My son learned to just fall asleep. To this day we give him about 10-15 minutes to cry it out and if he starts to sound like he's calming down then we leave him be. If you know the only reason he's crying is because he just wants to be held, get him used to sleeping in his bed now! Our son does very well now! I don't think it's too early to get him used to it. Just to warn you ahead of time, though, it is the worst thing to walk away and hear them screaming so I would shut his door, walk away and call my mom for 10-15 minutes....she assured me I wasn't a horrible parent for doing that! haha! But most of the time he was out like a light in about 5-10 minutes! And would sleep for at least an hour. If he cried and wouldn't calm down after about 7 minutes, I pretty much knew something else was going on. Also, it could be that he is gassy and if that is the case, the best thing for that is some Mylicon and push his little legs up in to his stomach and rotate them. That helped my son a lot!Good luck!

Hi, I'm a mother of four and I'm not successful in a lot of things that I wish were, but the one thing I was always able to do is to get them to take their first step of independence in their lives which is to let them fall asleep on their own. Of course, it's much easier without others interfering. So, since this has happened to you with the Grandma's (gotta love 'em) it could be a tough road; but not necessarily a long one. I think at 7 weeks you can't really spoil them but the sooner you train them the better. I held some of mine a lot if they needed it that young, but I don't remember it lasting that long. Also, very important thing to know that is that if you do get them sleeping throught the night early, when they're about 4 to 5 months old, they have a good chance of beginning to wake up again and you kind of have to do it again. Just go in an pat them to reassure them and then shut the door like always, to go back to your routine. Also, don't always get them right away when it's time for them to get up. Let them hang out for a while, especially if they're happy.

My pediatrician is an awesome one and she told me a long time ago that in 3 nights and it'll be done. You may have to experience 3 long nights of crying but not usually. They usually learn by the 2nd night. You'll def notice less crying each night. She said order a pizza and good movie if necessary. I never had to do that thank goodness, mine didn't cry that long. Just make sure they've been fed, changed, burped and you know they're o.k. It could also be gas so you may want to give them milacon just in case first. Also, try it on a weekend so you can possibly catch a nap during the day if need be. Not only will he learn to put himself to sleep but, I believe they'll sleep longer both day and night as infants and then of course the day part will shorten as they grow. I've helped many friends with this and it's worked. I'm taking care of another new baby now and his Mom and I are working through it. But she also has other people in her house that want to get the baby so it's hard for her. Last night though, he slept for 12 hours. Yipee!

I've had good friends suffer for years because they couldn't get their kids down and it stinks. Some of which are still saying they still get up in the middle of the night and they're like 4 to 8 yrs old. It's rediculous! I don't know about you but I love to hold my babies too, but I also have to sleep to function and not be put in a nut house. You will go nuts if you don't train them early. And it is the first way they learn independence.
Good luck!

A., you will get a lot of responses on this one. Many will be for it and many against it. When you look at it as increasing their independence and letting them learn to "soothe themselves" then you will see it's not "cruel" as some may think. We did it when the twins (now 3 years old) when they were 9 or 10 weeks old. The first week of them sleeping in separate cribs. It took about a week. It was more difficult for me, not to go in there...but as long as you know they aren't wet, hungry and are safe...you must remain strong. The first night was almost 1 1/2 hours. By the end of the week...it was less than 10 minutes. So, good luck and God Bless your journey. Our kids have had no trouble sleeping since then.

A., I so know how you feel. My boys (now ages 14 and 11) both were sleeping thru the night by 9 weeks. I held them both as much as they needed. My dayghter (now 5 1/2 months old) hasn't slept through the night until 2 weeks ago. She still loves to be held, but the pediatrician recommended the "cry it out" method with her. It worked in just 2 nights. We let her cry 5 minutes, and went into her room to soothe her and cover her, then left. Repeated it about 10 or so times before she actually fell asleep, but by going to her room every 5 minutes, she knew we were still there with her.....she wasn't alone. She still wakes occasionally during the night and I'll go cover her again, but life if much, much better now.

In conclusion, seven weeks is way too young to let your precious baby cry it out. As the others stated, he needs all the holding you can give him. Make life easier on yourself by getting a baby sling or backpack during the day and a "co sleeper" for at night. The co-sleeper allows your baby to be right next to your bed during the night rather than actually sleeping in your bed.

Hi A.!

You remind me of myself a few months ago! My daughter is now 9 months! Habits don't start to form until a few more months! My best advice for sleep training came from the following two books! Good night sleep tight and the baby whisperer by Tracy hogg! I have found that sleep training has made it possible for us to have a normal mostly predictable life! Good luck and don't stress out!

Mine is 8 months and still seems to have trouble. He also had the first couple of months with grandmas who hated to put him down. One lives with me now so we will blame her:) Haha! When he was really little I would just play by ear. When it was just me I would get the older ones to bed and just keep trying to put him down. If he would wake up I would snuggle him a little until he fell asleep and try again. It took a few days of lack of sleep but I got him on track. Then a couple of months later mom moved in with me and I was doomed! So I let her put him to bed everynight. My older ones were with just me and my husband and we didnt have trouble getting them to bed. The little guy is a little more needy with the snuggles but I have never been able to do tough love. When they are so littel they just know what makes them happy and they arent going to stop until they get it!!!!!! Good luck and just try to get him to take every nap in his crib. He will get it eventually.(Unless Grandma comes back and re-spoils him of course)

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