How to Introduce a Newborn to the Family

As expectant parents, you might have thought your baby was going to be yours, and yours alone. As you've probably found out, it doesn't work that way.

If you have other children, they share proprietorship with you; they are, after all, of the same generation as their new sibling. When they all get older, you may have the feeling, as some parents do, that it's "them against us." Your own two sets of parents, and perhaps your grandparents as well, have a vested interest in your child; they are his loving ancestors. They probably feel qualified, and perhaps duty-bound, to advise you about every aspect of the care of your baby.

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Many other people will also speak to you of "our baby" and offer advice. Anyone who knows you and cares about you felt like a participant throughout the pregnancy and continues to feel that way during the rearing of your child. These people include aunts, uncles, and cousins; old and new friends; neighbors; colleagues at work; and probably the checkout clerk at the supermarket and the teller at the bank. You even share your baby with your pet, whose function in life now is to be the companion of the child.

In this article, we have compiled some useful guidelines for introducing a newborn to your family. You'll learn about:

Perhaps you're wondering when is the appropriate time to tell your children about your pregnancy. Or maybe you'd like some pointers on what to tell them -- how much is too much and how much is to little? In this section, we discuss these topics in detail. We also include some suggestions for preparing your kids for the upcoming changes.
Once the big day arrives, the reality of a newborn in the house sets in quickly. Read about the three schools of thought on bringing your baby home from the hospital. Learn what to expect from baby's older bothers and sisters in the first days and weeks she's home. And finally, study our tips on dealing with sibling jealousy.
When you compare the advice that your parents got from their pediatrician to the directions you get from yours today, you can see that there is bound to be a bit of a generational "baby gap." This section is dedicated to exploring the differences of opinion that may crop up between you and your parents/parents-in-law. We provide advice on dealing with Grandma's -- and your neighbor's, best friend's, and cousin's -- well-intentioned but unsolicited advice.
Especially if this is your first child, your cat or dog may have a hard time adjusting. Not only does is he used to being the center of attention, but he's also unused to the shrill sounds emanating from the bassinet. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to prepare your pet for the impending change, which you can read about in this section. We also discuss allergies, since one in five children develop them, and what you should be on the lookout for.

If you're pregnant or planning to be, move to the next page to begin reading and learning about how to introduce your baby to the family.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

 

 

Preparing Your Children for a New Baby

Whether this is your second child or fifth, preparing your children for a new baby can be difficult. When and how you tell them can make a world of difference in their reactions. Naturally, you'd like your kids to view this addition in a positive light, so you carefully consider the conversation you'll have with them. In this section, we explore choosing the right time, deciding how much information to impart, and reassuring your children of their own importance to the family.

When to Tell Them

Ideally, you'd talk to your child about a new baby only a short time before your due date, because with her undeveloped concept of time, six months or more is too long to wait. However, you don't want the child to hear the news from someone else, so you'll probably share it about the time you're telling everyone. For a young child, try to tie the coming birth to something other than a specific date: "about the time of your own birthday" or "when the leaves on the trees are getting green." An older child who can handle the time lag can be told earlier, and a teenager can be told very soon after you know for sure yourself. Being first to know, even before Grandma, gives this older child the adult status that builds self-esteem. Just don't tell a child of any age until you're ready for the whole world to know. That kind of secret is impossible to keep.

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What to Tell Them

The ages of your children also determine to a large extent how you answer the questions about reproduction that will inevitably follow your announcement. It's important to remember to give a child only the amount of information she actually asks for and can handle. A toddler, for example, probably wants only to know and can take in no more than "the baby is growing in a special place inside Mommy and will come out when it's big enough." A bright preschooler or a school-age child is likely to insist on knowing all the details of the baby's life "in there." If you have a preteen or a teenager, your pregnancy gives you a golden opportunity to pass on something of your value system as you candidly discuss human sexuality, reproduction, and family life.

With children of any age, use the correct terminology for body parts and functions. Any shyness or embarrassment you may feel about speaking frankly wears off with repetition, and you will do your child a favor because she won't have to relearn the words. You may find it helpful to draw upon the vast number of excellent books available for parents and children on the subject of reproduction (and, for little kids, about what it's like to have a baby brother or baby sister), many of which are designed to be read together. Your librarian or bookstore clerk can lead you to the best of what's available. Be willing to answer questions whenever they're asked. With young children, don't be surprised if you must repeat your answers several times.

How the Baby Will Affect Them

Your children's questions won't all be about where babies come from. Children are naturally self-centered, and yours will want to know how this baby will affect their lives. Once a young child accepts the fact a real baby will definitely join the family as another child for Mommy and Daddy to love, she will begin to worry about being deposed, supplanted in your affections and perhaps even in your home. The more imaginative the child, the more horrible may be the fears. You can help ease your child's apprehensions by talking about the baby in terms of the child -- saying, "You will be a big sister," instead of "The baby will love you," for example. And when you refer to the baby, speaking of the baby as "ours," not "mine," also helps.

If a new baby means the child will move to a big bed or another bedroom, make the change well ahead of time so your older child interprets it as growing up, not being pushed out. Don't try to break your child of the pacifier habit just before the baby is due, and don't send her off to nursery school just then. Do be more generous than ever with your hugs and kisses and the special time you spend with your child each day. Bedtime is a wonderful time for a leisurely, loving cuddle that reassures your child of your love.

Once their questions have been answered, older kids may disappoint you a little in their reactions to the coming baby. School, outside activities, and friends keep them busy and make them independent, and they don't expect a baby to make much difference in their lives. You may find preteens or teenagers showing signs of embarrassment about your pregnancy; kids this age don't always like to have the results of their "old" parents' continuing sexuality displayed for all the world to see. You may be able to make them feel better by pointing out examples of other teens with infant siblings among friends and relatives. Be careful not to turn them off by telling them how much help they will be able to give you in caring for the baby.

Including Them

Kids of any age may enjoy helping you go through the baby clothes ("Did I really wear that?"), set up the bassinet, and arrange the articles on the changing table. If a child really wants to -- and only if this is the case -- you might consider taking him or her to the doctor with you a time or two to hear the baby's heartbeat. And if you can occasionally bring a baby into the house as a guest or babysitting charge, both you and your child can get an idea of what to expect when your own baby arrives.

Preparing your children for new addition to the family will help when the time comes to bring baby home. Read on to the next section for advice on dealing with siblings when the big day finally arrives.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Bringing the Baby Home

The new baby's siblings will be eager to become acquainted with her.
The new baby's siblings will be eager to become acquainted with her.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.

Even if your young child has visited you and the baby in the hospital, the baby's homecoming may be a bit traumatic. What had been talked about and thought about as an event to come has become reality -- the future is here, and the baby is a real, live creature. Here is some helpful advice which can ease your family's adjustment to the new baby's presence.

Bringing the Baby Home

There are three schools of thought concerning the best way to bring your new baby into the house:

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  • Some parents feel a toddler or preschooler should be away from home, perhaps visiting Grandma, and should be brought back after mother and infant are well settled.
  • Others think a young child should definitely be part of the reception committee. They advise the mother have someone other than herself carry the baby into the house and she devote herself to the older child exclusively for a short time after coming home.
  • Still others say the child should accompany the father to the hospital to pick up mother and infant. You should choose the method you feel is right for your family.

Is it wise to come home bearing gifts for your older child? Some parents like to give the older child one large present to celebrate the birth of the new brother or sister, choosing one that emphasizes his or her maturity, such as a new game or some more sophisticated art materials. You may also want to have a supply of small gifts to hand out when visitors bring presents to the baby only. It's best not to overdo the gifts, though, either before or after the baby arrives. Even toddlers recognize bribery when they see it, and the message you send is an apology for bringing home an interloper.

Helping Siblings Adjust to the Baby

Your children will react to the actual presence of the baby in different ways, depending upon their ages and personalities. However well prepared they are, they will at first almost surely be surprised and most likely disappointed. The baby is neither the playmate your toddler or preschooler secretly expected, in spite of your warnings to the contrary, nor the smiling, gurgling, picture-perfect infant your older child probably visualized. Even the baby's sex may be disappointing, and the fact he does nothing but eat, sleep, and cry -- and monopolize your attention -- surely will be.

Your main enemy at home will be time, especially if you have a toddler or preschooler; you will never have enough of it. Many parents feel guilty of neglecting the older child because the infant takes so much time. Psychologists tell us underlying that guilt is anger at being torn between the two children. One way to help yourself feel better and to make your older child feel wanted is to include him or her in every possible part of the care of the baby. Even a two year old can fetch a diaper from upstairs, perch on a stool beside you at the dressing table, or help you pat the baby dry after a bath. Little kids can sort the baby's laundry, help you gently pat up a burp after a feeding, and entertain the baby with nursery songs and finger plays.

Let your child hold the baby on a pillow, in a big chair, when you are nearby. If you bottle-feed, let her hold the bottle for a few minutes, and demonstrate the way to gently pat the baby's cheek to see the baby's head turn. Warn the child about the anterior fontanel (the soft, boneless spot at the top of the head), but don't be unduly alarmed if she touches it; it's protected by a firm membrane. Do be sure to supervise very carefully any help or playing with the baby. Be sure your child understands she must never try to pick up or carry the baby. Avoid any possibility of harm to either child by putting the baby in the crib or in an infant seat inside the playpen if you have to leave the room.

Feeding time may be difficult, especially if you are nursing the baby -- a time when your toddler or preschooler feels left out and is apt to show displeasure with you by getting into trouble. The feedings that come when your older child is napping or has gone to bed for the night, or when someone else is in the house to provide distraction, are the ones during which you can devote your attention entirely to the baby, providing the important eye contact. When your older child is present during feedings, settle yourselves on the sofa and cuddle him or her with your free arm as you read or watch television together. Or sit comfortably on the floor, with your back braced against a piece of furniture, and watch or help while the child works with puzzles, games, or coloring projects. The baby won't suffer; your touch and the sound of your voice are soothing.

What if your older child wants to try nursing again? It won't hurt, if you are agreeable to the idea. Chances are one quick try will be enough. The child won't like the taste of your milk and probably won't be able to suck properly.

Wanting to go back to nursing is only one of several signs of regression you might expect, and they won't necessarily show up immediately after the baby arrives. A return to baby habits concerning toilet training, eating, sleeping, talking, or dressing may be more a sign of stress than of jealousy. Whatever the cause, your child is trying to get your attention by competing with the baby on the baby's own level. The best way to handle regressive behavior is to go along with it patiently and without showing anger or disappointment; it will pass. Be generous with praise for any mature behavior, and reward it with grown-up privileges, such as staying up a bit later than usual or going on an important errand with Daddy.

Dealing With Sibling Rivalry

Real jealousy will almost surely rear its ugly head sooner or later among children younger than school-age. Busy and independent older ones will probably take the new arrival in stride, suffering little, if at all, from feelings of rejection. Very likely they will be proud to have a baby in the family. They will look upon the infant as a sort of live plaything to be loved and cuddled and shown off to their friends. The best ways to help the little ones through their feelings of displacement and rejection are to show them your love in every way you can and to spend as much time alone with them as you possibly can.

Your toddler is too unsophisticated to be anything but up-front about his or her feelings; life with the interloper who makes so much noise and takes all Mommy's time is unbearable. He is likely to ask you to take the baby back and be frankly envious of the attention the baby gets. You may be able to cheer up the child a little when you stress how lucky the baby is to have such a fine big brother and let him help you care for and entertain the baby. This child isn't old enough yet to have developed much feeling about right and wrong, and pinching, hitting, or sitting on the baby won't seem a crime to him. You need to watch the child closely and lay down a no-nonsense law that the baby must not be hurt. This may be one of the rare times you choose to use strong discipline.

By the age of three, your child understands that deliberately hurting the baby is wrong. Do, however, watch the pats and squeezes and hugs; they may be a bit too hard. This child may be so angry about the baby's appearance that he won't talk to you, won't cooperate in any way. Or he may be afraid to displease you by showing the anger. Your toddler may be excessively well behaved or fake exaggerated and unfelt love for the baby. You can admit to this child that, yes, the baby can be a nuisance, bothering you when you two are reading or playing. Be careful not to give the idea that there's any solution other than the baby's ultimate growing up into a reasonable child.

Your preschooler will probably try to take your attention away from the baby by showing off his or her feats of strength and skill and cleverness. The child feels rejected and cannot understand what you see in this infant who can't do anything interesting or worthwhile. A little girl may be particularly jealous of Mommy, a boy of Daddy, and each may try to take over the other parent. Such feelings of jealousy and resentment are strong, and you will do well to acknowledge them and encourage the child to talk about them.

You probably expected that it would take some time for your other children to adjust to the baby, and jealousy is a typical reaction for younger siblings. But you may not have anticipated the adjustments you'll have to make for grandparents and other adults. Keep reading for a discussion on life with your parents after your baby is born.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Preparing Grandparents for a New Baby

Grandparents have a special relationship with your newborn.
Grandparents have a special relationship with your newborn.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.

The presence of willing and able grandmothers, aunts, and cousins -- once almost universally available to give generously of their time, material wealth, and advice to new parents -- has become increasingly rare. Today these family members are apt to live across the country or to be fully occupied with their own leisure or business commitments. Whether or not you see the grandparents often, you'll quickly learn that there is a new dynamic in your relationship. In this section, you'll read about how your relationship with your parents and parents-in-law may change, how to reconcile two generations' child-rearing ideas, and how to deal with unwanted advice.

Grandma's relationship with the baby.

A grandmother who does live near you and wants to be involved in the care of your baby can be a help or a hindrance, depending upon her common sense and personality and upon your own attitude toward her interest. If she is critical of your efforts at housekeeping or baby care, plays the martyr, or refuses to consider the possibility that any way but hers is the right way to do anything, you won't be overjoyed to see her coming. But if she gives advice only when you ask for it, accepts you as you are, and is willing to help you in the ways you choose, she can be a treasure to you -- and to your child, as well. If you have special memories of a relationship with a grandparent, you want your child to have that same experience, one that can develop only between individuals separated by a generation.

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Grandpa's relationship with the baby

Your baby's grandfather, too, has a special interest in your baby -- his descendant. Accept his involvement in your baby's life and encourage him to develop the privileged relationship that exists between a man and his grandchild. He may not be as actively involved with your baby as the baby's grandmother, but his feelings may be just as strong.

Grandma's helping hands

Your first experience in sharing your child with a grandmother may be immediately upon your arrival home from the hospital, when she comes to give you a hand during the first days or weeks. Don't be surprised if she prefers to do the cooking and cleaning and leaves the care of the baby to you. If she hasn't been around a newborn for some time, she may be hesitant to test her long-forgotten skills. You may prefer this arrangement anyway. Other grandmothers may want to take charge of caring for the baby to show you how it's done. Try not to feel resentment if she does want to care for the baby. You'll have your chance later, when she has left. If you delivered by means of a cesarean section, you may be grateful for some extra time to rest.

It's quite possible that as you and Grandma talk about your baby, a difference of opinion between the two generations will arise. The problem is usually one of conflicting information. Grandma may have to make many mental adjustments before she can accept and approve of your enthusiasm for some practices considered old-fashioned and outdated when she herself was a young woman: giving birth without anesthesia; options such as birthing rooms and home births; and today's emphasis on breast-feeding. She may find a young father's total involvement in birth and child care inappropriate because her husband left all that to her. You may find you and she disagree about the use of pacifiers, about having a rigid schedule for feeding and bathing the baby, about whether to use cloth diapers or disposables. If Grandma is inflexible, you may dread the years ahead, anticipating continuous conflict about everything from nutrition to discipline.

However, those of the older generation who have raised families have a great deal to offer. Not every piece of advice Grandma gives you is based on a myth or an old wives' tale; her years of experience taught her much you can probably use. And many older relatives are willing to learn from new-generation mothers that, for example, a baby who is picked up every time she cries does not become spoiled and demanding, or an immaculate house is not important to a baby's health and welfare or a family's happiness.

Dealing With Unwanted Baby Advice

With goodwill and a sincere desire for communication, you can strive to take the best your parents and other older relatives have to offer and tactfully teach them the best of what you know, without lowering your standards or sacrificing your values.

Start by using the many available resources to back up your opinions. We all tend to believe what we read, and women of the older generation held doctors and other experts in high regard, so show Grandma the passages in books and magazines that reinforce your opinions. Quote your physician to her. Share with her the literature you have from organizations such as La Leche League and the National Childbirth Education Association. Tell her what you've learned from people whose opinion she respects -- your neighbor, whose children she always admires, or your sister or sister-in-law. Sometimes simply stalling is a good technique. Thank her for her advice, and say and do nothing more about the matter. Or forget to try her method, or tell her you'll probably "start soon."

With good humor and consideration, you and Grandma can at least approach the ideal relationship, working together for the benefit of your child and one in which the child is more important to both of you than are each other's opinions about child care. Bear in mind the ultimate benefits of your rapport with Grandma go to your child, whose relationship with her is priceless.

The bottom line, in dealing with Grandma or anyone else, is you are the parent, an intelligent and well-informed person, and you have the right to determine what is best for your child and to raise him as you see fit. In the end, if you have to, you can remind these people they chose their ways and you will choose yours. Of course, all this is easier with acquaintances or strangers, who will perhaps surprise you with their audacity in telling you what to do or in asking you impertinent questions about the way you are caring for your child. You do not need to justify your actions to such people; you can avoid confrontations by simply thanking them politely for their interest and going on your way.

Do be sure you are actually being criticized before you react. Remember that the more insecure we are, the more we tend to infer criticism when none was intended, and we all sometimes overreact to situations that concern our children. Few issues are important enough to force confrontations with relatives or close friends.

It's surprising how much our baby affects our relationships with other adults. You may suddenly develop an understanding with a relative you've never really talked to because your philosophies on raising children are similar. On the other hand, your close relationship with your mother or mother-in-law could become strained if you have strong opposing ideas on child-rearing. Luckily, the family pet couldn't care less which sleep method you've chosen, as long as you remember to include him as much as possible. If you're concerned about your pet's reaction to a new baby, move to the next page for tips on introducing the new baby to your "other baby."

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

 

Preparing The Family Pet for a New Baby

No, your cat will not suffocate your infant in the crib. This myth dates back to the days of witchcraft, when infant mortality was high and standards of hygiene were low. Someone always seemed to remember seeing a cat in the crib of a baby who subsequently died. The underfed animal was probably attracted to the crib by the smell of milk. A cat, or any other animal, for that matter, is incapable of forming a complete seal around a baby's mouth and nose and so could not possibly suffocate him or her.

However, it is wise to consider the possible reactions of your dog or cat to a new baby. If you have no other children and have had your pet for some time, it is probably accustomed to being "the baby," a valued and well-loved member of the household, and may very well be jealous of a rival for your attention. The animal will most likely adjust quickly and learn to love the baby as much as it does you. You can ensure this acceptance by preparing your pet for the baby, using some of the tips we provide in this section.

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First, consider obedience training for a dog that does not obey your commands to sit, stay, and be quiet, or cannot be kept from jumping up on people or furniture. If your dog or cat is not accustomed to children, try to arrange for it to spend some time with a baby occasionally. Speed up the process of your pet becoming acquainted with your baby by bringing home from the hospital something the baby has used so the dog or cat gets used to the unfamiliar scent. Some parents put a cloth diaper or a small blanket in the hospital bassinet with the baby to pick up this odor. And when you get home from the hospital with the baby, try to spend a few minutes alone with the pet to assure it of your love, just as you would an older child.

Of course, you don't want even the most loving of dogs or cats in your infant's crib. If you have not been able to train your dog to stay off beds and other furniture, or if your cat shows an interest in leaping into the crib to investigate the new arrival, block the door of the baby's room with the gate you will later use to keep your child from tumbling down the stairs or otherwise getting into dangerous trouble. If this doesn't work (as it probably won't with an agile cat), another option is to replace the door of the baby's room with a screen door. Both options allow you to see into the room but keep the pet out.

Baby's Allergies

The possibility your dog or cat will not adjust to a baby in the house and will have to be banished is probably remote, but the chances the baby will be allergic to your pet may not be. About one child in five develops allergies to one or another substance. Pollen, food, or dust may be responsible -- even the bacteria that survive in your water bed -- as can anything that can be touched, eaten, or breathed, including the tiny particles of pet hair or skin (dander) suspended in the air of your house. A tendency toward allergies is often inherited, but the specific allergies do not always take the same form in one family member as in another. For example, you may be sensitive to certain foods or to a plant that blooms at a certain season of the year but not to animals. Your child may inherit your tendency to allergies, but react, at least in infancy, only to animals.

The symptoms of allergy to animal hair are similar to those of the hay fever caused by pollens of trees, grass, and other plants. You may at first confuse them with the symptoms of a cold: itchy, runny eyes and nose, a general stuffiness of the head, an ear infection, or perhaps even a little wheeziness in breathing. If you suspect an allergy to your pet is causing the baby's discomfort, see your doctor. Until something is done, the symptoms will increase and can cause sleeplessness, loss of appetite, inflammation of the eyes, ears, sinuses, throat, and bronchial tubes, and perhaps even a full-blown asthma attack. Unfortunately, your only solution is to get the animal out of the house. Allergies do change as people grow older, and at some time in the future your child may outgrow this one and be able to enjoy the benefits of having a dog or cat.

Do be aware pests, such as fleas, and even some illnesses can be transmitted from pets to children. Keep your pet clean and insect-free. Wash your hands carefully after handling or cleaning up after your pet. Ask for your veterinarian's advice if your dog or cat is sick.

If you give your pet a little preparation and then allow some time for him to adjust to the loud, squirmy "thing" that's invaded your home, there's a pretty good chance Fido (or Fluffy) will come to adore baby -- and that baby will adore him, too.

If you've done your homework and prepared everyone for the arrival of your baby,

introducing him to the family can be a wondrous occasion! Try to be patient with all of your loved ones and remember that they most likely want what they think is best for you and your newborn.

©Publications International, Ltd.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

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