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Objectives: This study aimed to examine individual barriers and supports to exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) and identify potential policy and programmatic interventions in Oman, where less than a quarter of Omani infants under six months are exclusively breastfed. Methods: A cross-sectional barrier analysis (BA) was carried out among a purposive sample of Omani women who were selected and interviewed by trained enumerators in health clinics in various parts of the country. A BA tool, adapted for the Omani context, covered 12 common determinants of behaviour adoption using open-ended questions regarding participants’ perceptions about EBF including positive and negative consequences, self-efficacy and social norms. Qualitative analysis involved coding and tabulating as well as thematic analysis. Results: This study included a total of 45 ‘doers’ (who exclusively breastfed their infants) and 52 ‘non-doers’ (who did not). Mothers reported that motivations for EBF include the perception that it leads to healthier children and is easy to do, readily available and therefore convenient, as well as that there is an high level of family support for breastfeeding. Barriers included perceived milk insufficiency and mother’s employment. Conclusion: To achieve the EBF target of 50% for 2025, public health action should focus on emphasising the benefits and convenience of EBF and building women’s confidence in their ability to produce sufficient milk. These efforts will require increasing the knowledge and skills of community and healthcare workers and establishing monitoring mechanisms. Extended paid maternity leave and supportive workplace policies are necessary to encourage working women to exclusively breastfeed.
Keywords: Breast Feeding; Exclusive Breast Feeding; Health Promotion; Nutrition Policy; Oman.
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