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Objectives: Less than a quarter of Omani infants < 6 months are exclusively breastfed. Therefore, this study aimed to examine individual barriers and supports to exclusive breastfeeding and identify potential policy and programmatic interventions in Oman. Methods: A cross-sectional Barrier Analysis was carried out among a purposive sample of Omani women - 45 “Doers” (who exclusively breastfed their infants) and 52 “Non-Doers” (who do not) – who were selected and interviewed by trained enumerators in health clinics in various parts of the country. A barrier analysis tool, adapted for the Omani context, covered 12 common determinants of behavior adoption using open-ended questions regarding participants’ perceptions about exclusive breastfeeding including positive and negative consequences, self-efficacy and social norms. Qualitative analysis involved coding and tabulating as well as thematic analysis. Results: Mothers report that motivation for exclusive breastfeeding include the perception that it leads to healthier children, is easy, readily available and therefore convenient and that mothers report an elevated level of family support for breastfeeding. Barriers included perceived milk insufficiency and mother’s employment. Conclusion: To achieve the 2025 exclusive breastfeeding target of 50%, public health action should focus on emphasizing the benefits and convenience of exclusive breastfeeding and building women’s confidence in their ability to produce sufficient milk. These efforts will require increasing the knowledge and skills of community and health care workers and establishing monitoring mechanisms. Expanding paid maternity leave and supportive workplace policies are necessary to encourage working women to exclusively breastfeed.
Keywords: Breastfeeding, Breastfeeding barriers, Breastfeeding support, Exclusive breastfeeding, Nutrition policy, Oman, Health Promotion.
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