Optimal breastfeeding practices entail the early initiation of breastfeeding soon after delivery of the baby, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and the continuation of breastfeeding complemented by solid food up until two years of age. Breastfeeding has wide-ranging health benefits for both the mother and her child; however, many factors contribute to low rates of exclusive breastfeeding. This article highlights the benefits of optimal breastfeeding as well as trends and determinants associated with breastfeeding both worldwide and in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Strategies to optimise breastfeeding and overcome breastfeeding barriers in the GCC region are recommended, including community health and education programmes and ‘baby-friendly’ hospital initiatives. Advocates of breastfeeding are needed at the national, community and family levels. In addition, more systematic research should be conducted to examine breastfeeding practices and the best strategies to promote breastfeeding in this region.
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