Vitamins are not just nutritional supplements that you can buy from the drugstore. In fact, most are either present in the normal diet or manufactured by the body, and they are critical for routine body functions. Vitamin K is one of these. It is made in the GI tract and works with the liver to produce the material that helps blood to clot.
- Babies are born with low levels of vitamin K. They get some but not enough – from their mothers during pregnancy. And once they are born, babies do not produce as much as they need. Therefore, in the first few weeks of life, blood flows through a baby’s body with little ability to clot. This can be a big problem if internal bleeding occurs: the baby may have no way to stop the process.
- Giving babies extra vitamin K just after birth can prevent HDN. The easiest method is by injection into the muscle of one thigh. This delivers a measurable dose that will last several weeks or until a baby begins manufacturing vitamin K on his own.
Should My Newborn Get a Vitamin K Shot?
- Intramuscular vitamin K is safe. The main complication of receiving this medicine by injection is bleeding at the puncture site. However, bleeding is rare. There have been isolated reports of links between vitamin K administration and illnesses later in life. There is no data to support any of these claims.
- Vitamin K can also be given orally (by mouth) if parents request it, but this is not the best course. The oral form of the vitamin must be given in several doses because it is difficult for the stomach to absorb it. The oral form may also cause vomiting, and when this occurs, it is unclear how much of the vitamin stayed down and how much was vomited up.
- If a child has diarrhea, then the oral form may pass through the intestines too quickly to be properly absorbed. Also, the oral dose does not last nearly as long as the intramuscular, so there are conflicting recommendations about how often to dose it.
One commonly suggested schedule for oral vitamin K involves at least one dose at birth, one dose three to seven days later, and one dose at four weeks of life. If a dose is vomited within an hour of being given, then it needs to be repeated. Finally, oral vitamin K should not be given to premature babies, babies who are sick at birth, or babies born to mothers taking certain medications during pregnancy.
Some parents refusing vitamin k for newborns due to the sharing of less-than-scientific opinion pieces about vaccines and the vitamin K injection on some websites, suggesting that it would be safer for their baby to ignore the shots. Some people believe that the vitamin K shot causes leukemia in childhood. But, the vitamin K shot is safe, non-toxic and will protect your baby from bleeding for up to 6 months. True, the chance of your baby having serious bleeding in the brain or elsewhere is low if you choose not to supplement with vitamin K, but why risk it when preventing it is safer?