Why Vitamin K Injection for NewBorns is needed

Not long after baby is born your nurse will give your baby a shot of Vitamin K, and she’ll likely ask you to nurse baby while this happens for baby’s comfort. This injection isn’t a vaccine. Vitamin K is a naturally occurring substance we get from the food we eat and it’s made in our intestines by bacteria. Here is why a Vitamin K injection for newborns is needed.

For babies, vitamin K is essential for blood clotting because most newborns don’t have enough in their system at birth to prevent potentially life-threatening internal bleeding.

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Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding

Not having enough vitamin K in baby’s first days can lead to something called
vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB), which though rare, can be life-threatening. This type of bleeding can happen to any baby of any age, with or without risk factors, if they don’t get a vitamin K shot at birth.

VKDB happens suddenly and bleeding usually occurs in baby’s brain or intestines. The three types of VKDB are:

Early: in the first 24 hours after birth. This can happen if you’ve taken medications that interfere with vitamin K, such as anti-clotting medicines or certain seizure medicines. Common sites where baby may have bleeding are in its brain, skin, or belly.

Classic: occurs on days 2-7 when vitamin K levels are lowest. Bleeding can be at baby’s circumcision site in boys, or in the belly, nose, brain, or skin, including the umbilical cord.

 Late: usually happens during weeks 3-8, but can occur up to 6 months and is almost always in exclusively breastfed babies. After 6 months many babies get vitamin K from starting more solid foods. Late bleeding is usually in the brain and or baby’s gut, and is often life-threatening.

These routine injections before baby leaves the hospital have reduced the number to only one infant a year experiencing severe bleeding. Pediatricians have recommended Vitamin K injections at birth since the 1960s.

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Are you considering declining vitamin K injection for your newborn baby at birth? Research shows that waiting to give baby vitamin K can put your baby at greater risk for bleeding, especially bleeding in the brain. Almost all babies with late VKDB are breastfed and breastmilk doesn’t contain enough vitamin K to boost baby’s levels even if your own vitamin K levels are normal.


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