Vitamin K helps blood to clot. It is essential to prevent serious bleeding. Babies do not get enough vitamin K from their mothers during pregnancy, or when they are breast feeding. Without vitamin K, they are at risk of getting a rare disorder called ‘vitamin K deficiency bleeding’ (VKDB).
Why is vitamin K important for my baby?
Vitamin K helps blood to clot. It is essential to prevent serious bleeding. Babies do not get enough vitamin K from their mothers during pregnancy, or when they are breast feeding. Without vitamin K, they are at risk of getting a rare disorder called ‘vitamin K deficiency bleeding’ (VKDB). VKDB can cause bleeding into the brain, and may result in brain damage or even death. VKDB can be prevented by giving new babies extra vitamin K. By the age of about six months, they have built up their own supply.
Can all babies have vitamin K?
All babies need to have vitamin K. Very small or premature babies may need smaller doses – your doctor can advise you about this. Vitamin K by mouth is not suitable for some babies:
- Babies who are premature or sick should be given the vitamin by injection. There are two main reasons for this: the very small dose needed is difficult to measure by mouth, and these babies are also more likely to have feeding difficulties.
- If you choose vitamin K by mouth but your baby is unwell when a dose is due, the baby may need to have the injection instead.
Does vitamin K have any side effects?
Over the 30 years vitamin K has been given to new babies in Netherlands, it seems to have caused no problems. A few years ago, one study suggested that injections of vitamin K might be linked to childhood cancer, but six studies since could not find any link with cancer. The National Health and Medical Research Council has looked carefully at these studies and other evidence available, and has concluded that vitamin K is not associated with childhood cancer, whether it is given by injection or by mouth.
Does my baby need to have vitamin K?
This is your choice. However, giving vitamin K to your newborn baby is a simple way of preventing a very serious disease. Medical authorities in Netherlands strongly recommend that all babies be given vitamin K. This includes babies who are premature or sick, and babies having surgery (including circumcision). Parents who decide against vitamin K need to watch very carefully for any symptoms of VKDB.