Why Give Vitamin K at Birth

Why is it important to give Vitamin K shot at birth? Why is it even more important in babies that are breastfed?

Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin needed to produce clotting factors.  Vitamin K is very low at birth and has very low concentrations in breast milk.  Babies are at risk of bleeding due the Vitamin K deficiency at three different times.  They are at risk as soon as they are born called “early” Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding and is usually in babies born to moms on anti seizure medications or blood thinners.  This type of bleed is almost always in the brain or gut.  The second time the bleeding can happen is the “classical” Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding as is from 2-7 days.  This bleeding usually is from oozing from umbilical stumps or fresh circumcisions.  The final timing of bleeding is “late” Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding as happens from 3-8 weeks of life.  This type of bleeding is almost always to the brain or gut and has no warning before it happens.  This type of bleeding almost exclusively happens in babies who didn’t receive their Vitamin K shot at birth and are breastfed.

The Vitamin K shot is given at birth and starts to work in about 20-30 minutes,  It is a depo shot, which means it goes into the muscle and leaches out over the next several months in order to prevent all three stages of bleeding.  It is estimated that without the shot about 176-420 babies per year would suffer from “classical” or “late” deficiency bleeding and about 20% of them would die.  The others due to the site of the bleed would suffer some terrible consequences.  It is a great shot and does a lot of good.

Why the increase in breastfed babies?  Formula has about 100 times the amount of Vitamin K than breastmilk, so if the babies did not receive the Vitamin K shot at birth, the formula is going to get their stores up to a safe level faster than the breastmilk is going to do.


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