Vitamin K

A mother holding her newborn child

Vitamin K is needed to form blood clots and to stop bleeding. Babies are born with very small amounts of vitamin K stored in their bodies, which can lead to serious bleeding problems like vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB). VKDB can lead to brain damage and death.

Do infants get enough Vitamin K from breast milk?

No. Breast milk is low in vitamin K. Breast milk from mothers who are taking vitamin K supplements is also low in vitamin K.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all newborns, whether breastfed or formula fed, receive a one-time intramuscular shot of vitamin K1 (phytonadione) at a dose of 0.5 to 1.0 milligrams shortly after birth (this is usually given during the birth hospitalization).

A vitamin K shot can be administered after the first feeding at the breast, but not later than 6 hours of age. An oral dose of vitamin K is not recommended. Oral vitamin K is not consistently absorbed through the stomach and intestines, and it does not provide adequate amounts for the breastfed infant. Infants who receive the vitamin K shot do not require further supplementation.

A vitamin K shot given at birth is the best way to prevent low amounts of vitamin K and VKDB in infants.

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