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 a serious bleeding problem known as vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB). VKDB can lead to brain damage and death. Bleeding from vitamin K deficiency is a risk during the first 6 months of life. VKDB is preventable with a one-time intramuscular shot of vitamin K at birth.

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 K within 6 hours after birth.

To allow and encourage immediate bonding and contact between the newborn and mother, administration of the vitamin K shot can be delayed until after the first feeding up to 6 hours after birth. Administering the dose of vitamin K within 6 hours is the best way to prevent bleeding.

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 intramuscular shot of vitamin K do not require further supplementation.

A one-time intramuscular shot of vitamin K at birth is the best way to prevent low amounts of vitamin K and VKDB in infants. Healthcare providers should discuss with parents the risks of not receiving this dose of vitamin K.

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