Vitamin K Shots in Newborns: Answers to Your Top Questions

What is Vitamin K?

Vitamin K is a vitamin that is essential for natural blood clotting. The vitamin activates molecules in our bodies that are necessary for clotting. We do not make vitamin k naturally ourselves. Rather, it is found in leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale as well as cauliflower, turnips, cabbage, avocado, and banana. When our bodies reach an extremely low level of vitamin K, spontaneous bleeding can result.

Why do newborns need a shot of vitamin K?

It is recommended that all newborns get a shot of vitamin K after delivery as babies are born with very low levels of this vitamin. This means that newborns are at a higher risk of vitamin K deficient bleeding (VKDB), which is a potentially fatal bleeding disorder. VKDB can result in bruising and bleeding in almost all organs of the body. The likelihood of VKDB drops significantly when infants receive a shot of Vitamin K at birth.

Why do breastfed babies have lower levels of vitamin K?

Breastmilk has a very small amount of vitamin K. Formula, on the other hand, includes high levels of Vitamin K. Therefore, the majority of babies with VKDB are exclusively breastfed. The shot of Vitamin K at birth is therefore even more essential for babies that will be exclusively breastfed.

Are there side effects from the Vitamin K shot?

In the past, allergic reactions sometimes arose in newborns after vitamin K was administered intravenous form. However, this is now not used unless the baby has already developed VKDB. Side effects of the Vitamin K shot are extremely rare.

Can pregnant people increase Vitamin K in their diet to raise the vitamin K levels in their newborn?

Unfortunately, it does not appear that an increase in the mother’s vitamin K intake has a noticeable impact on vitamin K levels in their baby. This is because very little Vitamin K transfers to the baby from the mother during pregnancy. However, it has been suggested that mothers who are exclusively breastfeeding should increase their intake of vitamin K or take a daily supplement as this can increase vitamin K levels in breastmilk.