Your five minute guide to Vitamin K

Baby feet

All newborns are offered a Vitamin K injection. So what exactly is it and what does it do?

What is Vitamin K?

Vitamin K has a number of important functions but it is particularly vital for blood clotting and the healing of wounds.

Why is Vitamin K important for my newborn?

Vitamin K is routinely offered to all newborns to protect them against Vitamin K Deficient Bleeding (VKDB), a condition that causes internal bleeding. It’s either known as ‘early bleeding’, which happens in the first week of life, or ‘late bleeding’, which happens when babies are between one and 12 weeks old. Babies are only born with a minimal amount of Vitamin K so the top-up at birth helps their blood to clot efficiently.

How is it administered?

Vitamin K can be given to your baby either by injection or orally, depending on your hospital’s policy. The injection will provide your baby with enough Vitamin K to protect her from early and late bleeding. Oral Vitamin K is used up by the body more quickly so your baby may need a top-up. This can depend on whether your baby is breast or bottle-fed. Formula milk is fortified with Vitamin K, which should maintain your baby’s levels. Breastfed babies, however, can need a further dose of oral Vitamin K.

Does my baby have to have Vitamin K?

While most parents choose to give their baby Vitamin K at birth, you can choose not to. Some small studies in the early 1990s suggested a link between the Vitamin K injection and childhood leukaemia. However, further studies suggest that there is no link. Your midwife should provide you with plenty of information about Vitamin K and she’ll be happy to chat to you about any concerns.

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