Vitamin K Shot for Babies- A Guide For Parents

5 min read

You would have heard a few things about Vitamin K. Most people believe that Vitamin K is potassium. Unfortunately, that is not true. Vitamin K is a vitamin, like other vitamins, hence the name. Potassium sure is essential for the body, but it is a mineral. If you were wondering what Vitamin K is and why it is crucial for babies, don’t fret. Follow along, and you’ll get to know exactly what you need to understand about the importance of Vitamin K shot and its dose for babies.

Vitamin K injection

Importance of Vitamin K Shot in Babies

Like every other vitamin, vitamin K is important for our body. When it comes to blood clotting, maintaining calcium levels in the blood, and bone metabolism, vitamin K plays a vital role. Vitamin K helps the body produce prothrombin, a protein and a factor that helps blood clot.

When a baby is born, there can be many complications. One of them is Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding (VKDB). Although it is rare, if a baby is facing it, it bleeds uncontrollably. The bleeding doesn’t stop as the baby is deficient in vitamin K.

Here is one more thing to know about it. Babies do not get enough vitamin K from their mothers, not even from breast milk. So, if newborns start bleeding due to its deficiency, it is difficult to stop.

Babies are Born with Vitamin K Deficiency

All newborns are vitamin K deficient. The baby does not get enough vitamin K from the mother as it does not pass through the placenta easily. And as mentioned earlier, breast milk contains small amounts of vitamin K. So, babies need to be supplied with vitamin K from outside.

mom feeding baby vitamin K orally

Chances of a Baby Developing Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding

Almost every newborn is likely to develop Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding till they start eating regular food. That is when the bacteria in our intestines start making our own vitamin K. Till then, babies can be vitamin k deficient. It is also called Haemorrhagic Disease of New-Borns. There are other factors as well:

  • Babies get little vitamin K from their mothers at birth.
  • Certain seizure control drugs taken during pregnancy can affect how the body manages vitamin K.
  • Breastmilk is not rich in vitamin K. The first breastfeed that is rich in colostrum and the hind-feed (at the end) can provide good amounts of vitamin K. But it doesn’t meet the requirements.
  • Breastfed babies who have had health problems, especially liver disease, can have a hard time absorbing the nutrients. So, they may be deficient in vitamin K and at risk of developing VKDB.
  • Babies that are sick, weak, premature babies, and those born via surgery (caesarian) are at a higher risk of developing Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding.

Kinds of Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding

VKDB usually occurs in the first week after birth. It may damage internal organs and cause internal bleeding, which can be fatal. There are three kinds of VKDB:

Early VKDB

  • 1 of 60 newborns suffer from this
  • It is severe
  • Happens within 24 hours after birth

Classical VKDB

  • 1 of 250 newborns suffer from this
  • Not that severe
  • Happens between 1-7 days after birth

Late VKDB

  • 1 of 14000 cases
  • Happens 2-12 weeks after birth, but can occur till 6 months
  • Bleeding symptoms or warnings are rare
  • Babies who haven’t had vitamin K shot tend to have this

Baby's nose bleeding

Symptoms of Vitamin K Deficiency in Babies

The first way of checking whether a baby is vitamin k deficient or not is by looking for the symptoms. These are the symptoms that you need to look out for:

  • Bleeding nose
  • Scars and bruises on the head
  • Paling of skin and gums
  • Blood in feces and vomits

If the baby is vomiting frequently with blood in it, it may be bleeding in the brain. You should seek help from a doctor if you observe any of the above symptoms in your baby.

Treatment of Vitamin K Deficiency in Babies – Best is Vitamin K Shot

For a newborn breastfeeding baby, the only source of nutrients is the mother’s milk. So as a mother, you can:

  • Take multivitamin pills
  • Eat food that is rich in vitamin K
  • Take vitamin K supplements

But all these measures don’t enrich the breast milk with vitamin K to a level that the baby requires. Breastmilk can never be enough, even if you are taking all the supplements.

The best way to ensure that the baby is not vitamin K deficient till it starts eating normal food is a Vitamin K shot right after the baby is born. There is an option of oral vitamin K drops as well, but it is not as effective as the shot.

baby taking vitamin K shot

Vitamin K Shot Dose

The vitamin K shot is an intramuscular injection, given on the right thigh. One vitamin K shot is good enough for several months. The oral drops need three doses for breastfed babies and two doses for bottle-fed babies. We recommend the vitamin K shot over the oral drops as it is more effective than the oral drops

Side Effects of Vitamin K Shot

Like every other vaccine, this also has some ill effects. Here are some of the vitamin K shot side effects:

  • Pain at the site of injection
  • Swelling
  • Uneasiness
  • Scarring of the skin where the needle is injected

So far, there has been only one case where the baby suffered from an allergic reaction. So, any chance of a severe reaction due to a vitamin K shot is negligible. Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding can be fatal, if not taken care of early on. So, we would highly recommend getting the vitamin K shot at birth. It is a good safety net to have.

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