Vitamin K is very important for blood to have the ability to clot so that any bleeding stops. Before birth, very little amounts of vitamin K are transferred to the baby through the placenta. Babies are not able to make vitamin K it on their own, therefore, the ability of baby’s blood to clot is reduced due to the reduced amount of vitamin K stored in his body.
Also, at birth, a baby’s liver is immature, so it doesn’t process vitamin K like a mature liver does. If the vitamin K is not replaced after baby is born, he or she is at a much higher risk for vitamin K deficient bleeding (VKDB), which may involve bleeding in the brain, bruising easily, and bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract. In can also increase the amount of bleeding after a baby boy is circumcised.
Where does vitamin K come from?
We get vitamin K from the foods that we eat. It is also produced by the healthy bacteria found in our gastrointestinal tract. At birth, a baby’s gastrointestinal tract is sterile, so there are no healthy bacteria available needed to produce vitamin K. As your baby gets older, he or she will produce this type of healthy bacteria. Small amounts of vitamin K are present in breast milk, but it is not enough.
Babies that do not receive a vitamin K injection after birth are at risk for bleeding to occur during their first six months of life. To prevent bleeding, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be given vitamin K soon after baby is born.
Why is vitamin K given in an injection?
Although vitamin K can be given to baby by mouth, it would take many doses given over several weeks, and it is not always absorbed by baby’s body very well. At this time, there is no oral form of vitamin K that has been approved for use in the United States.
Pazirandeh, S., & Burns, D. (2016). Overview of vitamin K. UpToDate. Retrieved from