What is Vitamin K?
Vitamin K belongs to a group of vitamins that help the body make special proteins for blood clotting.
This helps reduce bleeding in the event of an injury and plays an important role important in wound healing.
There is also evidence to suggest that vitamin K while breastfeeding is an essential nutrient for optimal bone health.
Why do newborn babies need a Vitamin K shot?
Since they were first recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics in the early 1960s, vitamin K injections have been given routinely to newborn babies.
The reason vitamin K injections are given to newborn babies soon after birth is to prevent serious bleeding problems in the first six months of a baby’s life.
The National Health and Medical Research Centre of Australia recommends that all newborn babies receive vitamin K prophylaxis to prevent vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB) in infancy.
Research shows that a single intramuscular vitamin K shot protects babies from dangerous bleeding that could lead to brain damage or death.
Do breastfed babies need vitamin K injections?
Vitamin K is recommended soon after birth for all breastfed babies.
All newborn babies have naturally low levels of vitamin K in their bodies.
Although human milk naturally contains vitamin K, the amount received by exclusively breastfed infants is not enough to protect them from vitamin K deficiency bleeding in early life.
Does breastfeeding cause Vitamin K deficiency?
Breast milk contains naturally low vitamin k levels but breastfeeding does not cause a vitamin K deficiency.
The exact recommendation for vitamin K prophylaxis at birth also applies for formula fed babies.
Although infant formulas have added vitamin K, oral vitamin K does not provide sufficient protection against serious complications related to bleeding.
A vitamin K shot is required for adequate protection from vitamin K deficiency bleeding in infancy.
Why do parents decline vitamin K for their newborns?
Despite recommendations regarding vitamin K injections for newborns, there is little education for parents about why vitamin K is administered at birth.
Some new parents who are not aware of the risks associated with vitamin k deficiency might be worried that the needle will hurt their baby, or they might have heard myths that vitamin K can cause childhood cancer. Other parents might have misconceptions about childhood vaccinations in general.
For all the information you need about consenting to your newborn having a vitamin K injection, you can read BellyBelly’s article Vitamin K Shot For Baby At Birth.
Does increasing the intake of vitamin K while breastfeeding raises vitamin K levels in newborns?
Research has shown that maternal vitamin K supplements of 5 mg per day increase breast milk vitamin K levels.
Maternal supplementation can increase vitamin K concentrations in breast milk and improve the vitamin K status of exclusively breastfed infants who also receive the intramuscular vitamin K shot at birth.
Maternal vitamin K supplementation does not provide adequate protection from vitamin K deficiency bleeding at birth.
Is vitamin K important for breastfeeding mothers?
Lactating mothers require adequate levels of vitamin K and other fat soluble vitamins to support their own health, as well as the health of their breastfed infants. Most adults get enough vitamin K from eating a healthy diet.
Eating foods high in vitamin K can avoid the need for maternal supplementation in breastfeeding mothers. Rich food sources of vitamin K are:
- Green leafy vegetables, such as kale, spinach, broccoli and Brussels sprouts
- Berries (in particular, blueberries and blackberries)
- Egg yolks
- Vegetable oils.
Because vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin, eating foods foods containing healthy fats, such as avocado and olive oil, can help improve absorption.
To find out more about vitamins and nutrients that are important for breastfeeding mothers, you can read the following BellyBelly articles:
Can too much vitamin K be harmful?
The recommended intake of vitamin K for lactating mothers is 90 mcg per day.
Vitamin K toxicity is very rare. It is broken down quickly and eliminated through the body’s waste.
It’s possible that vitamin K supplements can react with other medications.
Talk to your healthcare provider about vitamin K if you are taking any anticoagulant medications.