Vitamin K for newborns
What is vitamin K?
Our bodies need vitamin K to form clots and to stop bleeding. We get vitamin K from the foods we eat, such as green leafy vegetables, fish, meat, and eggs.
Why does my newborn need vitamin K?
Babies are born with a very small amount of vitamin K. Not having enough can cause bleeding that doesn’t stop because there isn’t enough vitamin K to form a clot. The bleeding can happen inside or outside of the body – including the brain – at any time up to 6 months of age.
How is vitamin K given to babies?
There are two ways newborns can receive vitamin K:
- A single injection in the thigh within 6 hours of birth; or
- 3 doses by mouth—one at baby’s first feeding, another at 2 to 4 weeks of age, and another at 6 to 8 weeks of age. Your baby must receive all 3 doses.
The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that doctors give newborns vitamin K by injection.
Giving vitamin K by mouth is not as effective as by injection. Vitamin K is not absorbed as well when given by mouth and does not last as long. Babies who get vitamin K by mouth are an increased risk of late vitamin K deficiency bleeding, which can occur within 2 to 12 weeks after birth and up to 6 months of age.
Is the vitamin K injection safe?
Yes, the vitamin K shot is very safe. There are no side effects. There may be some redness, swelling, or pain at the injection site.
Can’t my baby get vitamin K from my breast milk?
Breast milk contains very low amounts of vitamin K, so exclusively breastfed babies will not get enough. Even formula-fed babies have very low levels of vitamin K for several days.
What about the injection pain? My baby is so little!
To reduce pain and discomfort of the injection, hold your baby while the vitamin K shot is given. You can also try breastfeeding at the same time to comfort your baby.
More information from the CPS
Reviewed by the following CPS committees
- Fetus and Newborn Committee
Last updated: August 2018