Babies should receive a vitamin K shot at birth.
Giving babies a vitamin K shot at birth prevents dangerous bleeding problems. Without the shot, all babies are at risk for a life-threatening condition known as vitamin K deficiency bleeding.
Vitamin K deficiency bleeding is a serious problem.
Most babies are born without enough vitamin K, a vitamin that helps blood clot. This means that if they start bleeding, they might lose too much blood before the bleeding stops.
Bleeding can happen suddenly, and it can happen anywhere in the body. About one out of every five babies with this condition dies. If the bleeding happens in the brain, it can cause permanent brain damage or death. It can also happen in the stomach or elsewhere in the body, often without any warning signs.
The risk of bleeding is highest in the first few days of life, but it can happen anytime until your baby is six months old. Vitamin K deficiency bleeding is rare in the U.S. because most babies get the vitamin K shot at birth as recommended. The condition is more common in places where the shot is not used.
The vitamin K shot is recommended for all infants.
The CDC, World Health Organization and many other health organizations recommend giving all babies a vitamin K shot within several hours of birth.
The vitamin K shot is the best way to avoid vitamin K deficiency bleeding. Some of the vitamin K will go into your baby’s blood. The rest will be stored in the liver and release slowly over the first few months of life. Your baby will be protected until he or she starts getting vitamin K from eating food.
Breastmilk does not provide enough vitamin K to prevent vitamin K deficiency bleeding. Vitamin K given orally or in other forms is not as effective as the vitamin K shot.
The vitamin K shot is safe for babies.
Other than some soreness at the site of the injection, there are no known side effects of the vitamin K shot or any of its ingredients.