vitamin k for babies

Vitamin K for babies

Have you heard about babies being given Vitamin K not long after they’ve been born, and has it got you wondering, ‘Should I give my baby Vitamin K?’

This article is aimed at talking you through what to expect in relation to Vitamin K and your baby, and the importance of this particular vitamin for newborns.

We hope you find this article useful and that it answers the question above for you, as well as any other queries you may have in relation to this topic. So, let’s start at the beginning, with an overview of the role Vitamin K plays in relation to the human body:

What does Vitamin K do?

We all need Vitamin K – adults, teenagers, older people, newborn babies. It occurs naturally in food and is also produced in our intestines by our ‘friendly’ bacteria.1 Good food sources of Vitamin K include green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, cabbage and spinach, vegetable oils, cereal grains and certain meat and dairy products. According to NHS guidance, adults need approximately 1 microgram of Vitamin K a day for each kilogram of their body weight.2 One of the main functions of Vitamin K, also known as phytomenadione, is that it enables our blood to clot.3 It’s also known for helping wounds to heal too.

Newborn babies get their source of Vitamin K through the placenta, but the level they receive isn’t necessarily as much as they need. As a result, some babies can be born with a Vitamin K deficiency,

Can Vitamin K be given orally to newborns?

Yes it can. Vitamin K is given to babies orally in a three-course dose over the first four to six weeks of their life – this works out to be twice in their first week and once when they are a month old.4

The oral vitamin is made up of Konakion MM Paediatric 2mg (0.2ml) and given at two key intervals:

  • At birth
  • When they are seven days old

Babies who were given oral Vitamin K at birth and seven days, and are being breastfed, should then receive a third dose (2mg in 0.2ml) when they are four weeks old.

If your baby is given oral Vitamin K, it’s essential you make sure they receive all of the recommended doses, as missing any of the doses could potentially result in them developing haemorrhagic disease at a later date.5 Another downside to using oral Vitamin K, is that it’s not always that easy to absorb, and even brought back up, with babies who vomit immediately afterwards or not long after being given a dose of it.6

How do you give Vitamin K to newborns?

The first dose is usually given to newborns by the midwife when they are born. Parents are then required to give the second dose of oral Vitamin K to their babies themselves, using an oral syringe.

For babies that are breastfeeding, parents are also required to then give their baby the second dose at the four week mark. This is because breastmilk does not contain sufficient amounts of Vitamin K alone.

For babies that are bottle-fed, the Vitamin K liquid can be mixed into their formula and given to them that way. Either way, oral Vitamin K is designed to be easy to administer and non-invasive.7 Parents should be shown what they need to do and how to give their baby the Vitamin K before they leave the hospital.8

Is it compulsory for newborns to be given Vitamin K?

Giving Vitamin K to babies during the first few weeks of their life is a recommendation from the Department from Health that’s been in place since 1998.

The recommendation is for all babies to receive Vitamin K as soon as they possibly can after being born. And it is the responsibility of the doctors and midwives to advise parents of the recommendation and discuss the options that are available to them.

Parents are given information to read about Vitamin K, which covers why it’s being offered and how it can help, and can ask the doctors or midwives any questions they may have. It’s important parents understand the risk low levels of Vitamin K may pose to their baby, but as to whether or not they decide for their baby to receive Vitamin K at birth is entirely up to them. The Department for Health’s recommendation is purely that, a recommendation, it isn’t a compulsory instruction.9

What are the side effects of giving babies Vitamin K?

As is the case with all medicines, Vitamin K can cause side effects. The most common side effect of Vitamin K in newborns is that it may trigger an allergic reaction, which can be identified by:

  1. Swelling to happen - in the throat or on the face, lips and mouth

  2. Swelling to suddenly occur - on the baby’s hands, feet and ankles. If this happens, the doctor or midwife must be notified immediately.10

Some other things for you to think about…

Deciding whether or not to give your baby Vitamin K is an important decision, and one that ultimately lies with parents. Below we’ve listed some further information/guidance on the matter, which may further help you with your research:

  • Not all babies like the taste of oral Vitamin K, so make sure you give it to them slowly and carefully to make sure they swallow it all
  • If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you can ask for a form of oral Vitamin K that’s not derived from animals
  • You can potentially increase your baby’s Vitamin K levels by increasing your own intake of Vitamin K by taking a supplement or eating more Vitamin-K rich food, such as liver, olive oil and cow’s milk. (Always seek medical advice before taking any vitamins or supplements)11
We hope that this article has answered any questions you may have had in relation to Vitamin K for babies. In the meantime, for more insight on Vitamin K, the best Vitamin K foods and advice on Vitamin K supplements, read this article, ‘Vitamin K: Functions, foods, deficiency and supplements.’

Last updated: 10 November 2020

Children's HealthVitamins