This is for everyone with a newborn baby. It explains why it is important for every baby to receive vitamin K soon after birth.
Why do babies need vitamin K?
The Department of Health and the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) strongly recommends that all newborn babies receive vitamin K soon after birth.
The human body needs vitamin K for blood clotting and to prevent abnormal bleeding. Adults get vitamin K from the food they eat (mainly from green leafy vegetables).
Newborn babies have low levels of vitamin K because only a small amount is passed from mother to baby across the placenta. Breast milk only contains a small amount.
Why do we give vitamin K to newborn babies?
We recommend that all babies born at Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust receive an injection of vitamin K on their first day of life. The injection is quick and usually quite painless.
We recommend this to prevent a condition called Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding. This is when low levels of vitamin K lead to bleeding in babies. This can occur at any time – from the day your baby is born up to 3 months of age.
This condition can affect babies in different ways including bruising and bleeding (including, most seriously, bleeding in the brain).
Signs include bleeding:
from their umbilical cord stump
in their urine
from their bottom
from their skin and mucous membranes, such as the nose and gums.
Make an urgent GP appointment or call 111 ifyour baby has not received vitamin K and you notice these signs of bleeding. In an emergency, call 999.
How many babies develop Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding?
Between 2 and 17 babies in every 1000 who have not received vitamin K after birth will have some type of bleeding.
1 in every 10,000 babies who have not received vitamin K will experience bleeding in the brain.
How do we give vitamin K to babies?
We inject vitamin K into your baby’s thigh muscle once, shortly after birth.
It can also be given via two or three doses by mouth, but this is not as effective as an injection. The first dose is given at birth, and the second dose at 1 week of age.
For breastfed babies, a third dose is given by mouth when the baby is 28 days old. For formula-fed babies, the first two doses are enough, because vitamin K is added to formula milk.
If you prefer your baby to be given doses by mouth (instead of by injection), your GP can prescribe the medication. Your GP or your health visitor will give the doses to your baby.
Are there side-effects or risks linked to vitamin K?
Your baby may develop mild bruising or swelling at the site of the injection, but infection at the site is rare.
What happens if I do not want my baby to have vitamin K?
A paediatric hospital doctor will talk to you about your decision and make sure you fully understand the risks associated with refusing vitamin K for your baby. If you still decide against giving your baby vitamin K we will ask you to sign a form confirming your decision.
Kingston Hospital Maternity Triage, 1st floor Maternity Unit, Kingston Hospital
020 8934 2802
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Please contact the Patient Experience Team on 020 8934 3850 if you need this information in a different format.
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Please contact the Patient Experience Team on 020 893 3850 if you need this information in a different format.
For detailed information on accessibility at Kingston Hospital visit Kingston Hospital AccessAble (https://www.accessable.co.uk/kingston-hospital-nhs-foundation-trust).
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