RaMa Mama Doula Share: Babies And Vitamin K Shots - Why or Why Not?
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin named after the German word for clotting - Koagulation, known for its blood clotting abilities. The human body cannot make Vitamin K and cannot properly store it either. It is necessary to have in our bodies in order to activate certain molecules that help our blood clot.
A deficiency in Vitamin K makes it difficult for our blood to clot. So, how do we get Vitamin K if we don't produce it ourselves? We usually get it from plants like leafy green vegetables, but we can also get it from bacteria that lives in our intestines. Some examples of foods rich in Vitamin K are spinach, kale, Swiss chard, and collard greens. Others include avocados, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bananas, turnips, kiwi, Brussels sprouts, and Soybean oil. This is all great for most people, but babies are born with very limited amounts of Vitamin K, and the levels stay low until about 6 months of age. The lowest days are at 2 and 3 days of life, and unfortunately, very little Vitamin K1 transfers from mom to baby through the placenta. Babies also have not lived long enough to develop bacteria in their intestines to make Vitamin K2. The babies then breastfeed from a mother who has normal levels of Vitamin K, but a small percentage of babies have a problem absorbing it. Man-made formulas have over 100 times more Vitamin K1 than breastmilk, and the Vitamin K injection administered after birth has 1mg of Vitamin K1.
The risk of this shot to the infant goes mostly to those who suffer liver or gallbladder disorders. There was also a study linking the shot to childhood leukemia. The most common side effects are decreased appetite, decreased movement, difficulty breathing, enlarged liver, body swelling, muscle stiffness, paleness, and yellow eyes or skin. With all of the information available, the choice is up to the parents on what is best for each individual family.
It wasn't until 1961 that Vitamin K shots became standard practice after birth in hospitals. This was after 2 decades of studies that showed that without Vitamin K shots at birth, 4-7 infants out of 100,000 will develop late Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding (VKDB). When receiving the shot at birth, the VKDB numbers went down to 0-4 infants out of 100,000. Out of those infants who have VKDB, more than half will develop bleeding in the brain. The mortality rate is approximately 20%. One of the most dangerous things about this is that it is hard to detect. The symptoms are fussiness, lethargy, and problems feeding. Oftentimes, professionals also have a hard time detecting it until it is too late.
The most important takeaway from all of this is that Vitamin K is important for blood clotting. Babies need support in making sure they get enough Vitamin K. Every life matters, and each of us needs to make the right decisions for ourselves and our families. There is support when needed in all different types of sources of Vitamin K. There are studies and personal stories available to learn from. Do your own research and make an informed decision. Keep eating healthily and listen to your intuition. Healthy and happy families are most important. Wishing the best for all!