Speaking out on an alarming trend
All around the world, babies are given vitamin K routinely at birth in the delivery room. The vitamin is not something newborns have naturally in their system, but it is critical that they get it right away. Vitamin K promotes blood clotting and can save the baby from severe and life-threatening complications.
As a neonatologist, I have worked in a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for 13 years. I am very troubled when parents hesitate to give their baby the vitamin K shot. As health care professionals, we are working very hard to educate parents on the importance of this simple injection.
In some parts of the country, there seems to be a frightening trend among parents. Some are refusing to give their baby the vitamin K injection. I’ve personally experienced it at Advocate Children’s Hospital. Parents give many reasons. Some fear it is a vaccine, which it is not. Others refuse it for religious reasons. And still others fear it may somehow harm their healthy, beautiful child – that “natural” is better. Vitamin K will not hurt your child. In fact, it does just the opposite.
It is extremely important to me that parents understand why vitamin K is so critical. Throughout life, children and adults get vitamin K from food like leafy vegetables and from bacteria in your gut. But a baby just brought into the world needs it, too. There is not enough vitamin K in an infant’s early diet, for example, breast milk, to compensate. That’s why we provide the shot immediately, even before the baby leaves the delivery room.
Saying “no” to vitamin K puts your child at risk. In fact, if vitamin K is refused at birth, the infant has an 81 times greater risk of developing Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding or (VKDB). Sound scary? It is. This condition can result in uncontrolled bleeding that may occur at any time between birth and six months of age. The bleeding, which most seriously occurs in the brain and intestines, is preventable when an infant is given the vitamin K shot in the delivery room.
Administering vitamin K has long been recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Multiple studies have deemed it exceptionally safe.
As a physician, neonatologist and father, I do understand how confusing it can be to know what is or is not best for your new baby. The internet provides so much competing information on a wide range of issues. But simply put, the vitamin K shot is essential to protecting your baby’s health. It is probably the very first step you will take, as a mother or father, to keep your child safe.
About the Author
Dr. Mike Cappello has been a neonatologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital for 13 years. He cares for fragile babies in the Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit on the Park Ridge campus.