Vitamin K is a substance that is naturally present in the body and plays an important part in helping blood clot and preventing serious bleeding.
At birth, a baby has very low stores of vitamin K and these are quickly used up over the first few days of life. They do not get enough Vitamin K from their mothers during pregnancy or breast feeding.
Without vitamin K, babies are at risk of developing Vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB) is a rare condition that affects 1 in 10 000 babies; but, if it occurs there may be serious consequences. In some cases, it can prove fatal.
Mater Mothers' Hospitals recommend that vitamin K should be offered to all babies soon after birth, so that the levels of vitamin K are increased for the first few weeks of life to protect your baby against this disorder. By the age of six months, babies will usually have built up their own supply of vitamin K.
How is vitamin K given to my baby?
Vitamin K is recommended as a single injection into the muscle at the top of your baby's leg soon after birth—this method is more readily absorbed and is chosen by most parents.
It can also be given as a liquid medicine which is dropped into your baby's mouth. This is usually given in three doses, the first soon after birth, when your baby is a week old and then a month old.
If you feel you do not want your baby to have vitamin K in any form, you will be given information about the signs associated with the development of VKDB so that you can call for advice at any time if you are worried.
Your midwife or doctor will be able to answer any questions you might have.
It is important that you understand that, although this is a recommendation, you have a choice as to whether or not your baby receives vitamin K and the method used to give it.
For more detailed information about vitamin K for your new baby please read the National Health and Medical Research Council publication: Vitamin K for newborn babies.