What Parents Need To Know About Delaying The Vitamin K Shot

by Shannon Evans

Birth is changing in the 21st century. As more and more women become empowered to have greater control over their birth plans, and more alternative choices are becoming available to modern parents, mothers are weighing their options more seriously than ever. One hot topic these days is that of the vitamin K shot, typically given soon after birth. Balking at the idea of seeing their newborns poked with a needle, many millennial moms are asking, "Can I delay the vitamin K shot?" while some are refusing it entirely.

First of all, what exactly is the vitamin K shot and what is its function? Dr. Meena Chintapali, a pediatrician practicing in San Antonio, explains that vitamin K helps an infant's blood coagulate, or clot. In an interview with Romper, Chintapali explains, "Vitamin K does not pass from the mother to the baby, so babies are born deficient in it. The shot is administered so that the baby can have a coagulant in their blood stream. It lasts for six months in the baby, which is roughly the time when they start eating their first solid foods and can start getting vitamin K from other sources. The coagulant is needed because it can prevent potentially dangerous bleeding that can occur in the baby during these early six months."

Chintapali cautions that it is not advisable to refuse or delay an infant's vitamin K injection, since the possibility of vitamin K deficiency bleeding is rare, but fatal. But is this an issue that more natural-minded practitioners disagree with mainstream wisdom on?

Certified Nurse-Midwife Katie Page tells Romper that her practice discourages women from refusing vitamin K completely. Oral vitamin K is an option, she says, but studies show results in only a reduction, not entire prevention, of cases.

As for delaying without refusing, Page says many hospitals are accommodating of this request. "Some families may choose to delay the injection until after initial breastfeeding and bonding time — this may be beneficial as it allows undisturbed time during this initial transition for baby after birth. Many hospitals may administer vitamin K after one hour of birth, although statutes range from six to 24 hours after birth as the latest that it should be given."

But the state you're in can make all the difference. "Different states have different statutes regrading the timing of administration, if the place of birth makes a difference, and whether or not parents can decline the intervention," says Page. In some states, refusal to cooperate with vitamin K protocol can result in a hospital phone call to Child Protective Services. Yikes.

Talk with your pregnancy provider and future pediatric provider to understand your rights for declining or delaying the shot in your state. Because whatever you decide, you want to be confident it's a safe choice for you and your baby.