Why Your Baby Needs The Vitamin K Shot

In the whirlwind of deep breathing, screaming, and rejoicing, it can be easy to find yourself in a daze after giving birth to your child. Regardless of how you deliver your little one, there are a few universally common things — like administering shots, taking weight and measurements — that the medical staff will do for your newborn. But as the nurses move the needle to your baby, you might wonder, why does my baby need the vitamin K shot? When I was busy perfecting my birth plan, I incessantly annoyed my OB-GYN with questions about every single aspect of childbirth including all the shots my baby would receive.

So what's the reason most newborns receive the vitamin K shot right after they're born, and why do doctors strongly recommend this should be done? As it turns out, there are a couple factors involved in this standard medical practice. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported, babies are born with a low level of vitamin K in their system. So a quick injection is an easy way to bring their levels up. But there is another, more serious, purpose this shot serves.

According to the medical experts at the Baby Center, "one in 10,000 babies, have vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB). If your baby has a deficiency of vitamin K, he may spontaneously bruise or bleed." Even though these numbers make it a rare occurrence, it seems the old adage of better safe than sorry would apply here. "Some babies who suffer from VKDB do not have visible early bleeds," the Baby Center further noted. "Such bleeds can be life-threatening." Still, some parents are hesitant to let their newborns receive a dose of vitamin K.

It may reassure you to know that, as pediatrician Dr. Clay Jones told Scientific American, aside from the typical discomfort associated with injections, the vitamin K, "shot has no side effects and has little to no risk of an allergic reaction because it is injected into the muscle instead of a vein." In the end, every parent is entitled to make whatever choice they feel is right for their family. Talking to your healthcare provider can also help you in the decision-making process.