Important: This is why your baby needs the Vitamin K shot at birth

Our hearts are breaking for one northern NSW family left to watch their five-week-old son fight for life after they reportedly declined the routine Vitamin K injection for newborns and he suffered a brain haemorrhage.

Without thinking, many of us just follow the advice of health professionals and accept the routine jab for our babies in the moments after birth.

While, as parents, it is our right and even our responsibility to question any treatment given to our children, it appears a growing number are allowing anti-vaxers to influence their decision.

So here’s why your baby needs the vitamin K shot at birth.

What is Vitamin K?

It is a naturally occurring vitamin in our bodies that helps our blood to clot to prevent serious bleeding.

Why is Vitamin K given to newborns?

Babies are born with very little Vitamin K because it doesn’t cross over from the placenta and their guts are too immature to produce it, regardless of whether they are breastfed or formula fed.

“With low levels of Vitamin K, some babies can have very severe bleeding – sometimes into the brain, causing significant brain damage,” Better Health explains.

“This bleeding is called haemorrhagic disease of the newborn (HDN).”

Before the routine injections were introduced in the 1970s, the natural Vitamin K deficiency killed around 14 babies per year in NSW. Today the injections are credited for bringing that mortality rate closer to zero.

How is Vitamin K given to my baby?

Parents were once asked to choose between giving their babies two to three doses of Vitamin K drops in their first four weeks of life or a single injection at birth.

While parents can request the oral option, it is more complicated because it requires several doses and is considered less effective and not suitable if the baby is ill, born prematurely or mum has taken medication for epilepsy, blood clots or tuberculosis during pregnancy.

Better Health explains that when encouraged to choose in the past, many parents opted for the drops and “several babies in Australia had severe episodes of bleeding, which were probably due to HDN”.

“It seemed very clear that getting Vitamin K by one injection is safer and more effective than by three sets of drops.”

Alarmingly, parents today are being encouraged away from the injection by the anti-vaccination community telling them to request the oral doses of Vitamin K, which does not protect against late and potentially fatal bleeding, The Sunday Telegraph reports.

How many times does my baby need to be given Vitamin K?

Just one injection or one course of oral treatment is needed to last them until they begin producing the vitamin for themselves.

Does Vitamin K injection have any side effects?

There are no major side-effects caused by the Vitamin K injection, apart from possible temporary soreness at the site where the needle is given.

Why is it important I give consent?

Parents have the final say over whether or not their baby is given Vitamin K at all and, without that consent, it cannot be given and baby remains at high risk of HDN.

Last month The Sunday Telegraph reported six deaths from HDN in babies whose parents refused to consent to the injection in the past 20 years, including one as recent as four years ago.

And tragically, if the baby boy from NSW currently fighting for life survives, it is likely he will be left permanently disabled.

Alison Balding

Alison Balding

Alison is a journalist and mum to an energetic, superhero-obsessed, three-year-old boy and wife to her high school sweetheart turned Sydney firefighter. When she isn't burning dinner or walking on the beach near her home on the NSW south coast, she is watching Octonauts on repeat. Going to the movies without having to share her choc top is her idea of bliss.

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