We all need Vitamin K to help our blood clot and prevent serious bleeding.
Newborn babies do not have enough Vitamin K of their own. This puts them at risk of a condition called Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding. It can lead to serious complications like bleeding in the brain, brain damage and death.
We can prevent serious bleeding by giving Vitamin K to newborns. An injection is the best option. All babies in Australia are offered a single injection of Vitamin K soon after birth. The injection protects them for several months while they build up their own supply.
Vitamin K can also be given by mouth. However, babies don’t absorb the oral medication as well and the protection does not last as long, so multiple oral doses are needed. Giving Vitamin K by mouth is not suitable in some circumstances, for example premature babies, babies who are sick, or mothers who took certain medications during pregnancy.
Babies in Australia have been receiving Vitamin K for over 30 years. It has not been shown to cause any serious side effects, whether given as an injection or by mouth.
Parents who decline Vitamin K for their baby need to watch carefully for any signs of abnormal bleeding or bruising. The paediatrician will advise you on what to look out for.
Hepatitis B vaccination
The Australian Department of Health recommends that all newborns receive the Hepatitis B vaccination.
Babies usually receive the first dose at birth, followed by doses at 2, 4 and 6 months of age.
Hepatitis B is a virus that can cause serious long-term liver damage and liver cancer. It spreads relatively easily through contact with blood and other body fluids.
There are lots of ways to catch Hepatitis B during the course of your life. Vaccination is the best way to prevent infection.
We also test women for Hepatitis B at the start of each pregnancy, because the virus can be passed on to the baby at birth. Mothers with Hepatitis B need some extra care during pregnancy and the babies also receive extra medication and testing after birth.
Newborn babies tolerate the Hepatitis B vaccine very well. It does not interfere with breastfeeding. The vaccine has been used in Australia for many years; it’s considered a very safe medication with a very low risk of serious side effects.