VKDB (Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding) was a concern for the medical community to resolve – a problem that affected primarily breastfed infants. The worry was that breastfeeding women were not transferring enough vitamin K to their newborns and so needed to supplant their own stores if they planned on exclusively breastfeeding or have their baby injected prophylactic ally. Some questions were raised as to why there would be a need to inject vitamin K to begin with, seeing as the human body should have optimal stores of all essential nutrients at birth to ensure survival. However, since the discovery that the majority of northern living peoples are vitamin D deficient, our optimism as to the natural preparedness of our bodies to maintain health has diminished slightly. Vitamin K may have a similar story as vitamin D so we may all be relatively deficient. There are a number of reasons why this may be.
- Our gut flora (bacteria) is not fully developed at birth and they are the primary vitamin K producers in our bodies. This is especially true in C-section babies who do not gain the vaginal flora of their mother’s as they pass through the vaginal canal.
- The placenta is poor at transferring vitamin K to the fetus.
- Breast milk does not have the levels required due to poor nutritional status of the mother post-partum.
Another concern was raised about vitamin K injections and their correlation with childhood leukemia’s. Many studies refute these claims and some studies corroborate them. However, studies do confirm that the number of babies who die from VKDB without injections outnumbers the number of babies who die from cancer with injections. This promotes the injection cause.
Many people look for an alternative to the injections because they understand they need to provide vitamin K but that the injections may increase risk of cancer so they look at the oral route of administration to either the breastfeeding mother or directly to the newborn. As of recent, researchers have discovered that early VKDB is virtually eliminated with prophylactic injection and oral administration of vitamin K but late onset VKDB is only eliminated with injection of vitamin K and NOT with oral use. The numbers are significant.
If someone were to decide against injections and go for the alternative route I suggest the following:
- Supplement vitamin K to the nursing mother and ensure proper and adequate breastfeeding. Research has shown 2.5 mG/day is sufficient. Pregnant women may want to increase their intake of vitamin K through foods but this has not shown to increase levels of vitamin K in a newborn.
- Supplement the newborn with vitamin K. However, I would rather encourage supplementing the mother and having breast milk be the resource and delivery method.
- Provide the newborn with probiotics from day 1 to ensure an adequate gut flora to produce its own vitamin K.
Remember to consult a naturopathic physician for a more comprehensive understanding of this issue.
Yours in health,
Dr. Bobby Parmar, ND