All around the world, babies are given vitamin K routinely at birth in the delivery room.
The vitamin is not something newborns have naturally in their system. But it is critical that they get it right away. Vitamin K promotes blood clotting and can save the baby from severe and life-threatening complications.
As a neonatologist, I have worked in a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for 13 years. I am very troubled whenever parents hesitate to give their baby the vitamin K shot. As health care professionals, we are working very hard to educate parents on the importance of this simple injection.
In some parts of the country, there seems to be a frightening trend among parents. Some are refusing to give their baby the vitamin K injection. I've personally experienced it at Advocate Children's Hospital.
Parents give many reasons. Some fear it is a vaccine, which it is not. Others refuse it for religious reasons. And, still others fear it may somehow harm their healthy, beautiful child; that "natural" is better.
Vitamin K will not hurt your child. In fact, it does just the opposite.
It is extremely important to me that parents understand why vitamin K is so critical.
Throughout life, children and adults get vitamin K from food, like leafy vegetables and from bacteria in your gut. But, a baby just brought into the world needs it too. There is not enough vitamin K in an infant's early diet, for example, breast milk, to compensate. That's why we provide the shot immediately -- even before the baby leaves the delivery room.
Saying "no" to vitamin K puts your child at risk.
In fact, if vitamin K is refused at birth, the infant has an 81 times greater risk of developing Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding.
Sound scary? It is.
This condition can result in uncontrolled bleeding that may occur at any time between birth and 6 months of age. The bleeding, which most seriously occurs in the brain and intestines, is preventable, when an infant is given the vitamin K shot in the delivery room.
Administering vitamin K has long been recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control. Multiple studies have deemed it exceptionally safe.
As a physician, neonatologist and father, I do understand how confusing it can be to know what is or is not best for your new baby.
The internet provides so much competing information on a wide range of issues. But simply put, the vitamin K shot is essential to protecting your baby's health. It is probably the very first step you will take, as a mother or father, to keep your child safe.
• Dr. Michael Cappello, DO, is a neonatologist and chairman of pediatrics at Advocate Children's Hospital-Park Ridge. Children's health is a continuing series. This week's article is courtesy of Advocate Children's Hospital. For more information, visit www.advocatechildrenshospital.com.