The importance of vitamin D and K in infants

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Vitamin D deficiency affects between 50 and 70 percent of children in the country. Integration is therefore necessary for everyone at least up to the first year of age. The recommendations to prevent hypovitaminosis D drawn up in 2022 by the Del Paesena Society of Pediatrics, from Del Paesena Society of Preventive and Social Pediatrics and from Paesena Federation of Pediatricians provide for vitamin D prophylaxis for all newborns for throughout the first year of life, regardless of breastfeeding.

The main risk factors are:

  • insufficient sun exposure
  • wrong lifestyles
  • exclusive prolonged breastfeeding
  • obesity
  • skin colour 

Newborns in the first few months of life can also have low levels of Vitamin K for various reasons:

  • reduced transfer of vitamin K from mother to fetus during pregnancy
  • low vitamin K content in breast milk
  • reduced synthesis of vitamin K by the intestinal flora of the newborn in the first days of life

So let's see what these two important vitamins are for.

In this article

  • The importance of vitamin D and K in infants
  • Vitamin K
Read also: Babies: the importance of vitamin D

The importance of vitamin D and K in infants

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is crucial for the growth and development of bone mass. Dietary sources of vitamin D are quite limited. The foods that are richest in it are:

  • blue fish
  • salmon
  • fish oil
  • dairy products (especially butter, yogurt, and cheeses)
  • egg yolk 
  • liver

Both nationally and internationally, the administration of 400 IU of vitamin D per day for all full-term breastfed infants. After one year of age, supplementation with vitamin D is indicated only in some categories at risk (in particular, children with chronic diseases that lead to a reduced intestinal absorption of the vitamin).

For the premature babies the recommendation is 200-400 IU per day for a birth weight below 1500 grams and 400-800 IU per day for a weight above 1500 grams. Since, as indicated by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), the children of age less than 6 months they should never be exposed directly to sunlight, so drops are used.

In order for vitamin D levels to be adequate, it is however advisable that children and adolescents eat a varied and balanced diet and participate in frequent outdoor activities. In the first two years of life, vitamin D deficiency is manifested by the rickets, expression of inadequate mineralization of growing bone with skeletal deformations. Fortunately, rickets in our country is very rare today. 

Vitamin K

Vitamin K

La vitamin K it is essential for the proper functioning of blood coagulation. It also plays a role in bone health. Immediately after birth, newborns are given an intramuscular injection of vitamin K directly in the hospital. 

The World Health Organization recommends the administration of 1 mg of vitamin K immediately after birth, by intramuscular injection. "And since breast milk is a poor source of vitamin K - continues Bollani - in breastfed children, supplementation by mouth is generally also recommended until the completion of the third month of life", as recently recommended by the Del Paesena Society of Neonatology. 

Extremely low levels of vitamin K can cause bleeding and bleeding of various sizes: nosebleeds, bleeding from the gums, bruises, up to severe brain hemorrhages.
A lack of vitamin K also causes a weakening of the bones with Osteoporosis and increased risk of fractures. 

An excess of vitamin K is not harmful unless you take one anticoagulant therapy with warfarin. In this case, it is a good idea to monitor your daily vitamin K intake with your doctor.

Article sources: Bambin Gesu Hospital, Veronesi Foundation, Health Gov

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