Modern medicine — especially pediatrics — is based on scientific evidence, which results in certain “standards of care.”  As a rule, physicians don’t recommend things because “it sounds good,” or “this used to work back in the day.”  We live in the twenty-first century, and doctors and patients have higher expectations regarding modern medical care.

We’ve certainly seen our share of examples on The PediaBlog of parents who demand care for their children that contradicts what science tells us is correct: parents who refuse, delay, or split vaccines; umbilical cords being separated by flame instead of by shears; parents who demand treatments (especially antibiotics) when they are clearly not indicated — in direct contradiction to scientific evidence, critical thinking, and even common sense.

Now, says Amanda Marcotte, there is a new phenomenon for pediatricians to be concerned about:

Now, it’s not just vaccines that parents are foolishly rejecting for their children, but also a simple injection of vitamin K that has been a standard part of newborn care since the 1960s.


Yes, you read that right.  Granted, almost all of my patients are born in hospitals and not at home (on purpose), so I have not, thankfully, seen this phenomenon in practice.  But with so much utter nonsense being promulgated by people who know less than they think they do about vaccines (I’m being kind here), it’s just a matter of time until parents get the idea that the newborn dose of vitamin K is somehow “optional.”

All newborns are born deficient in vitamin K.  It takes about three months for the baby’s gastrointestinal organ function and bacterial colonies to develop and mature enough to provide this vitamin essential for normal blood clotting.  Infant formula doesn’t provide enough vitamin K, breast milk provides even less, and oral administration is fraught with compliance issues (and, besides, is not available in the United States).  Since 1961, it has been the standard of care to provide newborn infants — all of whom are deficient in vitamin K — an intramuscular injection of the vitamin into the thigh shortly (within minutes or hours) after birth.  Its purpose is to prevent the 100%-preventable little-baby-horror-show of vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB), otherwise known as hemorrhagic disease of the newborn.  This is safe, efficient, and effective prophylaxis that newborn babies receive to prevent spontaneous, life-altering — even life-threatening — bleeding in their brains.  Yet there is a group — a very small group (in this “information age” it seems bigger than it truly is) — of so-called experts and know-it-alls-who-know-very-little, who encourage new parents to refuse this simple medical intervention. And so one seemingly unshakeable, unchallengable ritual is in danger of falling at the hands of people who think we’ve learned nothing from last century’s human experience.

We live in the twenty-first century now.  There is a reason why we use scissors to cut the umbilical cord, why we provide antibiotics only when they are needed, why we give vaccines (completely and on time), and why we give newborns vitamin K prophylaxis.  We didn’t make it all up!  A lot of people suffered and died (most certainly, one or more of your ancestors, and mine) for humans to gain the insight and knowledge we now have to prevent and fight disease.  This generation truly is smarter than the last one. Parents refusing vitamin K for their precious newborns?  Like those who refuse vaccines, it makes no sense — scientific sense, medical sense, common sense:  it’s nonsense.

Pediatrician Clay Jones writes in Science-Based Medicine about the rituals newborns and their parents experience during the newborn period; rituals based on common sense and science.  His thoughts on these rituals are worth sharing, as is his thorough debunking of the nonsense surrounding the fears generated by know-nothings about vitamin K prophylaxis.

We’ll have that tomorrow.