For many children, breast-feeding is their sole source of vitamin K. Breast-fed infants are at risk for vitamin K-responsive Hemorrhagic Disease of the Newborn (HDNB). Recent advances in technology have made it possible for the first quantitative studies to be done on vitamin K in breast milk. Current published methodologies are quite limited and more research is needed, specifically across the duration of the lactation period. The following limitations are also recognized:

  • A better understanding of how colostrum functions in regards to vitamin K, in addition to other nutrients, is needed
  • Vitamin K levels in breast-milk in premature births has not been well-researched
  • The significance of menaquinones as a vitamin K source for infants has not yet been determined
  • The mechanism regulating vitamin K secretion into milk is not well-understood
  • The localization of vitamin K in milk is undetermined as is the relationship of vitamin K to other milk lipids
  • The effects of fat-soluble vitamins in the diet on vitamin K concentrations in milk are not well understood
  • The pharmacokinetics of vitamin K supplements for mothers are particularly important in cultures where vitamin K is not routinely administered at birth

Finally, the relationship between the vitamin K levels in mothers and infants is of particular importance. Since breast milk is the sole source of vitamin K for most infants, HDNB remains a very real threat to infant health and warrants significant study.

Works Cited:

LM,¬†Canfield, JM, Hopkinson. “State of the art vitamin K in human milk”. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 1989 May 8. Web. 2013 Aug 14.