Vitamin K deficiency remains a world-wide problem in the newborn. Vitamin K traverses the placenta from mother to infant very poorly and is present only in very low concentrations in human milk. Thus, it is not surprising that the newborn infant has undetectable vitamin K serum levels with abnormal amounts of the coagulation proteins and undercarboxylated prothrombin. Hemorrhagic disease of the newborn, secondary to vitamin K deficiency, remains largely a disease of breastfed infants. Lactating mothers easily achieve the recommended dietary allowance for vitamin K (1 microg kg(-1) d(-1)) and the breast milk concentration is readily increased by increasing maternal vitamin K intake. Breastfed infants do not receive the recommended vitamin K intake via human milk. To prevent vitamin K deficiency in the newborn, intramuscular or oral vitamin K prophylaxis is necessary.