Failure to thrive refers to children whose current weight or rate of weight gain is significantly lower than that of other children of similar age and gender.
Growth failure; FTT; Feeding disorder; Poor feeding
It is important to determine whether failure to thrive results from medical problems or factors in the environment, such as abuse or neglect.
There are many medical causes of failure to thrive. These include:
Other factors that may lead to failure to thrive:
Many times the cause cannot be determined.
Children that fail to thrive seem to be much smaller or shorter than other children the same age. Teenagers may not appear to have the usual changes that occur at puberty. However, it's important to remember that the way children grow and develop varies quite a bit. See: Normal growth and development
Symptoms of failure to thrive include:
In general, the child's rate of change in weight and height may be more important than the actual growth measurements.
Children who fail to thrive may have the following delayed or slow to develop:
Babies who fail to gain weight or develop often have a lack of interest in feeding or a problem receiving the proper amount of nutrition. This is called "poor feeding."
Other symptoms that may be seen in a child that fails to thrive include:
The doctor will perform a physical exam and check the child's height, weight, and body shape. You will be asked questions about the child's medical and family history.
A special test called the Denver Developmental Screening Test will be used to show any delays in development. A growth chart outlining all types of growth since birth is created.
The following tests may be done:
Treatment depends on the cause of the delayed growth and development. Delayed growth due to nutritional factors can be helped by showing the parents how to provide a well-balanced diet.
Do not give your child dietary supplements such as Boost or Ensure without talking to your health care provider first.
Other treatment depends on the severity of the condition. The following may be recommended:
The child may need to stay in the hospital for a little while.
Treatment may also involve improving the family relationships and living conditions. Sometimes, the parent's attitudes and behavior may contribute to a child's failure to thrive.
Normal growth and development may be affected if a child fails to thrive for a long time.
Normal growth and development may continue if the child has failed to thrive for a short time, and the cause is determined and treated.
Permanent mental, emotional, or physical delays can occur.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if your child does not seem to be developing normally.
Regular check-ups can help detect failure to thrive in children.
McLean HS, Price DT. Failure to thrive. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 38.