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Health Information For Parents
When growing kids don’t gain weight as they should, it is called “failure to thrive.”
Failure to thrive is not a disease or disorder itself. Rather, it’s a sign that a child is undernourished. In general, kids who fail to thrive are not getting enough calories to grow and gain weight in a healthy way. When kids can’t gain weight, they also often may not grow as tall as they should.
Kids need to get enough calories to learn and develop well. So kids with failure to thrive might start to walk and talk later than other kids, and can have trouble learning in school.
Different things can cause failure to thrive, including:
Sometimes a mix of things leads to failure to thrive. For instance, if a baby has severe GER and is reluctant to eat, feeding times can be stressful. The baby may be upset and frustrated, and the caregiver might not be able to get the baby to eat enough.
Other times, doctors aren’t sure exactly what causes the problem.
Many babies and kids go through brief periods when they don’t gain as much weight as expected. But if a child continues to not gain enough weight or loses weight, doctors try to find out why.
They’ll ask for a child’s health history, including a feeding history. This helps them see if underfeeding, household stresses, or feeding problems might be causing the problem. A dietitian or other health care professional also may track the calories in a child’s diet to make sure the child is getting enough.
Doctors measure a child’s weight, length, and head circumference at each well-child checkup and put the results on a growth chart. Children may have failure to thrive if they weigh less than most kids their age or aren’t gaining weight as quickly as they should.
Doctors might order tests (such as blood tests or urine tests) to check for medical problems that could affect a child’s weight and growth.
Treating kids who fail to thrive involves making sure they get the calories needed to grow. The care team also will address any causes for poor weight gain they find. A child’s care team may include:
Usually, kids who have failure to thrive can be treated at home. They’ll also have regular doctor visits to check on weight gain. Doctors often recommend high-calorie foods and, for babies, a high-calorie formula.
Doctors also might recommend:
Weight gain takes time, so it might be several months before a child is back in the normal range.
Some children with failure to thrive might need care in a hospital. They’ll be fed and watched around the clock for several days (or longer) until they gain some weight. After leaving the hospital, the child will continue treatment at home.
It can be hard to learn that your child has failure to thrive. No matter what’s causing it, there are ways to help and support your child. You can:
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“What’s the right weight for my child?” is one of the most common questions parents have. It seems like a simple one, but it’s not always easy to answer.
Good nutrition and a balanced diet help kids grow up healthy. Here’s how to improve nutrition and encourage smart eating habits.
Doctors use body mass index (BMI) measurements to assess a child’s physical growth in relation to other kids the same age. Here’s how to calculate BMI and understand what the numbers mean.
From the moment parents greet their newborn, they watch the baby’s progress eagerly. But how can they tell if their child is growing properly?
Doctors use growth charts to figure out whether kids’ height and weight measurements are “normal” and whether they’re developing on track. Here are some facts about growth charts.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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