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Failure to thrive is a term used to describe a child who seems to
be gaining weight or height more slowly than other children of his or her age
and sex. A baby who has failed to thrive may seem slow to develop physical
skills, such as rolling over, standing, and walking. Slow growth also can lead
to delays in mental and social skills.
Failure to thrive can be caused by medical conditions, such as
anemia or thyroid problems. Some children do not thrive as expected because
they do not get enough to eat or they have emotional problems. A child who has
poor eating habits may also have stunted growth.
Not getting enough nutrients is the immediate cause of failure to
thrive, but the ultimate cause may be complicated and hard to determine.
Failure to thrive may point to caregiver
depression or another mental health problem that makes
it hard for the caregiver to interpret or respond to the child's needs.
If your child's failure to thrive is caused by a medical condition,
your doctor may be able to treat the condition. That may be enough to help your
child begin to gain weight at a normal rate. If your child has emotional
problems or has been affected by conditions at home, treatment may need to
include counseling and improving the home situation.
Your doctor may recommend that your child receive nutritional
therapy in the hospital. Your child may be able to develop at a normal rate if
the period of failure to thrive has been short.
Call 911 or other emergency services immediately if:
Call your doctor for an appointment if:
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerSusan C. Kim, MD - PediatricsSpecialist Medical ReviewerLouis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
Current as ofNovember 20, 2015
Current as of:
November 20, 2015
Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics & Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
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