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Failure to Thrive in Infants and Children

What is Failure to Thrive?

Failure to thrive is identified in infants and young children rather than in teenagers or adults. This places a concern to the affected as this not to be taken lightly for this condition is associated the developmental process of the young and also the emotional aspect of the child. This condition is described as the deceleration of the growth of the affected infant and child. This is commonly found in babies who were born premature. This can be corrected as the baby has continued follow-ups and proper nutrition provided for.

The condition is easily discoverable, especially when the infant or child is frequently sent to the doctor or pediatrician for monitoring its weight and built. But the infants shall be measured for its weight and size with accordance to the normal or ideal chart of growth and development. This is a form of evaluation that comes along with attesting the child’s development and normal functioning. A delay to such will indicate the presence of the condition, failure to thrive.

failure to thrive in children

Comparison of Failure to thrive baby (left) and normal child (right)


Infants and children suffering from failure to thrive manifest the following symptoms:

  1. Appropriate weight gain not attained by the infant and child, in the basis provided for from a chart for the child’s G & D (Growth and Development).
  2. The child is easily irritated and easy fatigability is noted. Increased sleepiness is also observed from the child.
  3. Some developmental milestones are not ideally attained according to age.
  4. The child seems to avoid eye contact.
  5. Motor development is also delayed.
  6. Basically, the infant or child has lost about 10 % to 20 % of his/her normal body weight.

Failure to Thrive Causes

There are a number of causes for failure to thrive. It may be rooted from the mother’s inability to provide the nutrition or care for the child or it can be classified as from an organic cause, meaning from a medical disorder. The causes of failure to thrive can be classified according to organic and non-organic causes:

a) Organic Causes of Failure to Thrive

Organic or endogenous cause of failure to thrive can be derived from a medical disorder or from an underlying condition. There are certain medical disorders that trigger such condition. This can be pointed out from a chromosomal problem, which is a common cause. A thyroid gland deficiency is also likely to cause failure to thrive. When the problem involves the GI system, this can result to FTT as the child or infant becomes unable to take in and digest the supplements from food. When absorption is also involved, there should be difficulty in digestion and sufficient nutrition to the child. Other conditions related to organic FTT are liver problems and celiac disease.

b) Non Organic Causes of Failure to Thrive

Non-organic causes of FTT or also known as exogenous FTT are primarily from external stimuli. There are no medical issues constituted with this condition. The development of FTT is rooted from the caregiver’s lack of attention or can be due to the socioeconomic status of the family. This type of cause is very common in third world countries, who are striving for food and health. This can also be due to the maladaptive behavior that a parent or guardian possess. There are conditions related to FTT due to the primary caregiver’s suffering from deep depression, alcohol abuse, and lack of affection toward the infant or child.

Failure to Thrive Diagnosis

In order to diagnose such condition, one is set to assess for signs of failure to thrive. One should have a list of the possible signs of the medical condition. Vital changes in the child’s physical appearance, seemingly the child presents malnourishment, and then this can assist in the possibility of failure to thrive. The infants can be assessed thoroughly and in a monthly basis. The child’s weight and head circumference are measured monthly to check for vital changes and growth. There developmental growth can also be assessed through checking for the child’s attained milestones and also through consulting a developmental chart accordingly.

Assessing the caregiver’s ability to provide care and nutrition to the child and infant shall also provide sufficient information on the status of the child. There role is much significant in the development of the condition, as this interview is much obliged during the child’s examination.


Treatment for FTT is aimed to provide comfort and proper growth and development of the child. It is essential that the underlying condition is identified so corresponding treatment shall be provided. The following are proposed therapies for FTT:

  1. Underlying conditions should be managed accordingly. This can avoid further causing harm to the child or infant.
  2. Provide high caloric foods to the child. Avoid foods that can induce diarrhea which is another form for worsening the condition. Proper food supplementation is necessary to be provided to the child.
  3. Guidance is much obliged to the coping parents or caregivers. When it has been assessed that the condition is caused by a non-organic stimuli, then this should be taken care of by assisting the caregivers.
  4. There are many unavoidable causes, such as poverty or abandonment. This cannot be easily altered but suggesting that the child is to be treated for good foster care may be necessary as to help the child withstand the ailment.

Failure to Thrive Prevention

This condition can be avoided as this shall start with the caregiver. Parenting classes are provided so knowledge of the condition shall be made aware of and that possibility of the medical condition to arise is far from happening. Assisting the caregivers to be responsible enough to the care of the infant or child can help prevent such condition.

Detecting the problems ahead of time is also a preventive measure. This can help in, if not preventing the condition, avoiding the worsening of FTT. Avoidance in illicit drugs is necessary as this can precipitate premature babies. Alcohol abuse in much prohibited to expecting mothers.

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