A to Z: Failure to Thrive

A to Z: Failure to Thrive

A to Z: Failure to Thrive

Failure to thrive refers to a child's inability to gain weight and grow as expected. Most diagnoses of failure to thrive are made in the first few years of life.

More to Know

Failure to thrive can be caused by a variety of medical conditions and social factors ranging from gastrointestinal problems and metabolic disorders to poor nutrition and emotional deprivation.

Infants or children who fail to thrive do not follow standard growth charts for height, weight, and head circumference. In addition, their weight is lower than the 3rd percentile and 20% below the ideal weight for their height. Their personal growth curve may slow down or stop altogether.

Undernourished kids can become constipated, disinterested in their surroundings, irritable, and lethargic. They might not reach developmental milestones like sitting up, walking, and talking at the usual age. Teenagers might not see the changes that puberty usually brings.

Failure to thrive is treated according to the cause. The primary goal of treatment is usually to increase the number and quality of calories consumed.

Keep in Mind

When diagnosed and treated early, infants and children who are failing to thrive can begin or continue to grow and develop normally.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.





Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2014 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.





Bookmark and Share

Related Resources
Web SiteNational Center for Nutrition and Dietetics Offering nutrition information, resources, and access to registered dietitians.
Web SiteWomen, Infants, and Children (WIC) The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children - better known as the WIC Program - serves to safeguard the health of low-income women, infants, & children up to age 5 who are at nutritional risk by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, information on healthy eating, and referrals to health care.
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.
Web SiteZero to Three Zero to Three is a national nonprofit organization that promotes the health and development of infants and toddlers.
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Family Physicians This site, operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), provides information on family physicians and health care, a directory of family physicians, and resources on health conditions.
Related Articles
Growth Charts 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.
What Is a Growth Disorder? The other kids in the class have been getting taller and developing into young adults, but your child's growth seems to be lagging behind. Could a growth disorder be the cause?
Failure to Thrive Sometimes kids don't meet expected standards of growth. Most still follow growth patterns that are normal, but others have "failure to thrive" - they fail to gain weight as expected and have poor height growth.
Hunger and Malnutrition Even people who have plenty to eat may be malnourished if they don't eat food that provides the right nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
Your Child's Growth 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?
iGrow iGrow
Sign up for our parent enewsletter