Failure to thrive is a condition in which children are unable to retain or use the needed calories for adequate weight gain and expected growth. Babies and toddlers are measured against growth and development charts to determine what the desired growth pattern should be. The average full term infant doubles his birth weight by 4 months of age and triples the birth weight at 1 year of age. The failure to thrive diagnosis is usually made in the first few years of life.
Failure to thrive is a general diagnosis which can have many underlying causes including:
Social factors may account for many failure to thrive diagnosis’s. Some parents restrict the amount of breast milk or formula that is fed to their baby. Lack of money to purchase formula and fear of infant’s becoming overweight are some reasons that contribute to diet restriction. Babies should be feeding an average of 8 to 12 times in a 24 hour period. Over time, ailing to meet these feeding goals can lead to failure to thrive.
There are a variety of gastrointestinal disorders which can lead to failure to thrive including diarrhea, cystic fibrosis, and reflux.
Diarrhea interferes with the ability to hold onto the nutrients from the breast milk or formula. Cystic fibrosis and other malabsorptive diseases limit the absorption of needed nutrients. Reflux causes esophageal irritation and makes it very painful for the infant to feed.
Conditions such as cleft lip or cleft palate can make it difficult for an infant to feed. Respiratory, cardiac, and endocrine disorders can increase the amount of needed caloric intake making it very difficult to supply.
Some infections cause great strain on the infant body. Due to the increased strain, there is an increased nutritional need. This need can become very difficult to supply and can lead to short or long term failure to thrive.
Treating failure to thrive is extremely important after initial diagnosis of the condition and is based on treating the underlying cause of the condition. Failure to thrive treatment can range from introduction of high calorie infant formula to infant hospitalization and tube feedings. Careful monitoring of infant growth and behavior during failure to thrive treatment is necessary to properly obtain treatment effectiveness. The ultimate complication of failure to thrive is death.
Some cases of failure to thrive can require many health care professionals to be involved.
Nutritionists may be involved to determine the infant’s specific caloric needs. Occupational therapists and speech therapists may also be included to help the infant develop sucking or swallowing behaviors.
Although genetics will play a part in any infant growth and development, all infants should gain steady amounts of weight. This underlines the importance of obtaining regular well baby check ups and contacting your health care provider with any infant feeding problems.