What is failure to thrive?

Failure to thrive (FTT) is a term that is traditionally used to describe children who have failed to develop and grow as expected. In general practice, FTT is commonly used for any child who fails to gain weight or height according to standard medical growth charts. Failure to thrive is diagnosed when a child's weight for age is below the fifth percentile or crosses two major percentile lines.

FTT occurs when a child is either not receiving adequate calories or is unable to
properly use the calories that are given, resulting in failure to grow or gain weight
over a period of time.

Click here to download your own Duocal growth charts – Watch your child grow...

What causes failure to thrive?

FTT can result from a wide variety of underlying causes. In some cases, doctors are
unable to pinpoint a specific cause. However, some children fail to thrive because of:

Heredity Children are a reflection of their parents growth patterns and height. Parents who were late bloomers and experienced slow growth and late pubertal development may see the same pattern in their children.

Social Factors

In some cases, doctors may not identify a medical problem but may find that psychological, social, or economic problems within the family are causing the failure to thrive. For example, some parents may restrict their child’s diet out of fear that they will get fat. In some cases, living in poverty can lead to an inability to provide the child with necessary nutrition.
Medical Conditions Conditions involving the gastrointestinal system like gastroesophageal reflux, chronic diarrhea, cystic fibrosis, chronic liver disease and celiac disease. Many of these conditions are associated with malabsorption which interferes with the body’s ability to absorb the necessary nutrients and calories from food.

Nutritional problems can influence growth in two ways. Failure to thrive is commonly due to inadequate intake of essential nutrients, not enough calories or eating the wrong food groups. Secondly, diseases can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb the necessary nutrients and calories from food required for growth.

Metabolic Disorders Metabolic disorders can make it difficult for the body to break down, process or derive energy from food, or they can cause a build up of toxins during the breakdown process, which can make the child feel unwell or vomit.
Milk-Protein Intolerance This condition can initially affect the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients until it is recognized and treated. Treatment often involves a restricted diet which can occasionally lead to failure to thrive.


What are the symptoms of failure to thrive?

The following are the most common symptoms of failure to thrive. However, each child
may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Lack of appropriate weight gain
  • Irritability
  • Easily fatigued
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Lack of age-appropriate social response (i.e. smile)
  • Avoids eye contact
  • Lack of molding to the mother's body
  • Does not make vocal sounds
  • Delayed motor development

The symptoms of failure to thrive may resemble other conditions or medical problems.
Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

How is it diagnosed?

Failure to thrive is usually discovered and diagnosed by the child's physician.

Doctors diagnose failure to thrive by using standard growth charts to plot the child's
weight, length and head circumference. Children who fall below a certain weight at the
expected rate will likely be evaluated further to determine if there is a problem. When
FTT is recognized, your doctor will talk with you about your child's symptoms, obtain a
dietary history and perform a physical examination.


How is it treated?

Treatment of failure to thrive depends upon the age of the child, the associated symptoms and the underlying reason for the poor growth. FTT can be treated in a number of ways. The first way is to treat the problem that is causing your child to be underweight. The second way is to increase the number of calories your child is eating. The overall goal of treatment is to provide adequate calories and any other support necessary to promote the growth of your child.

A pediatric nutritionist can suggests ways to provide your child with more calories by
suggesting high calorie foods that are high in protein with lots of nutrients to provide the
additional calories needed to help your child catch up with their growth. They may also
suggest a high calorie supplement to add even more calories to your child's diet.

What is Duocal and how can it help my child?

Duocal is a high-calorie nutritional supplement for when additional calories are required for catch-up growth.

Click here for more information about how Duocal can help your child.  


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