Failure to Thrive (FTT)

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Failure to thrive (FTT) or poor weight gain refers to a condition in which an infant or child does not gain weight at the expected standard of growth. Failure to thrive is not a disease, but rather a sign that a child is undernourished. Failure to thrive is usually the result of one of three main categories:

  • Inadequate nutritional intake
  • Inadequate caloric absorption
  • Excessive caloric expenditure

Because failure to thrive typically occurs in infants and toddlers, it is important to address it quickly, as this is a crucial time in brain development. Poor or inadequate nutrition can have permanent negative effects if not corrected. Regularly scheduled well-check appointments with your doctor are the first line of defense against failure to thrive. To learn more about failure to thrive and how you can help your child, contact a GI Alliance physician.

In order to diagnose failure to thrive, a parent should keep a log of measurements of their child’s body. This log should include accurate information about the child’s:

  • Weight
  • Height (length)
  • Head circumference

This account may aid your doctor in diagnosing failure to thrive in a child.

While some children may have other factors contributing to low weight, such as small parents, or premature birth, any child who meets the failure to thrive criteria should be monitored closely. If an underlying medical problem is suspected, your doctor may order other diagnostic tests.

Treating failure to thrive may vary from case to case. Treatment may involve a regiment of nutritional counseling for catch-up growth. Some treatment possibilities may include:

  • More frequent breastfeeding
  • Lactation support
  • Formula supplementation
  • Adjusting formula concentration
  • Consumption of higher-calorie foods
  • Nutritional supplements

In severe cases, a child may require a nighttime feeding tube to administer liquid nutrients, or sometimes, hospitalization. The primary goal of treatment is to provide nutrition for the child to promote long-term growth and development while also providing parental support in any form necessary. If you have questions about this treatment for your child, please consult your GI Alliance gastroenterologist.

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If your infant or toddler has been diagnosed with failure to thrive, you might be worried or concerned about your child's wellbeing. The expert gastroenterologists at GI Alliance aim to provide patients and their families with skilled care that upholds the highest in clinical standards. If you have questions about your child's treatment for failure to thrive, then please speak to your local GI Alliance location for more information.

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