Failure to thrive

Also known as: FTT, weight faltering, faltering weight

What is failure to thrive?

If an infant or child has a low body weight compared to other children of the same age/sex, is not maintaining or gaining weight at a normal rate, because of inadequate calorie intake, poor food absorption or increased caloric expenditure, the condition is known as failure to thrive. It may be related to a number of medical, behavioral and/or psychological problems.

What causes failure to thrive causes in infants and toddlers?

  • Inadequate intake: could be caused by breast feeding difficulties, incorrect formula preparation, lack of food availability to the infant, a cleft lip or palate, or other family factors.
  • Poor absorption: such as food allergies, malabsorption, pyloric stenosis and other complications.
  • Excessive caloric expenditure: could be due to chronic infections, chronic lung or heart disease, malignancy, etc.

What causes failure to thrive causes in children and adolescents?

  • Inadequate caloric intake: as a result of eating disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, or other family factors.
  • Poor absorption: due to malabsorption, inflammatory bowel disease (IDB), celiac disease, etc.
  • Excessive caloric expenditure: can be the symptom of  thyroid disease, chronic infection, immunodeficiencies, congenital heart disease, and others.

What are the signs/symptoms of failure to thrive?

The low body weight, inability to maintain weight or low rate of weight gain are the primary signs of failure to thrive. These can lead to additional complications such as delayed physical and mental development, delayed adolescence, irritability, constipation and fatigue.

What are failure to thrive care options?

Specific treatment will depend on a number of factors. Your child's age, how severe the signs/symptoms are, and the underlying cause. Usually management is complex and includes a number of pediatric subspecialists and a social worker, nutritionist, physical therapist, and others.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: May 12, 2023 03:58 PM