Failure To Thrive is a delay in normal increases in height and weight that might lead to delays in the developmental process and maturation.

Failure To Thrive is a diagnosis given to babies who are consistently less than the normal weight for their age or who do not gain weight for unclear reasons. There may be many reasons for this. Many reasons for this involve environmental and social factors that interact to keep the baby from having the nutrition the baby needs. There are times when medical issues prevent a baby from developing normally. Another significant contributing factor is the child's own intolerances.

When There Are Environmental And Social Causes

Many environmental and social factors can be a part of Failure To Thrive. Parental neglect or abuse, parental mental health difficulties, and chaotic family conditions in which routine, nutritious meals are not provided, may all interfere with a child's appetite and intake of food. The amount of money a family makes available for food and the nutritional value of the food they provide also affects development. Also, inadequate intake of food may be a symptom of poor parenting and not enough stimulation from the environment.

When The Causes Are Medical Disorders

Sometimes Failure To Thrive Syndrome is brought on by a medical disorder in the baby. The disorder can be as minor as difficulty drinking, chewing, or swallowing (as with a cleft lip or cleft palate). Other medical problems, such as gastroesophageal reflux, esophagus narrowing, or poor intestinal absorption, may also affect a child's ability to retain, absorb, or process food. And, other medical problems such as infection, tumor, metabolic or hormonal disorders (such as cystic fibrosis or diabetes), heart disease, kidney disease, genetic disorders, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection are other medical reasons for Failure To Thrive.

When The Causes Are Based In Intolerances

And, sometimes child and infant Failure To Thrive is brought on by the baby's defenses reacting to normal things in the environment as if those normal things were toxic. This is a intolerance of some things in the environment which the child's defenses thinks is toxic.

This response to this "toxic attack" could be shutting down the baby's normal developmental process as a temporary protective measure until the "attack" stops. But, because these things in the environment are not toxic to others, the family and the medical professionals do not know to eliminate these "toxic" things from the baby's environment. In this case this temporary protective defensive response continues on an ongoing basis. This means that the baby's own defenses interferes with the baby's normal developmental process indefinitely, because of the child's intolerances.

Diagnosis For The Problems Based In Medical Disorders And Environmental And Social Roots

Doctors indicate that a child has Failure To Thrive when a baby's weight or rate of growth is much less than what it should be when compared with former measurements or standard age-height-weight charts. If the rate of growth is adequate, the baby may be small but still growing appropriately.

To find out why a baby may be failing to grow normally, doctors ask parents specific questions about feeding, bowel habits, social, emotional, and financial stability of the family, which might affect the baby's access to nutrition, and illnesses that the baby has had or that run in the family. The doctor examines the baby, looking for signs of conditions that might explain the baby's growth delay. The doctor makes decisions about blood and urine tests and x-rays based on this initial evaluation. More extensive testing is performed only if the doctor suspects an underlying disease.

Finding The Child's Intolerances

There are some published diets (GFCF Diet and Feingold Diet) which attempt to address these intolerance and sensitivity issues. These diets work well for those children who are sensitive to the things which are specifically restricted by these programs. But, for the majority of children whose intolerances are affecting their growth and development, these diets are incomplete and not specifically tailored for them.

It is best to have a specialist, who knows how to perform this specific test for intolerance and sensitivity, work with your child to determine your child's precise list of intolerances. Those who specialize in this kind of testing can include some chiropractors, some nutritionists, and other wellness practitioners trained for this type of evaluation.

Treatment and Prognosis For The Problems Based In Medical Disorders And Environmental And Social Roots

The medical disorders and environmental and social issues approach assumes there is something wrong with the baby's body or the child's social environment. These interventions are focused on a problem in the baby's nutritional processing or nutritional access.

Treatment intervention depends on the cause of the problem. If a medical problem is found, specific treatment is given. Otherwise, treatment depends on how far below normal the baby's weight is. Mild to moderate Failure To Thrive is treated with nutritious high-calorie feedings provided on a regular schedule. Parents could be counseled about family interactions that are dangerous for the child and about financial and social resources available to them. Severe Failure To Thrive is treated in the hospital where social workers, nutritionists, feeding specialists, psychiatrists, and other specialists team together to determine the most likely causes of the child's Failure To Thrive and the best approach to recovery.

Treatment For The Problems Based In Intolerances

The interventions for the intolerances approach is to determine which things in the environment the baby is reacting to and eliminates those from the baby's environment. When the baby is no longer reacting to those, the normal developmental process kicks in and development can proceed normally. With this approach, food is absorbed appropriately and development starts to catch up. There are specialists in Failure To Thrive syndrome who can determine your child's intolerances and coach you in getting your child back on track.


The environmental and social approach for Failure To Thrive children assumes that something is wrong in the baby's social environment in such a way that nourishment is not available or is not accepted by the baby.

The medical disorders approach for Failure To Thrive infants and children assumes that nourishment is not being processed and absorbed by the baby because of some medical problem.

The intolerances approach for Failure To Thrive children assumes that the baby is having defensive reactions to environmental factors and these defensive reactions are shutting down the normal growth and developmental process.

Author's Bio: 

Rodger Bailey, MS has been working with brain function and behavior since the late 70s. In recent years, he has developed protocols which re-engage the stuck or sluggish developmental process for children with developmental problems. Children with Failure To Thrive need support to get back on track and Rodger coaches parents in doing this.