by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Failure-to-thrive is when a child is not growing as expected. The child's height and weight is often below that of other children their age.
Failure-to-thrive is caused by a lack of nutrition. This may be from:
This problem is more common in babies who are born very early and those who are born with a low birth weight. Other things that may raise a child's risk are:
Family and social risk factors may be:
The main symptom is slowed growth height and weight growth. Other problems may be:
You will be asked about your child's symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. It will include measurements of height, weight, and body mass. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.
More tests may be done to look for what is causing the problem.
Any underlying problems causing failure-to-thrive will be treated. The goal of treatment will be to improve nutrition and boost growth. This can be done with:
Family and social support may also be needed. This can be done with parent training and family counseling.
The risk of failure-to-thrive may be lowered with regular doctor visits to check for growth problems.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
Public Health Agency of Canada
Failure to thrive. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated November 2014. Accessed January 10, 2020.
Failure to thrive in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/failure-to-thrive-in-children. Updated October 23, 2018. Accessed January 10, 2020.
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guideline on recognition and management of faltering growth. NICE 2017 Sep:NG75.
Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD
Last Updated: 8/21/2020
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at email@example.com. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.