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Failure to Thrive

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 1, 2023.

Failure to thrive (FTT) is when your child does not gain weight or grow as fast as he or she should. FTT is a long-term condition and your child may continue to need treatment and monitoring as he or she grows up.


Prevent or manage FTT:

  • Go to follow-up appointments: Take your child to see providers as recommended.
  • Keep records: Measure and record your child's weight as directed. You may also be asked to keep a written record of what and how much your child eats. Bring these records to your child's follow-up visits. This will help you and your child's providers find if certain foods are causing his or her problems.
  • Help your child eat well: Do not force your child to eat or feed him or her too quickly. Praise your child when he or she eats well. Start with small amounts of food and increase the amount over time. Limit snacks so his or her appetite for a regular meal is not reduced. Limit your child's daily intake of fruit juice to less than 8 ounces. Have meals at regular times with other family members. Do not allow your child to eat while doing other things such as watching TV or playing on the computer. If your child is eating table food, feed him or her healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, and dairy products.
  • Track your child's development: If your child is an infant or toddler, keep track of when he or she develops new skills or meets certain milestones. These include things like rolling over, standing, walking, talking, and putting words together. A record of these things will make it easier to see if your child is developing normally for his or her age.
  • Reduce your child's exposure to stress: Find ways to manage stress at home. Ask family members or your child's caregivers if you feel that you need help.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider or specialist as directed:

Your child may need to return to make sure that he or she is growing as he or she should. You and your child may need to see a lactation counselor, dietitian, social worker, gastroenterologist, or counselor to help him or her. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child is vomiting or has diarrhea.
  • Your child has a fever, or his or her skin is red or swollen.
  • Your child is not growing or gaining more weight as fast as he or she should, even with treatment.
  • Your child is not speaking, walking, or doing other things other children his or her age can do.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • Your child is very irritable and cannot be consoled.
  • Your child has had fewer than 4 wet diapers in the last 24 hours.
  • Your child's soft spot on the top of his or her head is sunken.
  • Your child cries without tears, has sunken eyes, and his or her mouth is dry.
  • Your child is weak and sleeping more than usual.
  • Your child is listless and not responsive to you.
  • Your child's body is swollen, and his or her skin has an abnormal color. His or her skin may be peeling.
  • You suspect that someone may be harming or abusing your child.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Failure to Thrive

Treatment options

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.