Faltering growth

What is faltering growth?

Faltering growth” is a term used for when infants and young children do not gain weight as quickly as expected for their age and sex. Growth may be slow or, in some cases, the child may actually lose weight. As such, faltering growth is a common cause for concern for parents.

Symptoms of faltering growth

The key symptom is slow weight gain, no weight gain, or even weight loss. Infants have their weight monitored in regular check-ups with doctors, so faltering growth is usually spotted quickly.

In the first few days of life, it is normal for a baby to lose some weight. This is usually to do with body fluid adjustments. As feeding patterns are established, they will then slowly gain weight, with most infants regaining their birth weight by three weeks.

However, if the infant loses 10% of their birth weight, this requires investigation, including a clinical assessment and observation of feeding.

What are the causes of faltering growth?

Faltering growth is most commonly caused by inadequate nutrition. A range of factors can be responsible, including:

  • Ineffective suckling or bottle feeding
  • Feeding aversion
  • Physical disorders that affect feeding
  • Inadequate feeding patterns/routines
  • Interaction between parents and child, including behaviour caused by post-natal depression or anxiety in the mother

Treatments for faltering growth

First, the situation must be assessed by a doctor, by observing how the child is fed and with a clinical assessment.

The doctor may offer feeding support measures, such as supplementary feeding with infant formula, or complementary solid food for older infants. For younger infants, the doctor may be able to offer advice to mothers on breastfeeding and how to promote their milk supply.

In severe cases where the child’s growth continues to falter and other measures are ineffective, perhaps due to a physical problem, a feeding tube may be required.

Which type of specialist treats faltering growth?

Paediatricians and paediatric gastroenterologists will be responsible for diagnosing and treating the causes of faltering growth.

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