Children may be diagnosed with failure to thrive, or growth delay, when their weight or rate of weight gain is significantly below the average for their age and gender.

Growth during the initial stages of life is very quick; however in some cases infants and childrendon’t meet the expected growth rate due to an underlying medical problem or feeding condition. Many infants may eventually catch up to their normal growth potential, but those that don’t may be diagnosed with failure to thrive (FTT).

FTT,or growth delay during childhood, is the result of undernutrition, which may be caused by a number of potential diseases or conditions. Congenital abnormalities, neurological problems, infections or low birth weight, as well as environmental factors such as poor eating habits or domestic issues are some examples that can affect FTT.

Providing adequate nutrition is as important as treating the underlying problem itself.Delivering the appropriate levels of nutrients as early as possible can lead to better physical and mental development of the child. In many cases,a nutrient dense diet is recommended so that children can catch up on their growth and weight gain. In infants, this might be achieved by breastfeeding more frequently; in bottle-fed infants or older children, other techniques or specialized formulas may be required.

At Nestlé Health Science, we are committed to providing infants and children with growth problems with tailor-made nutritional options to help them meet their nutritional needs in order to grow and develop normally.

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Growth variation is normal in children

In the first two years of life, about a quarter of all children who go on to grow normally will shift down their weight or height on a standard growth curve and then follow that percentile; often, this growth variation is normal andmay not be considered failure to thrive. However, any decrease in weight should be assessed by a health care provider.



Infants and children who are diagnosed with failure to thrive (FTT) may need up to 150% of the recommended daily caloric intake1 for their expected (not actual) weight gain. In infants this may be accomplished by concentrating formula or,during later stages of infancy, adding rice cereal to pureed foods. In toddlers, adding fat-rich foods such as cheese, butter, or oils to common toddler foods can help. Keeping toddlers on whole milk or providing whole milk yogurt is another strategy for adding calories.

  1. Krugman SD, Dubowitz H. Failure to Thrive. Am Fam Physician. 2003: 68(5):879-884.


Because infants need almost three times the amount of energy as that of an adult (in calories per kilogram of body weight), it is easy to understand how quickly infants can fall behind in growth if they are not getting their adequate nutrition. Keeping a diary of the type and amount of food a child eats over a three-day period is one way of quantifying caloric intake.



In toddlers and older children with failure to thrive (FTT), fruit juices should be limited to between six and twelve ounces per day. Juices and juice drinks can contribute to poor growth by diminishing a child's appetite for more nutrient-rich foods, and thus limit the intake of caloriesin the child.