The first few years in a child's life are critical period during which the most dramatic changes in growth and mental development take place. When a baby or toddler doesn't gain weight and grow at the predicted rate, a doctor may say that the child is failing to thrive. In many cases, failure to thrive and its accompanying symptoms can be the key to effectively diagnosing cystic fibrosis as early as possible.
Failure to Thrive (FTT) is detected when a child falls below the 80th percentile for height and weight at a given age. Failure to thrive is a somewhat ambiguous term, is not a formal diagnosis. However, it serves as a starting point for exploring the underlying cause of the condition.
Symptoms or behaviors that may indicate failure to thrive include:
-Frequent diarrhea or vomiting
-Irritability and colic
-Unfocused eyes, inability to concentrate
-Developmental benchmarks such as sitting up, talking, etc. are not reached when expected
In many cases, failure to thrive is connected to a baby's inability to eat or utilize calories and nutrients properly. The causes can be either physical, as in the case of a child with a cleft palate who cannot suckle for breast or bottle feeding. Failure to thrive may also be the result of a chronic condition like cystic fibrosis, in which the pancreas cannot secrete the enzymes required to help the body absorb food. Food allergies, celiac disease, and inability to tolerate milk protein are just a few of the underlying causes of failure to thrive in infants.
A child who is failing to thrive may also be the product of a poor socio-economic environment. Living in poverty without access to health care, or an inability to buy the appropriate foods for an infant, can cause failure to thrive. Sadly, failure to thrive is sometimes caused by child abuse.
Doctors rely on growth charts to determine whether an infant is growing normally. Specifically, a baby's birth weight should double by the age of 4 months, and should grow almost 10 inches in the first year. Although birth weight may drop initially, when an infant does not recover that lost weight in a suitable amount of time (2 weeks), the doctor will look into the reasons as to why. Even babies who are born prematurely are expected to progress according to an adjusted growth chart.
Correctly diagnosing the cause of FTT as early as possible is essential to prescribing the most appropriate and effective treatment plan.