When Your Child is Diagnosed With a Failure To Thrive
All new parents are eager to see their baby grow and develop into a strong healthy child and hope that they learn to enjoy a varied diet that will encourage good muscular, skeletal and neurological development but for some parents this maturity may be hindered for a number of reasons in early childhood, sometimes dangerously so from a condition called 'failure to thrive'.
What Exactly Is It?In the years following birth the newborn's body goes through some incredible processes, more so than at any other time of their life. Their body grows and develops more quickly during the first 24 months than in subsequent years and the vital factor associated with these processes is nutrition.
All children born in the UK will be monitored following birth by midwives and health visitors and their weight will be checked fairly often in the first few weeks to ensure that they are gaining a steady pattern of weight for their age. All children have growth spurts but they should all gain weight in a steady pattern unique to them in the first year.
For some children however, there is difficulty in taking nutrition, utilising the nutritional content or even keeping the food in their body long enough for it to be absorbed. For these children the weight gain is minimal or even at a loss in which case they may be diagnosed with a condition called 'failure to thrive'.
Any long term deficit of nutrition can have detrimental effects on the long term physical and psychological health of the individual and may result in learning difficulties or problems with communication, social interaction and not reaching the targets that are expected at certain points in their life.
How Is It Diagnosed?The diagnosis for this condition is usually made after the parents seek advice for their child not developing as expected or because a health care professional has assessed the child against the expected targets and found that there is a shortfall with no apparent cause such as recent illness.
The use of standard charts will be employed to check the child's current state and progress over at least three months in order to make a diagnosis.
What Is The Prognosis?For some children it may be that they simply overcome the problem themselves before any serious deficits develop whilst others may be affected long term and suffer from a variety of health and developmental problems.
These can range from learning to mobilise and walk more slowly than an 'average' child through to not having a full comprehension with associated learning delays or difficulties.
How Is It Treated?Any child who is diagnosed as such will be extremely carefully monitored by professional medical an social staff in order to try and determine the root of the problem.
A range of techniques and tests will be performed to try and determine if there is firstly a physical reason why the child is not eating, keeping the food in their system, not absorbing it efficiently or not utilising it properly. If this shows no obvious cause a psychological assessment may be performed to determine if there is an underlying cause of the problem .Of course this can only be performed don older children and not infants.
For some the use of special dietary means such as high calorie foods or those without certain substances if malabsorption has been found to be the cause may be used.In extreme circumstances a hospital admission may be necessary to administer nutrition through other means such as a drip or feeding device.
It may also be necessary to monitor the parent's behaviour and ensure that they are not the cause of the problem by underfeeding the child or providing inappropriate food content for the child.
No parent wants to see their child fall behind or become ill so it is important to attend any doctor's appointments and provide a balanced diet for the family.If you have concerns about your child's weight or genial health please speak to your doctor ort health visitor who will be able to discuss your worries in greater detail.