What is failure to thrive?

Failure to thrive is a term doctors use when a baby or child is not growing as much as expected, based on the height and weight of other children their age. This can occur because of medical problems, environmental factors or a combination of both.


Symptoms of failure to thrive include:

  • not meeting milestones, such as sitting, standing or walking
  • height, weight and head circumference measure below standard growth charts
  • excessive crying
  • irritability
  • excessive sleepiness


To diagnose failure to thrive, your child’s doctor will do a complete exam and may run some blood and urine tests.


Treatment depends on the reason for delayed growth and how severe the condition is. It may involve increasing calorie intake, correcting any vitamin deficiencies, or diagnosing and treating other medical conditions.

Learn more about Pediatric Gastroenterology services at Boston Children’s Health Physicians.