It’s common for children to experience poor weight gain. This problem is typically noticed by a caregiver or physician. If a child isn’t growing well and their weight is deviating from an expected growth pattern, a doctor may consider the child malnourished or failing to thrive.

Your child’s overall weight trend is more important than any single data point. It’s important to compare their weight to height. This information is plotted on a weight-for-length chart or a body mass index (BMI) chart.

Some fluctuation is normal. If your child experiences a significant drop in weight, they should visit the doctor. Their pediatrician will determine what steps to take.

Read on for the many reasons why a child isn’t growing at a healthy rate.

1. Lack of Calories

Children need a certain amount of calories to grow. There are many reasons why they aren’t getting enough. A child might not be interested in eating. A caregiver might not understand how many calories a child needs.

2. Not Enough Food

Sometimes, a child may not be getting fed enough. There are many reasons for this, including:

  • This can be due to a caregiver with mental health issues that prevent them from caring for the child.
  • A caregiver may also be unaware of how to prepare food for a child. This can result in incorrectly mixing formula so that it ends up diluted.
  • Some families may experience food insecurity.
  • An older child or teen may be struggling with body image issues or an eating disorder like anorexia.

3. Issues with Swallowing

Oral sensitivities or neurological issues may affect a child’s ability to swallow. These problems can be caused by cerebral palsy or a cleft palate and may result in a child not eating well.

4. Inability to Keep Food Down

Excessive vomiting can make it impossible for a child to keep formula or food down. This can be caused by severe acid reflux or other neurological issues. Excessive vomiting can cause low muscle tone and other disorders.

Infants with acid reflux will more than likely improve. Their growth will continue normally. Some infants that vomit often have pyloric stenosis, or a narrowing of the outlet of the stomach. Diagnosis includes a special evaluation with an abdominal ultrasound.

5. Pancreatic Issues

The pancreas plays a pivotal role in digestion. If a child’s pancreas is dysfunctional, it can affect a child’s weight. A sign of this dysfunction is bulky, frothy, loose, foul-smelling, or greasy stool.

6. Gastrointestinal Conditions

Conditions that affect the lining of the bowel can also cause poor weight gain in children. This type of condition includes celiac disease or Crohn’s disease. Children with celiac disease have symptoms when they eat foods that contain gluten.

7. Thyroid Issues

An overactive thyroid gland can cause a child to burn too many calories.

8. Heart Conditions

Children with heart conditions work harder to breathe. A child who is struggling to breathe may not eat well.

9. Kidney Disorder or Failure

Though rare, kidney failure or other kidney disorders affect weight gain and height.

10. Genetic Conditions

Genetic disorders can affect weight gain. This type of disorder requires evaluation by a specialist.

When Your Child Should See a Pediatrician

If your concerned about your child’s growth, they should see a doctor. During a physical examination, the pediatrician will look for signs that your child isn’t eating enough or of disorders. Your pediatrician will also be looking for physical signs like fatigue or paleness. They may also order tests for certain conditions and make recommendations based on the outcomes of them.

Are you concerned your child isn’t gaining weight like they should be? Do you suspect any of the causes above? Make an appointment today.

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