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Delayed growth



Delayed growth is poor or abnormally slow height or weight gains in a child younger than age 5.

See also: Short stature

Alternative Names

Growth - slow (child 0 - 5 years); Weight gain - slow (child 0 - 5 years); Slow rate of growth; Retarded growth and development

Common Causes

Delayed or slower-than-expected growth can be caused by many different things, including:

  • Chronic disease
  • Emotional (psychosocial) health
  • Genetics
  • Infection
  • Poor nutrition

Many children with delayed growth also have delays in development.

See also: Failure to thrive

Home Care

If slow weight gain is due to a lack of calories, try feeding the child on demand. Increase the amount offered to the child, and offer nutritional, high-calorie foods. Also, prepare formula exactly according to directions. Do not water down (dilute) ready-to-feed formula.

Call your health care provider if

Contact your health care provider if you think notice developmental delays or think eemotional issues may be contributing to a child's delayed growth.

If your child is not growing due to lack of calories, your health care provider can refer you to a nutrition expert who can help you choose the right foods to offer your child.

What to expect at your health care provider's office

The health care provider will examine the child and measure height, weight, and head circumference. The parent or caregiver will be asked questions about the child's medical history, including:

  • Has the child always been on the low end of the growth charts?
  • Did the child's growth start out normal and then slow down?
  • Is the child developing normal social skills and physical skills?
  • Does the child eat well? What kinds of foods does the child eat?
  • What type of feeding schedule is used?
  • Is the infant fed by breast or bottle?
  • If the baby is breastfed, what medications does the mother take?
  • If bottle-fed, what kind of formula is used? How is the formula mixed?
  • What medications does the child take?
  • How tall are the child's biological parents? How much do they weigh?
  • What other symptoms are present?

Ther health care provider may also ask questions about parenting habits and the child's social interactions.

Tests may include:

  • Blood tests (such as a CBC or blood differential)
  • Hormone studies
  • Stool studies (to check for malabsorption)
  • X-rays to determine bone age and to look for fractures

Review Date: 2/27/2009
Reviewed By: Jennifer K. Mannheim, CPNP, private practice, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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