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Toddler development
Toddler development

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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