Failure to Thrive: 3 Scary Words

The Beginning

I once had a baby who was diagnosed as “failure to thrive” at 4 months old. It was terrifying at first, but it worked out okay in the end. This is our story.

Once upon a time, I had 3 kids who grew pretty normally. Sure, percentiles didn’t always stay the same, but the doctor never worried about them, even if they were a little smaller than average. Never did I hear the dreaded words “failure to thrive” as I would in the future.

Then I had a fourth baby, and he gave me a run for my money. He started his life in the NICU after a traumatic birth. We finally went home after 4 very long days. I thought all my worries were over because I had already forgotten what it was like to have a newborn.

He was a happy baby that ate well. He hit milestones earlier than the older 3 kids, not just by a little bit, but by months. I noticed that he was a little on the skinny side, but I didn’t worry. My other babies sometimes had a few months of being skinnier followed by a few where they were chubbier.

The Diagnosis

The worry started around 4 months old when his percentiles started dropping. He was still gaining weight, just not quickly. The pediatrician recommended pushing solids, so I did. Instead of him getting bigger, I dealt with a lot of frustration from a baby who simply wasn’t ready for solids. He gagged on everything, made a huge mess, and didn’t change percentiles.

The same thing happened at his 6 month check. At this point, I was also given some supplements (like Pediasure) to try to help him grow. I tried those, but they gave him diarrhea, and it was really hard to get him to drink them in the first place. I tried making my own fattening shakes for him, but he wouldn’t eat more than he already was. (Who turns down peanut butter and chocolate? Not me!)

His weight and height percentiles stabilized around a year old. That little boy is now 2 1/2 and still in the 2nd percentile for both height and weight. The pediatrician stopped worrying about him, so I did too. It wasn’t a worry that went away overnight. I gradually came to terms with this little guy being just that – little.

failure to thrive

What I’ve Learned From My Tiny Kid

  1. “Failure to thrive” isn’t necessarily an indication of bad parenting, but you will probably feel like a bad parent when you hear those words.
  2. Always follow the pediatrician’s advice, even if it seems like it’s not going to work. I had my doubts about trying solids so early or giving Pediasure, but I DID try!
  3. Doing everything I could to fatten him up didn’t change my son’s genetics.
  4. Somebody has to be in the 2nd percentile!
  5. When the doctor quits worrying, so can I. The stress probably won’t go away overnight, but it will fade with time.
  6. Size isn’t the only indication of health. As I mentioned before, this little guy hit all his milestones before his siblings and has always been healthy and happy. He just doesn’t grow quickly.

Not every story has as happy of an ending as ours, but I wanted to put it out there for anyone who might be dealing with something similar. “Failure to thrive” ended up being a small blip in my little guy’s life. He loves to keep me on my toes!

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