This is sometimes called ‘faltering growth’ or ‘failure to thrive’. Babies tend to lose a little weight in the first two weeks of life but then grow rapidly for the next two years. Consequently, it is essential that babies get the nutrition they need to grow as all development, both physical and mental, is affected. Identifying ‘faltering growth’ is important for all babies – but particularly for premature babies who need to ‘catch-up’.
The problem is usually defined as the baby’s weight slipping through two centiles on the relevant growth chart or if it is consistently very low on that chart. It is necessary to measure the baby’s weight, length and head circumference and compare the plot with other babies of the same age and sex. Measurements need to be taken as necessary but should be done during routine checks at 2, 3, 4 and 12-15 months for example.
Medical conditions like celiac disease and cystic fibrosis can be the cause but these are rare. Gastric reflux can also affect weight gain but feeding problems are the most common cause – babies just not taking in enough calories.
‘Faltering growth’ can happen if a baby does not get enough milk during each feed, if they are not fed often enough or if they tend to fall asleep before they have had enough. For babies on infant formula, it can also occur if the feed is not made correctly and is too dilute. At the beginning of weaning, babies may not be getting the right nutrients from their first solids. Food that is ideal for adults is not suitable for babies.
Parents whose babies are not growing at the rate they should need to be told to contact their doctor. Whether breastfeeding or using infant formula, they can be given advice on appropriate treatment. Breast feeding mothers can be advised how to help baby take in more nutrients and for those babies on infant formulas a special formula like Ronalac Premature can be provided.
Parents should be told to monitor baby’s progress in order that normal growth is attained as soon as possible.