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Caring for children with failure to thrive, poor weight gain and weight loss

Learn how our Gastroenterology, Liver and Nutrition Program cares for children with failure to thrive, poor weight gain and weight loss.

Related tests and treatments:

Our approach to failure to thrive, poor weight gain and weight loss

The Nutrition Care Program at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin specializes in the care of children with nutritional disorders that range from failure to thrive to feeding disorders to intestinal failure. Using a combination of nutritional and medical therapies, we work closely with families to optimize children’s growth and health. The program is led by Dr. Praveen Goday, an expert in pediatric nutrition who has written numerous journal articles and book chapters on the topic and served as editor of a textbook on pediatric critical care nutrition.

Services we offer

Our multidisciplinary team includes gastroenterologists, dieticians, nurses, social workers, feeding specialists and behavioral psychologists. We’ll work with your family to customize a treatment plan based on your child’s needs.

 Diagnosing and treating failure to thrive, poor weight gain and weight loss

Your child’s doctor will consider several factors before making a diagnosis:

  • Your child’s medical history
  • A physical exam
  • Your child’s height and weight gains on the growth chart
  • Parents’ growth history

If your child is experiencing symptoms that point to another medical issue, the doctor might order additional tests, such as blood, urine, stool and endoscopic tests. A sweat test is used to check for cystic fibrosis, which can also cause poor weight gain.

If there’s not an underlying medical cause for your child’s poor growth, the first step is usually to increase your child’s calorie intake. That can be achieved using a high-calorie diet (including adding fats such as butter and cream) and an eating schedule that eliminates grazing between meals. We sometimes use an appetite stimulant that makes children feel hungrier and thirstier until their growth improves. In rare cases, your child’s doctor might recommend a feeding tube.

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