Slow Weight Gain in Infants and Children | Symptoms & Causes

What are the symptoms of slow weight gain?

One of the most obvious symptoms of slow weight gain is size: your child is much smaller than other children their age. This may include weight, height and size of their head.

If your baby is not getting enough calories, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • lost interest in the world around them
  • extreme sleepiness
  • frequent crying and fussiness
  • missed physical milestones: not rolling over, sitting up or walking at the same time as other kids their age

What causes slow weight gain?

Several possible factors can cause slow weight gain, from a medical condition to social or financial hardship. Anything that interferes with a child’s access to food or ability to digest food can impair their growth. Often it is caused by a combination of factors.

Medical causes:

  • Premature birth can make it hard for your child to feed until the muscles they use to suck and swallow fully develop.
  • Down syndrome can also interfere with a child’s ability to suck and swallow.
  • Metabolic disorders like hypoglycemia, galactosemia or phenylketonuria can interfere with the body’s ability to convert food into energy.
  • Cystic fibrosis can prevent a child from absorbing calories.
  • A food allergy or food intolerance may limit what foods your child can eat without feeling ill.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux can cause your child to vomit frequently.
  • Anything that causes chronic diarrhea can prevent your child from receiving enough nutrition.

Social and financial causes:

  • Parents may not prepare formula correctly or understand how often their infant or child needs to eat.
  • Household stress from divorce, death or another disruption can cause a child to stop eating.
  • Poverty may make it hard for parents to provide enough food for their children.