Growth - slow (child 0 to 5 years); Weight gain - slow (child 0 to 5 years); Slow rate of growth; Retarded growth and development; Growth delay
Delayed growth is poor or abnormally slow height or weight gains in a child younger than age 5. This may just be normal, and the child may outgrow it.
A child should have regular, well-baby check-ups with a health care provider. These checkups are usually scheduled at the following times:
Related topics include:
Constitutional growth delay refers to children who are small for their age but are growing at a normal rate. Puberty is often late in these children.
These children continue to grow after most of their peers have stopped. Most of the time, they will reach an adult height similar to their parents' height. However, other causes of growth delay must be ruled out.
Genetics may also play a role. One or both parents may be short. Short but healthy parents may have a healthy child who is in the shortest 5% for their age. These children are short, but they should reach the height of one or both of their parents.
Delayed or slower-than-expected growth can be caused by many different things, including:
Many children with delayed growth also have delays in development.
If slow weight gain is due to a lack of calories, try feeding the child on demand. Increase the amount of food offered to the child. Offer nutritional, high-calorie foods.
It is very important to prepare formula exactly according to directions. DO NOT water down (dilute) ready-to-feed formula.
Contact your provider if you are concerned about your child's growth. Medical evaluations are important even if you think developmental delays or emotional issues may be contributing to a child's delayed growth.
If your child is not growing due to a lack of calories, your provider can refer you to a nutrition expert who can help you choose the right foods to offer your child.
The 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:
The provider may also ask questions about parenting habits and the child's social interactions.
Tests may include:
Cooke DW, DiVall SA, Radovick S. Normal and aberrant growth in children. In: Melmed S, Auchus RJ, Goldfine AB, Koenig RJ, Rosen CJ, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 14th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 25.
Kimmel SR, Ratliff-Schaub K. Growth and development. In: Rakel RE, Rakel DP, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 22.
Lo L, Ballantine A. Malnutrition. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 59.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 1/24/2023
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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