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Failure to thrive

My youngest son had a rough start to life in a brightly-lit operating theatre on a gloomy night in January. Now a bouncing, smiley eight months old, he has nonetheless had a number of minor health problems which have combined to make him feel pretty miserable and irritable. A urine infection several months ago meant long-term antibiotics and tests to check that his kidneys function as they should. Eczema and food allergies have severely restricted what he can eat, be bathed in, have his clothes laundered in, even whose skin he can touch. Chronic constipation – and I’m talking really chronic – has meant that he has been on suppositories for the last two months and dosed up with lactulose ‘softener’. He has not reached the ‘being able to sit unaided’ milestone. Despite a good start to weaning he now eats about two teaspoons of food a day in total.

To say I have been unhappy with his progress would be an understatement. At his seven month review with the doctor I expressed, not for the first time, how concerned I was and asked for Ben to be referred to a specialist but because he is already under the care of a urology paediatrician at the hospital he was not referred for other investigation. A ‘wait and see’ approach was considered to be the best course of action. But he continued to not eat, showing no appetite, and he continued to fail to put on weight.

After feeling like I was a neurotic first time mother for worrying about this – after all I’m a third-time mother, I’m an expert now right? – he was weighed again today and officially diagnosed as ‘failing to thrive’.

The paediatrician will be calling me tomorrow about the next steps to take to get Ben back on track. But I still feel like he is slipping through the net and I’m scared, really scared, for his long term outlook.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • karrie September 27, 2006, 11:07 pm

    A close friend, and mom-to-four, is going through FTT with her youngest daughter. (A 2 year-old twin) Both of her twins have multiple food allergies,UT issues and it seems her daughter may have celiac as well. She had an endoscopy and a couple of other procedures today.

    Not sure why I’m telling you this. Long-winded way of letting you know you’re not alone, and I have a second-hand sense of what you;re going through. I’m so very sorry that you and Ben are dealing with all of this. Hope you get some answers soon.

  • Harriet September 27, 2006, 11:34 pm

    Both my nephew and my friend’s daughter were both failure to thrive babies and are absolutely fine now. I’m really sorry that you are having to go through this but I hope it helps to know that others have been there and have come out the other side just fine.

  • bubandpie September 28, 2006, 1:12 am

    You and I are having a rough week, aren’t we? I too have a friend whose daughter was losing weight at eight months of age but who is now climbing back up the charts at 16 months. At least with this diagnosis you know your concerns are being taken seriously.

  • Zany Mama September 28, 2006, 1:33 am

    Hi there! I found your blog through Postcards from the Mothership. I don’t have much to add but I also wanted to tell you that you’re not alone. My son has major food allergies – dairy, eggs, peanut, and tree nuts now, but there were a lot more allergies prior to age 2. He also struggles with gaining weight, and has some other health issues as well.

    All this to say that it’s really hard, but our boy seems to do better and better all the time. Hang in there!

  • buffi September 28, 2006, 4:59 am

    Oh, wow, how very scary. I can’t imagine what you must be feeling. I’m glad that someone finally listened to you and perhaps now Ben will get some real help. I will keep you all in my prayers, Ella!

  • Olivia September 28, 2006, 8:26 am

    Oh Ella, I’m so sorry you and you little fella are going through this.

  • violet September 29, 2006, 1:38 am

    Ah, you have my sympathies. My nephew and niece both have eczema caused by allergies to nuts, eggs, fish, potatoes and many other things. Their mum has had to make all their food from scratch and experiment with recipes etc – it’s hard enough getting the little buggers to eat even when they DON’T have allergies, eh?

    I hope your son gets the specialist attention he needs soon.

  • Melanie September 29, 2006, 1:07 pm

    Hang in there Mom. You’re a great advocate for your son, and things will turn around beautifully for him. At one time, one of my boys had similar issues and was skinnier than any baby I had ever seen. Now, he’s a happy, chubby kid. It’ll work out Ella, you’re a great Mom!

  • mad muthas September 29, 2006, 2:53 pm

    how maddening for you to feel as though you’ve been dismissed as a neurotic mother, then for the coin to be flipped (presumeably someone, somewhere ticked the box?) and now to have a labelled child! he’s exactly the same little boy he was before – but somehow it must feel different (part relief, part panic, i imagine). what a lucky baby he is to have you fighting his corner. of course, you are the expert on your own children, so don’t let the b******* grind you down. give him an extra big cuddle from us and keep us posted, please xxxx

  • ella September 29, 2006, 4:15 pm

    Yes mm, you’ve read my feelings exactly: within the space of a couple of days it changed from don’t worry, he’s just ‘finding his weight’ to two days later, he needs investigating because he’s failing to thrive. All along I knew he wasn’t doing well and I know, stastistically, many underweight babies will have a growth spurt and won’t reach the FTT diagnosis but I couldn’t see how he could put on weight if he wasn’t eating anything. Now we’re on a slippery slope downwards and I feel like this could have been caught MUCH earlier. Thank you for your very kind comment, and all the kind comments here. They help, more than you know.

  • mommyd September 30, 2006, 4:43 am

    Thank goodness you are on top of this and kept pushing. I swear if we don’t do that as mothers are kids would be really screwed up. I am going through that with my son now. I kept hearing he would outgrow his knock knees and heart murmur until I switched doctors and now we are finally going to see the surgeons. I hope it is a good outcome for you and your son. Thanks for always checking in on me!

  • Mommy off the Record September 30, 2006, 8:37 am

    This is my first visit to your blog so I feel like a stranger commenting on such a personal post. Although it would be hard to hear that your son is “officially” failing to thrive, the positive thing is that the doctors will probably be paying more attention to his health now. And, hopefully, that will mean that Ben will get even better care then before. From how you described him (bouncing and smiley), it sounds like he has a wonderful spirit.

    (Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment the other day.)

  • Jen September 30, 2006, 7:14 pm

    Oh man, I’m thinking about you and your family. As others have said, this is a good thing. But as a mom of one child who hit all the milestones and the other who has not (and who went from He’s just a bit lazy, to we might be looking at a special school in one doctor’s visit), I empathize. Keep pushing. We’re in your corner.

  • jennster September 30, 2006, 11:56 pm

    so sorry, but trust that things will be okay. you sound like you’re on top of things and that’s great. keep being aware- no one knows their child the way you do.

  • Kim October 1, 2006, 3:10 pm

    Just found your blog and wanted to give you a big cyber hug.

    It’s great though that the doctor is working with you to diagnose the problem. Because my son’s weight was on the acceptable range, I got ignored by doctors for months. My son screamed or rather shrieked in pain for the first three months of his life- every single waking moment and no one would help me. I would be at the doctor’s office every other week crying- because I felt so helpless. When I finally got someone to listen to me, they started doing tests and realized that he had pretty severe reflux. He is on several meds a day, and I don’t see us getting off of it anytime soon.

    He still spits up ALL the time at almost 7 months, and is allergic to a host of foods, and is now on the expensive hypoallergenic formula.

    The only thing that really kept us from being FTT was that he was a little porker from the beginning and liked eating- I end up feeding him twice as much as a normal kid (because most of it comes back up) and because he didn’t feel good we would comfort feed all the time. Plus for the longest time he was silent refluxing…he would spit it up and then swallow it back down. Doubling the pain factor.

    Hugs to you!

  • Sally October 1, 2006, 6:21 pm

    I hope he’s doing better this weekend! I’ve been thinking about you a lot the past few days.

  • Whymommy October 3, 2006, 1:35 am

    Oh, Ella, I’m sorry to hear that. It’s scary that your little guy is having such a hard time gaining weight.

    It is a very good thing, though, that the doctors are finally taking you seriously.

    When my little boy was born, he wouldn’t nurse. Oh, sure, he nursed like a champ the first 48 hours in the hospital. Or we thought he did. (What can a first-time mom and the drop-by lactation specialist really observe in those first few hours after labor, though?) When we got him home, though, he wouldn’t nurse. We were committed to breastfeeding and pushed through it, with regular trips to the doctor, the lactation consultant, books of all kinds, trying every hour or so, and he just wouldn’t (couldn’t?) get the hang of it. The hardest part? When the doctor said, “Look, babies have been learning to nurse for hundreds of thousands of years. He’ll figure it out.” We fed him with a syringe for weeks (to avoid nipple confusion), and kept talking to the lac specialist, and trying her suggestions, and it finally worked. He finally gained instead of lost weight, after dipping down to 5 pounds at several weeks of age. We were so thrilled to finally turn the corner. At that visit, the doctor, to his credit, apologized. When we had tearfully reported his comment to the lactation consultant in the same office, exhausted with frustration, she went and had a little chat with him. Not all babies figure it out. He sure got spanked that day!

    So yes, moms have a better understanding of what their babies need.

    All hope and cheer to you and your family.

  • Kristen October 3, 2006, 5:40 pm

    Hang in there, Ella. Keep being persistent with these doctors. Now that he’s had that diagnosis, you should be seeing more proactive steps for their part. Take care!

  • Laura Winters October 27, 2006, 1:46 am

    Oh, My can I relate. My husband and I adopted a baby from Chicago that was born to a homeless Mom that had no prenatle care… She drank everyday and did crack 3 to 4 tme a week. When she went into labor she was going to put him in the dumpster of the hotel that she was staying in. Well to make a long story short my husband and I adopted him… That brought our family to 11 children.. all living at home. OK to the point he is full blown FAS and my huband and I can find NO ONE to talk to… We live in Maine and find no support.
    Our little guy is very failure to thrive 10 and a half months and weighs 15.6 lbs Help would someone who understands call me….
    It would be God send to be able to talk with another Mother with a FAS and or failure to thrive baby…. Thankyou so much in advance.
    Laura Winters