Reasons Why a Child Won't Gain Weight or Grow in Height

During a child's early years, weight and height may increase dramatically and quickly. In some children, growth may slow down or stop altogether 3. Parents who are concerned about a child's lack of weight or height gain should speak to a pediatrician for help. The earlier you address a growth problem, the more likely it is that the problem can be solved.

Birth Problems and Pregnancy

A child born prematurely may have growth problems throughout life, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Children born prematurely tend to be shorter and weigh less than children who were born after a full-term pregnancy. Ask your pediatrician if your child's growth is considered normal for someone born prematurely. Smoking and drinking alcohol during pregnancy is also linked with growth problems, says KidsHealth 5.

Down Syndrome

In addition to low muscle tone and flat facial features, children with Down syndrome also tend to be shorter than average, according to the University of Michigan Health System 1. These symptoms usually lead to a Down syndrome diagnosis at birth, though the symptoms between people with Down syndrome can vary. Growth will typically be slower than in children without Down syndrome.

Nutrition-Related Concerns

Some babies and toddlers are diagnosed with a condition called "failure to thrive," in which children do not gain weight or height as they should, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics 24. This could be because of parents restricting food, internal problems that make it difficult to digest food, physical problems that make eating difficult or painful, or other reasons. Your child's pediatrician can run tests to figure out why your child is failing to grow at a typical rate. Medications, increased calorie intake or surgery may be necessary to improve your child's growth rate.

Hormonal Problems

Problems with your child's hormone levels may lead to a shorter stature and a lower weight than usual, according to KidsHealth 2. The early onset of puberty may cause a height advantage initially, but your child may also stop growing prematurely. Problems with the pituitary gland or thyroid may also cause your little one to grow slowly.


Girls may be shorter and weigh less than boys, so while your sons may have been taller and heavier, it does not mean your daughter's growth is abnormal, says KidsHealth 5. Some children may also be smaller because their parents are smaller, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Your child's pediatrician can confirm if her growth rate is normal considering her family's growth history. Parents who grew slowly during the early years may also have children who grow slowly.

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