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Is My Baby Malnourished? Here’s What You Should Do

Is My Baby Malnourished? Here’s What You Should Do

‘Is my baby malnourished?’ How do you know if your child is not receiving the right amount of nutrients?

According to the World Health Organization, infants under 6 months of age may suffer from severe acute malnutrition due to low birth weight and underlying chronic diseases. Sometimes, it can also be caused by poor breastfeeding practices.

Read on to learn the signs and symptoms to watch out for.

What is malnutrition?

Malnutrition is not just unintended weight loss. You can still be considered malnourished even if you’re overweight or of healthy weight.

Malnutrition is poor nutrition. It is a condition where your body doesn’t receive the right amount of nutrients. You’re either getting too much or not enough of certain nutrients. In the case of children, undernutrition is more prevalent.

Signs and symptoms of malnutrition in babies


This is characterized by a loss in muscles and fat. Your baby might have marasmus if you notice any hanging skin due to lack of body fat, as well as changes in their skin tone and hair loss.


This is a condition where there is an excess of fluids in the child’s body. You may not think your baby is malnourished, because it can give the illusion of a healthy body. But look for tell-tale signs such as dark skin patches, brittle hair, and swelling in the stomach.


This occurs when there is water retention in the tissues of the baby. Try pressing on their legs for about three seconds. Your baby has edema if you notice an indention where you have pressed.

Not growing longer or taller

While different children grow at different rates, he or she is expected to maintain an average growth rate. If not, this can be a sign of malnutrition.

Other symptoms

Symptoms of malnutrition in babies also include excessive crying, increased sensitivity to light, bleeding gums, bruises and rashes all over the skin, and vitamin deficiency.

How to diagnose malnutrition in babies

Once you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, it’s best to consult with your doctor immediately. Edema, for example, if not treated immediately, can be fatal for the baby.

Blood and urine tests are necessary to check if the baby suffers from vitamin deficiency. X-rays can reveal if there are any gastrointestinal problems. Abnormalities in bone density may also point to malnutrition.

You might also ask your doctor, “Is my baby malnourished or has chronic disease?” This is because the symptoms your baby is experiencing may also be indicators of an underlying illness. Seek professional medical help as soon as possible to delay further developments.

How to treat malnutrition in babies

As recommended by WHO, feeding approaches for infants diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition should be improved. The most important thing is to make sure that the baby gets all the nutrients he or she needs. Exclusive breastfeeding by the mom, or other replacement feeds should be prioritized.

Some children have to be fed through a tube. This is mostly done for those with inflammatory bowel diseases. The tube is inserted from the nose, through the throat, until it reaches the stomach. For long-term cases, an incision will be made in the abdomen where the tube will be placed directly.

Key takeaway

Malnutrition in babies is especially harmful. If not treated immediately, the effects on his or her cognitive development can be irreversible. The child may grow up lacking physical and mental capacity. Plus, he or she is more vulnerable to all sorts of infections.

If you’re wondering if your baby is malnourished, go to your doctor immediately.

Make sure your baby is getting exclusive breastfeeding from you, to receive the proper nutrients. If not possible, replacement feeds should be provided.

Learn more about Malnutrition here.

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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Management of infants under 6 months of age with severe acute malnutrition, https://www.who.int/elena/titles/sam_infants/en/

Accessed July 14, 2021


Malnutrition – Symptoms, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/malnutrition/symptoms/

Accessed July 14, 2021


Malnutrition, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/malnutrition

Accessed July 14, 2021


Acute Malnutrition in Children, https://www.mdpi.com

Accessed July 14, 2021


Kwashiorkor, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/kwashiorkor/

Accessed July 14, 2021


Marasmus , https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK559224/

Accessed July 14, 2021


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Written by Honey Buenaventura Updated Jul 31, 2021
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel