NTA in Babies: English Meaning, Pictures, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment.

Dr. Ijeoma, #Number1PikinDoctor, talks about a notorious disease in children called NTA..



“My dear see as your pikin lean finish, dem no tell you say na nta?”

What is the English meaning of NTA in babies?

“Nta” is a term used among the Igbos of South-Eastern Nigeria to describe a condition that commonly affects infants with poor weight gain and progressive weight loss among other symptoms e.g. fever, excessive cry, irritability.

This is a controversial topic but what is common is that the child has FAILURE TO THRIVE.

Most kids steadily gain weight and grow quickly within the first few years of life.

But in some cases, kids don’t meet these expected standards of growth. When this happens, it’s called “failure to thrive.”

Doctors say children “fail to thrive” when they don’t gain weight as expected. Often, these kids also have a stunted height.

NTA in babies
A malnourished baby suffering from NTA (failure to thrive)

Failure to thrive lacks a clear definition, in part because it’s not a disease or disorder itself.

Rather, it’s a sign that a child is undernourished.

In general, kids who fail to thrive don’t receive; or cannot take in, keep, or use the calories that would help them grow and gain enough weight.

Most babies double their birth weight by 4 months and triple it by age 1, but kids who fail to thrive usually don’t meet those milestones.

Sometimes, a child who starts out “plump” and seems to be growing well may gain less weight later. After a while, height growth may slow as well.

If the condition continues, undernourished kids might:
· lose interest in their surroundings
· avoid eye contact
· become irritable
· not reach developmental milestones like sitting up, walking, and talking at the usual age


A number of things can cause failure to thrive, including:
In some cases, parents mistakenly cause the problem. Sometimes a parent measures formula (Baby food) incorrectly, causing an infant to get too few calories.

Problems with breastfeeding or transitioning to solids also can cause failure to thrive.

Poverty: no money to buy enough appropriate food. ☹

Some children have trouble eating enough food because of prematurity, developmental delays, or conditions like autism in which they do not like eating foods of certain textures or tastes.

Several health conditions can prevent a child from gaining weight. These include;
· Gastroesophageal reflux (GER)
· Chronic diarrhoea
· Cystic fibrosis
· Chronic liver disease Celiac disease.

· With reflux, the oesophagus may become so irritated that a child refuses to eat because it hurts.

· Chronic Persistent diarrhoea can make it hard for the body to hold on to the nutrients and calories from food.

· Cystic fibrosis, chronic liver disease, and celiac disease all cause problems with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.

· The child may eat a lot, but the body doesn’t absorb and retain enough of that food.

· Kids with celiac disease are allergic to gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains. The immune system’s abnormal response to this protein damages the lining of the intestine so it can’t absorb nutrients properly.

· Food intolerance.
A food intolerance, which is different from a food allergy, means the body is sensitive to certain foods. For example, milk protein intolerance means the body can’t absorb foods that have milk proteins, such as yogurt and cheese, which could lead to failure to thrive

· Other conditions involving the heart (e.g. hole in the heart), lungs etc. can increase the amount of calories a child needs and make it hard for the child to eat enough to keep up.

· Infections.

Parasites, urinary tract infections (UTIs), tuberculosis, and other infections can force the body to use nutrients rapidly and decrease appetite. This can lead to short- or long-term failure to thrive.

· Metabolic disorders. Metabolic disorders are health conditions that make it hard for the body to break down, process, or take energy from food. They also can cause a child to eat poorly or vomit.

Sometimes a mix of medical problems and environmental factors leads to failure to thrive. For instance, if a baby has severe GER and is reluctant to eat, feeding times can be stressful. The baby may become upset and frustrated, and the caregiver might be unable to feed the child enough food.

In the next post I will talk about the diagnosis and treatment of the so-called “nta”.

This article is fully the intellectual property of Dr. Ijeoma and was first shared on Headstart Africa page on facebook


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