Tube feeding a child may be a scary concept at first, but rest assured: tube feeding can provide children with the nutrition they need to grow and thrive!
As a parent faced with tube feeding a child for the first time, the process, along with all of the equipment and supplies, may seem overwhelming. But the fact is, tube feeding helps children get the nutrition they need to grow and thrive.
There are many reasons why a healthcare professional may recommend that a child be tube fed:1
- Gastrointestinal disease
- Short bowel syndrome
- Neurological impairment (for example, cerebral palsy, anoxic brain injury, severe seizure disorder)
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Pulmonary disease
- Cystic fibrosis
- Congenital heart disease
There are a few different ways of giving tube feedings and it depends on the child’s needs and tolerance.
Below is an overview of the different types of feedings available, but always discuss with your feeding team which method will work best for your child.
- Bolus Feedings: These feedings are given like a regular meal – larger amounts over a shortened period of time, with several hours in between feedings.
- Continuous Feedings: Using this method, the tube feeding formula is given slowly over a long period of time (usually 18-20 hours). For some children, this method is better tolerated than bolus feedings. And certain tubes, like the GJ-tube or J-tube, require this method.1
- Combination Feedings: As you may have guessed from the name, this method combines both bolus and continuous feeding methods. Most commonly, children on combination feedings will do bolus feedings during the day and continuous for overnight.
Regardless of the method of tube feeding your child receives, a variety of highly specialized tube feeding formulas are available that can help your child get the nutrition their body needs to grow and thrive. There are also several options for feeding pumps, and even a few that are sized right for kids. Sometimes it takes a few tries to find the combination that works best – partner with a registered dietitian to find the best solution for you and your child.
Axelrod et al. Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition. 2006; 30:S21–S26.