| Tube Feeding Basics

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Tube Feeding Basics

What is tube feeding?
Location of your feeding tube
Overview of feeding methods

What is tube feeding?

Tube feeding is a way of providing nutrition to people who cannot eat and drink enough for a period of time.

  • Tube feeding products are liquid food, often called formula, which are given through a special tube to make sure you get the nutrition and water you need.
  • Just like regular food, your tube feeding formula will provide all the essential nutrients — calories, protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals.
  • Your doctor may also want you to take your medication through the feeding tube.

Tube feedings are needed for a number of reasons, such as:

  • when unable to get enough nutrition by eating and drinking by mouth
  • when unable to digest food normally
  • when swallowing is difficult or unsafe
  • after surgery or medical treatments such as radiation therapy, when it may be hard or impossible to eat for a period of time

The location of your feeding tube

Where is the feeding tube in my body?

There are many different types of feeding tubes used to give tube feeding formula. And there are several different places where these feeding tubes may be located in the body. Each of these places allows the nutrients in the formula to be used by your body, just like eating a regular meal.

tube feeding
  • Nasogastric or ‘NG-Tube’:

    The feeding tube goes through the nose, down the esophagus or food tube, and ends in the stomach.
  • Nasojejunal or ‘NJ-Tube’:

    The feeding tube goes through the nose, down the esophagus or food tube, continues through the stomach, and ends in the small intestine.
  • Gastrostomy or ‘G-Tube’:

    The feeding tube goes through a small opening in the skin directly into the stomach.
  • Jejunostomy or ‘J-Tube’:

    The feeding tube goes through a small opening in the skin into the jejunum or small intestine.

Overview of feeding methods

There are different ways to provide a tube feeding.

Tube feedings may be:

  • Continuous: formula is flowing all the time or for many hours during the day and/or night
  • Intermittent or Bolus: formula is given at meal times or with breaks during the day
  • or a mix of these two

Depending on the tube feeding plan, the formula may be delivered by the following methods:

Nestlé Health Science tube fedding pump

A feeding pump is a special device that controls the timing and amount of formula given. Formula flows from a feeding bag or pre‑filled container through tubing that runs into the pump and then into your feeding tube.

Used for: Continuous feedings and some intermittent feedings

Nestlé Health Science tube-feeding-basics

Gravity feeding uses a feeding bag and tubing which you hang on a pole above the level of your stomach. Gravity will move the formula from the bag through your feeding tube.

Used for: Intermittent feedings

Nestlé Health Science tube-feeding-basics

Syringe feeding uses a large syringe to deliver the formula. The formula can be gently pushed into your feeding tube using the syringe plunger or it can flow from the syringe into your feeding tube using gravity.

Used for: Bolus feeding

Your feeding method (the timing and delivery) may be chosen because of:

  • The type and location of the feeding tube you have
  • The reason you need the tube feeding
  • How often you need tube feeding
  • How you manage your tube feeding at home

Your healthcare team has chosen the method they believe will work best for you at home to make sure you get the nutrition you need.

Learn how to use and live with your feeding tube in this five-part video series with Gunnar Esiason.

Nestlé Health Science has made every effort to include on this website only information that it believes to be accurate and reliable. This site contains information from a variety of sources including practice-based resources, guidelines from professional organizations, and experiences of healthcare professionals who have managed patients on home tube feeding. Information provided on this site is for education purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice or instruction of your healthcare professionals, or to substitute medical care. Contact a qualified healthcare professional if you have any questions regarding your tube feeding product, prescription and supplies, or if you have a specific question or issues about what is best for you as you manage your tube feeding at home.