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Tube Feeding Basics

What is tube feeding?
Location of your child’s feeding tube
Overview of feeding methods

What is tube feeding?

Tube feeding is a way of providing nutrition to a child who cannot eat and drink enough to meet his or her nutritional needs in order to grow and be as healthy as possible.

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

Children may need a feeding tube for a number of reasons, such as:

  • when they are unable to get enough nutrition through eating and drinking by mouth to enable them to gain weight or achieve catch-up growth
  • when unable to digest or absorb food normally
  • when chewing and/or swallowing is difficult or unsafe
  • when food or drink comes back up from the stomach (called reflux)
  • after surgery or medical treatments, when it may be difficult or impossible to eat for a period of time

The location of the feeding tube

Where is the feeding tube in my child’s 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 child’s body, just like eating a regular meal:

  • 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:


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 child’s feeding tube.

Used for: Continuous feedings and some intermittent feedings


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

Used for: Intermittent feedings


Syringe feeding uses a large (60 mL) syringe to deliver the formula. The formula can be gently pushed into your child’s feeding tube using the syringe plunger or it can flow from the syringe into your child’s feeding tube using gravity.

Used for: Bolus feeding

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

  • The type and location of the feeding tube your child has
  • The reason your child needs the tube feeding
  • How often your child needs tube feeding
  • How you manage your child’s tube feeding at home

Your child’s healthcare team has chosen the method they believe will work best for you and your child at home to make sure your child gets the nutrition needed.

Nestlé Health Science has made every effort to include on this website only information that it believes to be accurate and reliable. This site is applicable to children ages 1-16 years and 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 child’s healthcare professionals, or to substitute medical care. Contact a qualified healthcare professional if you have any questions regarding your child’s tube feeding product, prescription and supplies, or if you have specific question or issues about what is best for your child as you manage your child’s tube feeding at home.