What You Should Know if Your Kid Needs a Feeding Tube

First and foremost, as a parent of a tube-fed child, you shouldn’t be terrified; you’ve got this. In this article, we’ll discuss what you should know if your kid needs a feeding tube. Familiarize yourself with this extremely vital tool designed to keep your child healthy and growing.

Has your child’s pediatrician proposed a feeding tube? Feeling anything from sadness to worry to outright fear is normal, and you’re not alone in any of those reactions. Around 200,000 American children receive part or all of their sustenance through feeding tubes.

That implies that more than a few other parents share your sentiments.

Dr. Garey Noritz, a pediatrician and chief of the complex health care department at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, says why accepting tube-feeding can be painful. “When their child has problems eating or feeding, many parents mistakenly believe they’ve done something wrong. A feeding tube is merely a tool used to nourish a youngster adequately. That is available to us for as long as we require it.”

Overwhelmed? Take a full breath in. Dr. Noritz suggests that there may be a learning curve. Yet, a feeding tube can help your infant live and grow.

This will help you get started.

Why Would My Child Require a Feeding Tube?

According to the Feeding Tube Awareness Foundation, more than 300 conditions may necessitate tube feeding for children. Julie Sanville, D.O., a pediatric gastroenterologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, notes, “There are a number of reasons why children may have trouble swallowing food.” “Premature birth is one of the primary causes. However, anatomical anomalies can also affect feeding capacity. In addition, there may be allergic diseases, hereditary concerns, and gastrointestinal issues, to name a few.”

Dr. Sanville adds that some medical diseases, such as cystic fibrosis or cerebral palsy, may also necessitate the use of a feeding tube. Dr. Sanville adds, “Children with substantial behavioral or mental health issues, such as sensory problems, extreme anxiety, or avoidant restrictive food intake disorders, may have difficulties or refuse to eat during mealtimes.”

Regardless of the reason why your child may require a feeding tube, it all boils down to mathematics. Dr. Sanville notes, “Children must consume more calories than they burn every day in order to acquire weight correctly.”

Is Tube Feeding Permanent?

Perhaps not necessarily. Dr. Noritz says that children with major medical issues may require feeding tubes for the rest of their lives, whilst others may only need them temporarily.

“Some children’s capacity to eat improves over time,” he continues. Sometimes, intensive feeding therapy can get patients off their feeding tubes and onto regular meals by mouth. Some may establish a hybrid eating pattern, consuming a portion of their meal orally and the remainder through a tube.

How Does the Feeding Tube Function?

There are two primary feeding tube types: those that supply nourishment through the nose and those that enter the body through the stomach. Both versions deliver liquid food from a bag or syringe directly into your child’s body via a tube connected to a “button” port.

Despite how frightening it may sound, tube-feeding is a really straightforward and pleasant process: You can hang the bag from a hook on the wall (or, for older children on the go, in a specially constructed backpack) while a pump feeds the formula via the tube at the precise rate. Some children receive bolus, or meal-sized feedings, every few hours, whilst others receive smaller, continuous feedings throughout the day and night.

Here’s what you need to know about feeding tube kinds and placement:

Nasal tubes. They enter your child’s body through the nose, esophagus, and stomach (N.G. tubes) or straight into the small intestine (N.D. or N.J. tubes). They are used when your child requires temporary assistance absorbing nutrition or medication, such as after surgery. These tubes will be inserted during an outpatient visit.

Gastronomy or gastric tubes. These are the most frequent types of feeding tubes and are used when a child needs assistance with feeding for at least three months. These are put into your child’s belly and lead to the stomach or intestines (G or PEG tubes) (G.J. or J tubes). Your child will be admitted to the hospital for a brief operation, followed by several days of close observation. Dr. Noritz recognizes that this particular situation can be distressing for families. Although it’s a normal surgery for doctors, we understand it’s always a huge deal for parents.

What Meals Will Be Given to My Child Through A Tube?

You will collaborate with the physician and dietitian to determine the optimal diet for your child. “With a baby”, says Filomena Kersey, a qualified pediatric nutritionist on Dr. Sanville’s team at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, “we always want to use at least some breast milk. Otherwise, we’ll use a conventional or specialist formula, such as one designed for infants with food allergies or fat absorption issues.”

According to Kersey, it can run the gamut for older children. “We select a formula based on what the infant can tolerate and the underlying medical condition, as there are so many alternatives.”

Kersey cautions caution while using homemade tube-feeding formulae. “You must be very cautious about food safety,” she continues, noting that some homemade recipes have a shorter shelf life than those available for purchase. “It can be difficult for some children to meet their dietary needs using homemade formula. Consult with a nutritionist if you plan on blending your own foods.”

How Do I Clean and Maintain The Tube?

Taking care of the tube and giving feeds is not difficult, although training is required.

Dr. Sanville says, “After a few weeks, cleaning your child’s tube will become a regular routine,” and that you’ll practice caring for the tube on a doll while your child is in the hospital. Then, you will work on your child’s tube under the supervision of a nurse. Dr. Sanville observes that once you’re sent home, you’re rarely alone: You’ll be sent home with a wealth of information (and your child’s care team will likely be available whenever you need assistance).

Care for your child’s tube is straightforward: After each feeding, you will flush out the food from the feeding tube using water from a syringe and a clean feeding bag. Afterward, you will wash the remaining components in warm, soapy water.

Is There Any Issues of Which I Should Be Aware?

Fortunately, according to Dr. Noritz, significant complications related to feeding tubes are uncommon. Most bugs are rather small, such as discomfort around the button or leaking. Hence, you will be provided with extensive instructions that guide you through administering and caring for your child’s feeding tube. “No one was a pro the first time they rode a bicycle or drove a car. You can accomplish this.”

Always remember to contact your child’s care team with even the smallest questions. Rebecca Desrosiers, a pediatric nurse at Dartmouth-Hitchcock on Dr. Sanville’s team, states, “Parents appreciate knowing they can call us at any time of day.” “If kids are confused about something, they can take a picture and submit it to us so that we can explain it. Whatever their inquiry or concern, we are pleased to assist.”

The Feeding Tube Awareness Foundation and the Oley Foundation provide a wealth of information and advice from healthcare professionals and other parents.

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