Gastrostomy tube feeding usually means a tube is placed through the wall of the child’s abdomen and into the stomach. It involves surgery and is a big step to take. Your child may receive all or most of their food in this way.
When to choose tube feeding
Your doctor might suggest tube feeding if your child is:
not able to take on enough food to grow and stay healthy
not able to keep the airway closed off so food goes into the airways and could cause serious illness
choking during feeding
Tube feeding and reflux
If reflux creates soreness, a nasogastric tube may be put down into the stomach through the nose. The tube is fixed to the face with surgical tape. It can give meals or a continuous drip feed. But this is only ever a temporary solution as the tube may be dislodged and the tape can make the face sore. Giving food this way is known to cause reflux.
J tubes are put through the nose but carry on through the stomach into the part that carries food away from the stomach called the Jejunum.
This has the same drawback as the face may become irritated but takes away the reflux. Because this bypasses the stomach, the feed must be continuous.
Benefits of tube feeding
Many parents feel upset at the thought of their child not being able to eat ‘normally’. They also worry about how it will affect the child in school or in the wider family circle. Choosing tube feeding is a big decision but the benefits for you and your child include:
getting enough food to grow well and stay healthy
removing the fear of gagging or choking
relieving the pressure of missed meals
more time for parents and children to play – instead of mealtimes running into one another
Including your child in family mealtimes is important to enhance their social and interaction skills. You may tube feed them before. It may be possible for the child to still enjoy eating some food in the conventional way or have small tastes of food. There may be a few children who must not have this experience.
Please seek medical advice if you are at all unsure. Some children are using a food tube because they are reluctant eaters and they need encouragement. For these children, you might try giving tastes of food at the family meal before they have a tube feed.