Tube Feeding Your Child

Tube feeding your child is never an easy decision. You’ve really been trying your best to get your child to gain weight. Maybe you’ve used the recommendations on this site, or maybe you have been trying some things other parents or the doctors have been telling you to do.

Either way, it’s not working. Your child still refuses to eat and no matter how hard you try, they are not eating enough to gain weight. You dread every trip to the doctor’s office because you know your child is getting farther and farther below his normal place on the growth chart everyday, and the doctor is getting concerned. Maybe the pediatrician has already mentioned it, or maybe it was the gastroenterologist. Perhaps it was your own digging, researching and speaking with other parents that gave you the idea. The idea that perhaps your child needs a tube feeding.

Let’s take this one step at a time here. I understand the guilt, hurt and desperation you may feel when your doctor first mentions it. After all, when most people talk about tube feedings it is in the context of end of life decisions. The mention of them may make you think of an older family member in a nursing home who had a stroke and was unable to swallow, or the child you saw on TV with cancer. And your child is nothing like this! In reality however, there are many reasons for a person to need a feeding tube.

One of the reasons is a child unable to gain weight from what they eat. Although thinking about this can be traumatic, let’s try for a moment to forget about any preconceived notions you may have about them.

Putting those ideas aside lets look at it from a different point of view. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a relaxing meal with your child? Don’t you think life would be so much less stressful if you can sit down to a meal with your child and be okay with them saying they are finished after just 2 bites? If your child is on medication, wouldn’t it be great to not have to worry about if he swallowed it or not, because it can be given another way?

All this is possible with the use of a feeding tube. I understand I sound like I’m trying to sell you on the idea and how great it is, so let me be clear. Of course it’s not the ideal situation. The ideal situation would be for your child to wake up tomorrow and sit down to a full plate of age appropriate food. He would then eat the entire meal pleasantly without gagging, vomiting or interrupting and continue like that for every meal that followed, eating well and gaining weight. That would be in a perfect world.

In reality though, if you are reading this, chances are your child is underweight and undernourished, and he probably isn’t going to wake up tomorrow and act out the above scenario. Since that probably isn’t going to happen, and your child is going to continue lingering at around the same weight without eating enough to be properly nourished, tube feeding is probably your best bet.

Still not sure? There are objective tube feeding criteria to help you determine if this is the best decision for your child.

Once you decide if a tube is right for your child, you need to decide which type is best. There are many different types of tubes available. Your doctor will be able to guide you on which one is best for your child. The most common are NG tubes and G tubes, but there are many more.

When considering this option for your child, you probably have many questions. it is important to speak to your child's doctor and parents of children who have made the decision to tube feed to get a better idea of the impact this decision will have on your life.