More often than not, we are inundated with the negative aspects of tube feeding. Parents may feel like failures when their child needs a feeding tube. Or, the constant association of feeding tubes with end-of-life care. Then there are those not-so-helpful friends who repeatedly ask when your child is getting rid of the tube, and those know-it-all family members who insist you just don’t know how to feed your child.
But the reality is that feeding tubes can be amazing for children. Let’s focus on the positives!
Here are 10 amazing things about feeding tubes:
1. No fighting to get your child to eat or drink more.
Kids with feeding problems often struggle to eat, and mealtimes becomes battle times as parents beg, plead, cajole, and bribe their children to try to get them to eat. With a feeding tube, there are no more battles. The feeding tube ensures that nutrition and hydration are provided regardless of what the child eats orally. Mealtimes are much more likely to become pleasant, calm, and enjoyable. And pleasant, calm mealtimes tend to encourage more oral eating, which leads to our next amazing thing about feeding tubes….
2. Most children can still eat orally while getting supplemental nutrition through the tube.
Having a feeding tube doesn’t necessarily mean your child cannot eat orally or will never eat orally again. It is perfectly fine for your child to continue to eat and drink orally with the feeding tube, as long as it is medically safe to do so. A large percentage of kids with feeding tubes do eat orally. Some kids can only take sips or tastes, but for other children, the majority of their calories may come from oral eating.
3. Your child can sleep while he or she eats.
Now that is a super power! Eating while sleeping is just one of the many super powers your child will find with a feeding tube. Other kid-approved super powers include tube farts, running around while being fed, and being fed while upside down.
4. Your child doesn’t have to taste disgusting medications.
Does your child have to take an awful-tasting medication? With a feeding tube, it is no problem. The medicine goes down the tube without needing to be tasted. There are no concerns about your child spitting it out or refusing it. Many parents have commented that they wished all their children had feeding tubes just for this purpose.
5. Modern feeding tubes are tiny and easy to use.
Long, dangling tubes that require extensive surgery to place and a physician to change them out are a thing of the past. These days, most kids can use tiny low-profile buttons that are easily hidden under clothing. Those with G-tubes (and sometimes J-tubes) can even change their tubes themselves — it’s no harder than changing an earring.
6. It allows special diets, such as diets for seizures or inborn errors of metabolism, to be given to children.
Some kids have to have special diets for seizures, inborn errors or metabolism, allergies and eosinophilic conditions, and other medical issues. Oftentimes, these diets consist of horrible tasting powdered formulas that are difficult to consume orally. With a feeding tube they are no problem at all, since they can be given down the tube.
7. Feeding tubes can be used to release gas or even vomit.
If your child is a burper, air swallower, or chronic vomiter, venting the tube or using a Farrell bag can help to release air and slow down feeds that are backing up. Being able to get the air out can really help little ones feel more comfortable. This is especially true for kids who have had a fundoplication surgery.
8. It’s much easier to handle an illness with a feeding tube.
Is your child too sick to eat or drink? No problem! You can use the feeding tube to keep him or her fed and hydrated through illnesses. Even during the worst stomach flu, a slow drip of an electrolyte solution can keep your child hydrated — and out of the hospital.
9. Your child’s nutrition is likely better than yours.
Do you eat too many sweets, too much fat, or too many calories? Your child’s diet is likely better than yours, especially if you use a blenderized diet. Your child’s diet is controlled in terms of calories, nutrients, and hydration, and typically has just the right amount of each nutrient. Kids who are on blenderized diets, especially homemade ones, also tend to get more fresh fruits and vegetables, quality proteins, and nutritional grains than the average child.
10. Your child will grow and thrive.
Most importantly, when children are getting proper nutrition through a feeding tube, they will grow and thrive. Weight will be gained, nutritional status will improve, energy will increase, and children will be much more likely to develop their brains.
Let’s celebrate what amazing little devices these feeding tubes are for our kids who need them!