Infants with very server reflux may display excessive vomiting, making it difficult for them to gain weight known as ‘Failure to Thrive’. Some Infants and children in server cases of reflux may show a feeding aversion, for example starting to refuse feeds and/or food impacting on their weight gain. In these very rare cases where infants and children display failure to thrive or there are respiratory concerns, enteral tube feeding may be suggested by your specialist, to help your child with nutritional needs.
Tube feeding in cases of reflux is only used in conjunction with a nutritional plan and in combination with a plan to reduce tube feeding, as soon as possible where appropriate.
Nasogastric tube feeding (NG):
In short term cases your healthcare specialist may recommend the use of an NG-tube to assist with feeding. An NG tube is a fine flexible tube that is passed down through the child’s nose, into the stomach. This enables specialist milk feeds to be slowly filtered down the NG tube, helping to support your childs nutritional needs.
Gastrostomy tube feeding (PEG):
In longer-term cases your healthcare specialist may recommend PEG tube feeding. The PEG tube is inserted via your specialist through the abdomen into the childs stomach. PEG tubes are inserted and removed whist your child is under a general anaesthetic. They are often the preferred option as they can be hidden under the child’s clothes and are less likely to become dislodged. Specialist milk feeds advised by your own healthcare professional can be administered easily via the tube.
Jejunal feeding (PEJ):
Jejunal feeding is used in cases where there is respiratory concern. Some infants and children may suffer with recurrent aspirations, this is where the stomach contents are inhaled into the lungs, when your child refluxes. In these cases, the PEJ tube is inserted in the same way as the PEG tube and passed down through the stomach into the jejunum. PEJ feeding may also be helpful in cases where the child cannot tolerate any feeds directly into the stomach.
What are the benefits of tube feeding in server cases of reflux?
- Increased nutrition and growth
- Reducing the risk of chocking and gagging
- Prevention of respiratory infections
Can my child still eat normally?
Infants who are being tube fed will be under the guidance of a specialist who will recommend what is best for your child’s personal case, such as a gastroenterologist, paediatrician, dietician and/or speech and language specialist. Some children may be allowed to top up their tube feeding with drinking and eating normally, this will be advised to you by your child’s own specialist. There are some children who are not allowed to have anything via mouth.
When will my child’s tube be removed?
When your child will no longer require support via tube feeding is dependent on your child’s personal case. In cases of tube feeding due to reflux where it is appropriate, it is recommended to reduce and stop tube feeding as soon as possible. Your healthcare specialist will continually review the health of your child and will recommend when it is time to start a plan to stop tube feeding.
If you would like to speak to others who are also in a positional of tube feeding their child, you are welcome to join our community forum.