While low-profile feeding tubes are acceptable for people of all ages, children are special and they can have special or unique needs. If you are caring for a child with a gastrostomy, here are a few things to remember.
Children Have Small Stomachs. Infants develop the capacity to hold larger feedings in their stomachs as they grow. Feedings usually begin with frequent small amounts of formula. Bolus feedings take 20 – 40 minutes. A gravity flow system or a pump regulates a slow steady flow and leaves you free to do other things. Be patient and gradually increase the amount of formula given during the feeding.
If your child’s stomach is full, formula may leak around the stoma. The child may also act colicky and vomit or burp up formula. Ask your specialist if decompression or venting is appropriate for your child.
Children Are Growing. Keep in mind that children with gastrostomies have the same basic growth and developmental needs as other children.
Children Need to Get Enough Water. Gastrostomy patients are no different from the rest of us. If the weather is warm or your child has a fever, additional water may prevent dehydration. Ask your specialist for guidelines.
Children Need to Experience Food. Even though your child receives nourishment through a tube, being at the table during meals is important. It gives your child the chance to experience food. Encourage your child to touch and taste, just like everyone else, even if it makes a mess around the high chair.
All Babies Need Oral Stimulation. The mouth is a very sensitive part of your baby’s body. Even if your child cannot suck and swallow well enough to eat, the sucking reflex is there. Sucking seems to comfort babies. Experiment with a pacifier. Use it to stimulate your child’s lips, gums and tongue during feedings. As the baby grows, talk with your specialist about other opportunities for your child to chew or suck.
Children’s smaller tubes clog more easily. But, smaller tubes require less water to flush out. Infants usually receive a 10 to 15 ml flush. Read about tips for preventing clogs here.
Whether your tubie is still young or now an adult, do you have any tips for those caring for little ones? Share on our Facebook page!