Types of Feeding Tubes:
Oral Feeding: Food or liquid taken by mouth also goes through a "feeding tube" - your esophagus! MOST children who receive other tube feedings are still working towards eating by mouth, unless it is deemed unsafe. Any feeding tube should be considered a tool to help your child grow and learn and ultimately work towards some amount of safe, comfortable, and enjoyable oral feeding.
NG-Tube or Nasogastric Tube: A long, thin, flexible tube (usually about the width of a coffee straw) which is placed through the nose, down the throat and into the top portion of the stomach. Intended for temporary use of 6-8 weeks, although often used for longer periods of time.
Feeding Types and Schedules:
NPO: No food or liquid allowed by mouth. I have also seen hospitals use this to mean no food or liquid by mouth OR tube if a child is getting ready for a surgery.
Continuous Feedings: Pretty much exactly what it sounds like! Feedings are given at a continuous rate over many hours, sometimes overnight.
Bolus Feedings: A bolus is a set amount of food or formula given at one time, much like a bottle of formula or a jar of food. Your doctor or dietitian may calculate how many calories your child needs in one day and divide that into 3, 4, 5, or more feedings per day. Each of these is called a "bolus".
Syringe and Pump Feedings: These are both ways of feeding which slow down the rate of food or liquid entering the tube. By using a large syringe with a plunger, the feeder can push small amounts of formula into the tube, rather than all at once. A feeding pump can slow down the rate even more. Feeds through a pump can be given over 1-2 hours or more if needed. Continuous feeds are given via a feeding pump.
Venting: This is a way to let gas bubbles out of your child's stomach. Often tube feeding can lead to increased gas which can be very uncomfortable. Venting can be accomplished by simply attaching an empty syringe to the end of the tube and providing some gentle massage to the stomach. There are other devices which can be attached to the feeding pump to allow gas to escape while the feeding is run.
The choice of when, how, and what kind of feeding tube to place is a decision that should be made with the input of your child's medical and therapeutic team. Don't be afraid to ask questions! The team is there to help you make the best choice. Always communicate with your doctor and/or dietitian before changing the way you feed your child through their feeding tube. Every child is different and requires a specialized plan for health and nutrition.
Mic-Key Low-Profile G-Tube Website
Feeding Tube Awareness: Family Support
New Visions Clinic: More Info and Resources