Changing Colors: The Blog of Spectrum Pediatrics

February 27, 2015

The Truth about Tube Feeding: The Upsides

By: Jennifer Berry, MS, OTR/L

Feeding tubes are important tools that can be used to save the lives and protect the health of the people who need them.  In the US, approximately a half a million individuals receive their nutrition through a feeding tube and 20% of those are children.  Here is a brief look at why feeding tubes can play such an important role in the medical treatment of children:

  • Life-Saving – For children who are critically ill or born much to soon a feeding tube can be life sustaining and allow doctors and families focus on the child’s survival.
  • Respiratory Safety – Some children, due to prematurity, developmental delays, or medical conditions lack the ability to swallow safely.  When this is true, taking liquids or foods by mouth is dangerous as the child could aspirate and the materials they ingest could go into their lungs.  Aspiration puts children at risk for choking or pneumonia, which is very serious and can be life-threatening.  For children who do not have the ability to swallow safely, feeding tubes are quite literally a life-saver.
  • Nourishment – Some children are able to eat by mouth but don’t do so in away that guarantees enough nutrition to grow and gain in the way they need to.  Growth in the early years is closely tied to development.  For some kids, the tube is the perfect answer to keep them thriving .
  • Protection and Prevention – When children have challenging mealtime skills or interactions, mealtimes can be very stressful for the whole family.  Research shows or that power-struggles or difficulty at mealtimes can compromise a child’s long-term relationship with food and put them at risk for health and psychological problems later in life.  There are times when a family and medical team decides to use a feeding tube to protect mealtimes until a later date when the child is truly ready.  Sometimes no meals are better than stressful or difficult meals and the tube can be part of the solution.

These are some of the major reasons why tube feeding can be a vital part of a child’s care.  Remember that all of your decisions about feeding tube placement and removal should be made in conjunction with a well-informed medical professional and this blog in no way is a substitute for medical advice.  As parents you are an important part of every medical decision and you are essential members of your child’s medical team.  When making any decision about your child’s care its important to consider the pros and cons, risks and benefits of every choice that made.  By looking at the BIG picture you are looking at the WHOLE child and that is always best!  Stay tuned tomorrow for “The Truth about Tube Feeding: The Downsides”.

For more information about tube feeding please visit  The Feeding Tube Awareness Foundation provides the public with wonderful information about tube use!  For questions about protecting your child’s relationship with food or for help transitioning to oral eating please contact us at or call 703-299-0051



Photo Credit: stcloud




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