What is a Feeding Tube or G-tube?
A Gastronomy tube (G-tube) is a feeding tube that leads directly into the stomach through the abdomen. It is helpful for babies or children who have difficulty swallowing, chewing, keeping foods down (reflux), dysphagia or unable to intake enough nutrition by mouth.
How can it help my baby or child?
Getting enough oxygen and enough nutrition are the body's two main priorities. Without these the body shuts down as much as possible to conserve energy. When given enough nutrition, an infant or child can turn his/her attention to other activities, such as physical, cognitive, and social development. Parents often report that their baby or child has more energy, appear happier, and make more developmental progress after placement of a g-tube.
A g-tube will relieve the stress level associated with trying to get adequate nutrition into your baby or child's body. The g-tube enables your baby or child to obtain the nutrition he/she needs to grow and develop. It also greatly reduces the time and effort spent on feeding, benefiting both you and, more importantly, your baby or child. This allows you more time to spend socially interacting with your baby or child. Parents of babies or children with g-tubes often report that feeding times or mealtimes are much more enjoyable for both parent and baby or child.
Is the g-tube permanent?
No. Depending on a variety of individual factors, the g-tube can be used long-term or short-term. For many children, the g-tube supports oral feeding by enabling the child to eat only the types of food that is safe and comfortable for them. The pressure of having to "get in" a certain number of calories per day is removed, making feeding and mealtimes more enjoyable for both you and your baby or child. When your baby or child is able to safely drink enough formula orally or eat/drink enough food and liquid orally, the g-tube can be removed.
Does a g-tube mean that my baby or child won't ever eat by mouth?
No. If you choose a g-tube it does not mean that your baby or child will not be able to eat or drink by mouth. Many times a baby is too weak for oral feedings (breast or bottle) due to medical conditions such as premature birth, cardiac problems, cranial-facial issues, or abnormal muscle tone and will burn too many calories trying to take all of their nutrition orally. A baby or child may also have difficulty with swallowing and/or chewing certain textures or thickness of liquids making oral eating and drinking unsafe and putting the baby or child at risk for aspirating food or liquids into their lungs.
It is extremely important to continue to provide oral stimulation to your baby or child's lips, cheeks, and mouth during g-tube feedings. This ensures that your baby or child will not lose the association between feeling hungry and oral stimulation, as well as helping to maintain feeding skills.