For many children, feeding tubes and eventual tube transitions are a necessary part of life. A feeding tube is often a literal lifeline, providing a child with the nutrition and hydration she needs to stay alive. Even though a feeding tube may be necessary for a time, many children can gain medical stability and no longer need a tube. A medically stable child and one who is growing well may be ready to start a tube transition and learn to eat by mouth.
What is a tube transition?
A tube transition is a gradual process when a child moves from receiving nutrition and hydration by tube feeding to receiving nutrition and hydration by eating and drinking. A tube transition is a journey that parents and children take together. A tube transition is not pass or fail. If a child lets us know that he is not ready to eat by mouth, the adults on the journey readjust the pace and help the child gain the comfort and the skills he needs to learn to become an oral eater.
How is a tube transition different from a tube wean?
A tube transition is a different way of thinking about a tube wean. A tube transition starts the minute a child receives a feeding tube. Parents begin to view tube feedings as the first step in helping their children learn to eat by mouth. Parents understand that tube feeding is an important time for a child to learn to trust her body and the people caring for her. Children can also discover that their mouth can be a place of comfort and calm, and soothing. This discovery may happen when a child sucks her fingers or receives kisses on her face from mom or dad.
Children who are transitioning off of feeding tubes are learning to join their families at the dinner table. They are learning to enjoy eating as they discover taste and flavor. They are learning the privilege of appetite. Children who participate in tube transitions thrive as oral eaters because the caring adults who have supported the change have carefully helped the child learn essential skills both before and during introducing hunger in the form of a caloric reduction. Children who transition off a feeding tube have experienced a journey with their parents. They’ve learned they are loved and supported at every stage of their transition.
How to Wean Your Child From Tube Feedings to Eating By Mouth
Most parents would like to see their child learn to eat as other children do but don’t know where to start. Karen Dilfer, MS, OTR/L, specializes in empowered and responsive feeding therapy (RFT) and tube transitions and tube weaning in Chicago. Amy Zier + Associates offers families in-person and online support for tube weaning. Learn more about our feeding therapy today.