Tube Feeding: Troubleshooting Tips






Many Neocate babies and children receive their formula through a feeding tube. Common Neocate formulas that are received through feeding tubes include Neocate Infant DHA/ARA, Neocate Junior, Unflavored, and Neocate Splash, Unflavored. Enteral tube feeding provides nourishment to individuals who are unable to consume adequate nutrition by mouth. If your child uses a feeding tube, you know that there may be some occasional tube feeding complications. This blog will provide some general troubleshooting tips for the most common tube-feeding problems.

Clogging of the Feeding Tube:

Feeding tubes can sometimes become blocked so that no food can go through.

How to Fix Clogs:

  • First, using a syringe to gently remove the liquid on top of the blockage, if possible (throw away the fluid removed).
  • Next, gently flush the tube using lukewarm water, using at least a 30 mL (1 oz) syringe. Gently plunge the water back and forth to clear the blockage.
  • Unless directed by a healthcare professional, do not use acidic solutions such as fruit juices or cola as they may curdle the formula.
  • If the tube is still clogged, clamp the tube for around 10 minutes and then try flushing it again. For a clog that remains, gently squeeze the tube between your fingers along the length of the tube as far as possible.
  • If you are still unable to clear the blockage, contact your healthcare professional for advice. Sometimes, the physician will prescribe a special enzyme which can dissolve the clog. If the clog cannot be cleared, the tube will have to be replaced.

How to Avoid Clogs:

  • Tube flushing is the most important factor for preventing the feeding tube from clogging. Use a syringe to flush 20 mL of warm water through the feeding tube before and after feedings and medications (or as directed by your healthcare team). If your child receives a continuous feed, your healthcare provider may recommend flushing with water during the feed to prevent clogging.
  • Use liquid medications whenever possible. If pills are necessary, crush them well and mix them with a small amount of warm water. Use a syringe to draw up the solution and insert it into the feeding tube. If pills are coated or time-released, discuss this with the physician because these types of pills are typically not meant to be crushed.
  • Do not mix medications together and do not mix medications in formula unless instructed to do so by your healthcare provider.

Tube Site Irritation or Infection:

Redness, pain, swelling or unusual/excessive drainage, as well as fever, can all be signs of an infection at the stoma site (the surgical opening through which a gastrostomy tube (g-tube) or jejunostomy tube (j-tube) enters the stomach or small intestine).

How to Avoid Irritation or Infection:

To avoid infection, it’s important to keep the stoma site clean and dry. Your healthcare provider should give you specific recommendations for how to clean the stoma site each day. For more information on keeping the stoma site clean (from a parent’s point of view), check out this informative article from Complex Child E-Magazine.

A Dislodged Feeding Tube:

If the feeding tube comes out, call the doctor and go to the hospital right away. The stoma can close up very quickly so the tube needs to be replaced promptly. Cover the site with clean dressing or bandage to prevent leakage and immediately seek medical attention.

Sometimes the healthcare provider will train you to replace the feeding tube yourself (temporarily or permanently) but you should ONLY do this if directed and properly trained by your child’s physician.

How to Avoid:

Young children occasionally pull the tube out themselves. Keep the tube covered with clothing to prevent this. Onesies work well for infants and toddlers. It’s also important to secure the tube during activities so that it doesn’t get pulled out. You can use various methods to secure the tube. Some companies make special wraps and clothing for protecting and accessing the feeding tube:

Do you have any troubleshooting tips to share with other tube-feeding families? What problems have you encountered and what tricks have you learned?

Mallory West

Published: 02/03/2015
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