Tube feeding, also known as enteral feeding, is an alternative way of providing nutrition and fluid if a person is unable to eat or drink enough to play, learn, grow, or thrive. Tube feeding may be used in addition to any food/drink a person can eat or drink for themselves or it may replace it entirely. There are many reasons a person may have a feeding tube, not all of which are visible. There are a number of different types of feeding tubes and the type of tube a person has is decided by their medical team depending on their needs including the length of time they may need it.
Some babies and children need a feeding tube, some from birth, due to a range of medical complications. For these children, learning to eat and drink may be interrupted or halted entirely, and they often need assistance to learn about food, hunger or thirst, that mealtimes can be pleasurable and to develop safe swallowing skills. For a child to learn to eat and become a successful lifelong eater, they need to have a reason to want to eat (e.g. appetite) in addition to the emotional environment to allow them self-initiation, autonomy and control at mealtimes, along with safe chewing and swallowing skills.
At Lively Eaters, we understand that every child’s feeding and mealtime journey is unique and may be impacted by a range and combination of factors. Feeding disorders are complex and learning to eat is like any other developmental achievement – it doesn’t ‘just happen’ and every child needs a therapy program tailor-made to their, and their family’s, unique circumstances. Our therapists specialise in working out the many pieces to the puzzle that impact a child’s feeding and mealtimes. Dr Emily Lively (Director) has published articles in the area of tube feeding and her ongoing research focuses on the impact of the family on teaching tube fed children to eat and drink.
The Lively Eaters team provide support to the children who require tube feeding and their families, as we know one of the most powerful influences on children is their parents and family. We believe that positive outcomes develop from parents, therapists, and children working together to develop sustainable functional mealtime routines and behaviours to maintain long-term oral eating and drinking where possible.