For various reasons there are children who deal with severe acid reflux that end up needed a tube feeding to supplement or serve as their source of nutrition. This can be a very hard decision for parents to make and is generally considered a last resort after conservative changes have not helped.
Children who need a short term supply of nutrition to play “catch up” may be given a naso-gastric (NG) tube. This tube goes through the nose and into the esophagus and then the stomach. Nutrition in the form of liquid formulas are then pushed through the tube. This avoids the need to force feed the child and can also be set to supply food while the child is sleeping.
Some children may not be good candidates for the NG tube. A child who will need more long term use of a tube feeding or a child who is orally averse may not do as well with a NG tube. Children with defects of the esophagus may also not be good candidates for the NG tube.
For long term use or for those children in which a NG tube is not able to be used a gastric feeding tube or g-tube may be placed. This is usually done via a laparoscopic surgery in which the tube is placed through the abdominal wall and into the stomach. The external tubing can then be used to provide nutrition and some medications.
Which tube feeding is right for your child can only be determined by your child’s physician. It can be very scary to have to consider the use of a tube feeding but thankfully they are available to provide nutrition when other methods have failed.
Jennifer Rackley is a nutritionist and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and graduate work in public health nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.