What is enteral feeding?
Enteral feeding, also known as tube feeding, is a method for providing nutrition to people who cannot eat and drink enough nutrients on their own. Liquid food, often called formula, is given through a special tube to make sure you get the nutrition and fluids you need. Just like regular food, tube feeding formula provides all the essential nutrients your body needs, such as calories, protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. Your doctor may also prescribe medication to be delivered through the feeding tube.
People may need tube feeding for a number of reasons, such as when they are unable to get enough nutrition by eating and drinking by mouth, when they are unable to digest food normally, when swallowing is difficult or unsafe, or after surgery or medical treatments when it may be hard or impossible to eat for a period of time.
Learn more about how enteral feeding differs from other nutrition delivery methods, such as parenteral feeding, by reading “What is the Difference Between Enteral and Parenteral Nutrition?”.
Feeding tubes & pumps
There are several different types of feeding tubes used to give tube feeding formula, and there are several different places where these tubes may be located in the body. Each of these places allows the nutrients in the formula to be absorbed by your body.
- Nasogastric or “NG-Tube”: The feeding tube goes through the nose, down the esophagus or food tube, and ends in the stomach.
- Nasojejunal or “NJ-Tube”: The feeding tube goes through the nose, down the esophagus or food tube, continues through the stomach, and ends in the small intestine.
- Gastrostomy or “G-Tube”: The feeding tube goes through a small opening in the skin directly into the stomach.
- Gastrojejunal or “GJ-Tube”: The feeding tube goes through a small opening in the skin directly into the stomach and has a second tube extending into the small intestine
- Jejunostomy or “J-Tube”: The feeding tube goes through a small opening in the skin into the jejunum or small intestine.
A feeding pump, such as the Infinity Enteral Feeding Pump, is a device that controls the rate and amount of formula delivered to a patient. Formula flows from a feeding bag or pre-filled container through tubing that runs through the pump and then into your feeding tube.
In addition to using a feeding pump, formula can also be delivered using a gravity feeding bag or syringe.
Enteral formulas & foods
Tube fed diets typically consist of two main types of formula: enteral formula and blenderized foods.
- Enteral formula: Typically enteral formula comes in 3 types: infant, pedatric, and adult. These formulas can either come in powder form (which you mix into liquid before feeding) or in a ready-made liquid form. These formulas contain the necessary nutrients to have a balanced diet.
- Blenderized foods: Blenderized foods are a liquid diet that can consist of commercial product, or even a homemade blend. Blenderized foods are used by pediatric and adult patients (but not for infant use). Typically blenderized foods are delivered through G type tubes, not through naso tubes.
Additional information for enteral patients and caregivers
Patient resources, information, and foundations
Living with an enteral feeding pump can feel overwhelming at first. A growing number of online learning resources and support groups are available to help navigate these challenges. The list below provides links to many of these groups and sites. If you are aware of a group that should be added to our list, please let us know.
Enriching the lives of those requiring home IV and tube feeding
If you or someone you love requires home IV or tube feeding, Oley is your place to go to learn, find helpful resources and to connect with others who understand how to live with parenteral and enteral nutrition. Visit oley.org to learn more.
FEEDING TUBE AWARENESS
Providing information, resources and community for the families of children who are tube fed
The Feeding Tube Awareness Foundation is dedicated to supporting parents and caregivers of children who are tube fed by providing valuable resources and raising awareness of tube feeding in society. Visit feedingtubeawareness.org to learn more.
New connectors for enteral feeding tubes
New design standards for enteral feeding tube connectors are coming. The new connectors will improve patient safety and be adopted into practice universally around the globe. Learn about the change and how it will impact you. Visit stayconnected.org to learn more.
Providing support, expertise, and hope for families facing the challenges of pediatric feeding disorders
Feeding Matters is the first organization in the world uniting families, healthcare professionals, and the broader community to improve the system of care for children with pediatric feeding disorder through advocacy, education, support, and research. Visit feedingmatters.org to learn more.
RARE LIFE PODCAST
A Podcast About Loving Children with Rare Diagnoses
Episodes feature parent-guests, professionals, and solo episodes with host and parent Madeline Cheney. You can find the podcast on Spotify, podcasting apps, or directly on the website therarelifepodcast.com.
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