If you have a medical condition that makes it difficult or impossible to eat normally, your doctor may decide that you need a feeding tube. Depending on your individual needs, this tube will either go through your nose to reach your stomach, or be surgically inserted into your stomach or intestine through your abdominal wall.
After the tube has been placed, you or your caregiver will be given instructions on how to do a tube feeding. Whether you know you’re going to need a feeding tube and you want to know what to expect, or you need a quick refresher on the steps involved, here’s a brief overview of how to do enteral feeding.
Feeding Tube How-To: Before You Get Started
There are three types of tube feeding: with a syringe, by gravity, or with a pump. Each is slightly different in the details, but there are several steps they all have in common.
- First, wash your hands with soap or use hand sanitizer.
- Rinse the top of the formula container to ensure it’s clean before opening, and shake it well before you open it.
- Flush the feeding tube with water.
- Pour formula into the feeding container or syringe.
How Do You Start a Tube Feeding?
Tube feeding should never be done while lying down.
- Sit with your head raised to at least 30 degrees — the equivalent of being propped up with two or more pillows — during the feeding and afterward for at least half an hour. This will help prevent nausea or heartburn.
- Unclamp or uncap the feeding tube.
For feeding with a syringe:
- Fill the syringe with the formula if you haven’t already.
- Release the tube so the formula can flow.
- Add more formula to the syringe if needed.
- When the feeding is over, detach the syringe and re-clamp or -cap the tube.
For feeding using gravity:
- Hang the feeding container so that it’s at least 18 inches above the stomach — the actual belly, not merely the abdomen. (If you’re using a pre-filled container, follow its directions.)
- Unclamp the flow regulator and let formula fill the tube, then re-clamp.
- Connect the gravity set to the feeding tube.
- Open the flow regulator and adjust the flow rate as your doctor directed.
- When done feeding, close and disconnect the gravity set.
If using a pump:
- Pour formula into the feeding container. Close the cap.
- Hang it at least 18 inches above the stomach.
- Follow container directions if using a pre-filled container.
- Follow the instructions included with the pump to operate it.
- Connect the pump to the feeding tube.
- Set the flow rate as instructed by your doctor.
- If the pump has a roller clamp, open it.
- Start the pump.
- When done feeding, disconnect the pump from the feeding tube.
After the Feeding
When you’re done administering, flush the tube with water again. Flushing before and after use is essential to prevent clogs.
Cover and refrigerate any unused formula, and use it within 24 hours.
The formula for tube feeding is not the same as a meal replacement shake, and you should never substitute meal replacements for formula. Simply Medical offers a wide variety of tube feeding formula choices, so visit our store for all your formula needs.
In addition, always follow the directions and advice of your doctor when tube feeding.