Every year, the second week of February is celebrated by parents of "tubies" everywhere. Tubies are babies or kids fed through a feeding tube - and they will surprise you with their resilience and spirit! It takes a lot of courage and strength to parent a child with significant medical needs. Parents who learn their child needs a feeding tube to thrive might feel conflicted at first. They may blame themselves, believing they have somehow failed as a parent. This couldn't be further from the truth! Feeding Tube Awareness Week was designed to break the stigma against feeding tubes and the people who use them through education and advocacy.
What Is A Feeding Tube?
A feeding tube is, simply put, a tube that places food into a person's digestive tract. Sometimes these tubes deliver food to the stomach, other times they send food directly to the intestines. Doctors place different types of feeding tubes depending on the patient's medical needs. The main types of tubes are either NG (nasogastric) tubes or G (gastronomy) tubes. Each tube has variations, of course. Sometimes, nasal tubes enter the duodenum or the jejunum (parts of the intestinal tract) instead of the stomach; those are called ND or NJ tubes.
Nasal tubes are a more temporary device. When a patient needs long-term feeding assistance, doctors will place a G tube by creating a stoma. A stoma is an opening in the abdomen that allows a tube to be placed directly into the stomach. G tubes are held in place by either surgical attachment or, more commonly, a bubble on the tube just inside the abdominal wall. This process may seem overwhelming at first, but with regular care and maintenance, feeding tubes become a seamless part of life. Most G tubes can be changed at home by parents with minimal training. Since each child needs a unique blend of nutrition, tubie parents take a lot of notes in their child's medical file.
Who Uses Feeding Tubes?
Babies, toddlers, kids, and adults all use feeding tubes! Hundreds of medical conditions necessitate a feeding tube so that the patient can maintain adequate nutrition. Most who use feeding tubes only use them temporarily. Others rely on feeding tubes and supplemental nutrition to sustain their health. Some parents share feelings of guilt or inadequacy. They might believe their child wouldn't need a feeding tube if they had done something differently during pregnancy or infancy. That's simply not true! Most of these parents experience a sense of relief when they watch their child flourish with the help of tube feeding.
Tube Feeding Resources For Parents And Caregivers
It's perfectly normal to feel a huge range of emotions about tube feeding. Beginning the tube feeding process can seem extremely daunting at first but with support from experienced parents and detailed medical notes, tubie moms and dads can gain confidence. Of course, this is Feeding Tube Awareness Week - which means those of us who have no experience with tube feeding are the target audience. If you know a parent who uses a tube to feed their child, ask them how you can support them. Those with feeding tubes regularly say that they simply want to be treated the same as everyone else. Kids with tubes can run, dance, sing, play, and do pretty much everything a kid without a tube can do. Everyone deserves dignity, no matter how they ingest their food.
For more information, please visit the following resources:
- Feeding Tube Awareness Foundation - They sponsor Tubie Awareness Week!
- Feeding Tube Awareness Facebook Page -The largest group of tubies and parents!
- Living With Tube Feeding - Downloadable resources built for kids who need tubes.
- The Oley Foundation - A 501(c)(3) striving to support tube feeding families.
- Tubie Friends - Custom stuffed animals with stomas to normalize tube feeding.