Does your child have a g-tube or ng-tube to help them get the number of calories and nutrients they need? Feeding tubes are required for many reasons. Sometimes it may be due to a picky eater that was very severe, or it can be due to a child not being able to handle or manage food safely. Whatever the reason, they are extremely important for children who need to get nutrients and can’t do it on their own. It may seem impossible, but children can learn to chew and swallow without the support of a feeding tube, even if they haven’t had solid foods before! That’s where feeding therapy at the Kids Therapy Center can help!
As feeding therapists, our ultimate goal is to get your child eating by mouth. While there is some peace of mind with the tube that you know your child is getting the nutrients they need, it is important to get them prepared for chewing and managing food on their own when it’s safe to do so. Children on feeding tubes require a team approach. Your child’s doctor, a feeding therapist (such as our feeding therapist at Kids Therapy Center), a parent or guardian, and any other member of the medical team should be involved to ensure your child is ready to wean from a feeding tube and to monitor the weaning process. The team of doctors works together with you to make sure your child can begin to learn how to get the nutrients they need to grow and develop by eating food through their mouth.
A critical step in the feeding tube process is securing a feeding therapist. Ideally, they should be brought in prior to weaning so that a parent can become comfortable with the process and to ensure your child is ready. Feeding therapy is designed to help a child learn how to eat food by their mouth, and no longer need the help of a nutritional bag. This is often a long process, especially if they haven’t been eating solid foods at all. It takes an average of 3 years for children to learn to eat. This begins at birth, through infancy and toddlerhood, then typically all their feeding skills are intact by 3 years old!
Feeding therapy would typically start by working on their oral motor skills (think of an infant learning to suck, swallow and move foods around in their mouth), then it would move onto them tolerating a variety of foods. The most important part of feeding therapy is getting the child and their parents comfortable with the process. Over the course of a feeding therapy program, our therapists work with you and your child to introduce nutritionally dense foods, explore a variety of textures and flavors, and also learn what types of foods your child likes and dislikes. It’s natural for people, especially children, to dislike certain foods; but during feeding therapy, we can help expand your child’s palate and make it a fun and safe process for mom and dad.
If your child is on a feeding tube or they are preparing to come off, contact our office today to schedule an appointment with our occupational therapists to learn more about feeding therapy.