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Frequently asked questions about feeding tubes


How long will my child have the tube? Is it permanent?

Your child will have a feeding tube as long as he needs it. The St. Jude team will test your child to see if he is ready to eat food by mouth. If so, your child can start doing this with the feeding tube in place. After your child is keeping his weight up and getting enough nutrients by mouth, your doctor and the St. Jude dietitian will talk with you about removing the tube.

How often do feeding tubes have to be changed?

Feeding tubes are not changed on a schedule. If your child has a temporary tube, the St. Jude team will exchange it for a long-term tube in 6–8 weeks. Long-term feeding tubes are replaced if they stop working correctly or your child has tube problems, such as needing a smaller sized tube.

Will my child have pain at the feeding tube site?

Your child might have mild pain after his feeding tube is placed. This should get better as the stoma heals. It usually goes away in a week to 10 days. The St. Jude team can give your child medicines to help control pain. After the stoma heals, your child should not feel any pain unless the stoma site gets irritated. When your child is neutropenic, he might have mild pain and some redness around the feeding tube site. Tell your St. Jude team if the skin around your child’s tube is irritated or he starts having new or severe pain in the area.

Is it OK for my child to sleep on his stomach?

It is safe for your child to lie on his stomach with the feeding tube in place if this is comfortable and he is old enough to sleep on his stomach safely. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies sleep on their backs up to 1 year of age during naps and at night. It is important to make sure the tube is firmly in place. This keeps it from moving around and stretching the stoma or causing skin problems.

patient with feeding tube

Is it OK for my child to swim or bathe with the tube in place?

Your child may bathe in the tub when the stoma has healed completely. Make sure all the tubing is clamped before your child takes a bath. Your child may swim if the doctor says it is safe. Make sure all the tubing is clamped before your child goes swimming.

Is my child allowed to play with the tube in place?

Yes. Your child may play with a feeding tube in place. Play is important for your child’s healthy development. Rough sports or activities that put a lot of pressure on the belly should be avoided. Ask your St. Jude team if you have questions about certain activities.

What happens when my child no longer needs the feeding tube?

The tube can be taken out when your child no longer needs it. After the tube is out, the stoma will heal and close. How long this takes depends on how long your child had the tube and what other medical treatments he is receiving. Your child might need a small dressing or other treatment at the stoma site to help it heal. If the stoma does not close by itself, the doctor can do surgery to close it.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

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