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How Child Life can help with tube feeding


Helping your child with emotional needs

Having a feeding tube can be hard for your child. Here are some tips from the St. Jude Child Life staff to help you talk with your child about it:

  • Make sure your child understands that he needs nutrition to stay healthy, and the feeding tube will help him get it. You can explain that there are different ways people
    can get nutrition and the feeding tube is one (1) of those ways.
Patient with feeding tube
  • Help your child understand that getting a feeding tube is not punishment for anything he did wrong.
  • Tell your child that the feeding tube is not permanent. He will only have it as long as he needs it to get nutrition. If he has the feeding tube to get extra nutrition, he might still be able to eat with the feeding tube in. This can help him feel more normal.
  • Encourage your child by telling him that the feeding tube can help him feel better and have more energy because he is getting enough nutrition.
  • If your child is old enough to understand, tell him that it is important to keep the feeding tube clean. Your child can help you clean the feeding tube if this will help him be more comfortable with it and understand why it is needed.

Helping your child feel good about feedings

Try to make meal times comfortable and relaxed. Talk to your child and have fun. This will help your child feel better about feedings.

Try to keep up normal meal routines with your child who has a feeding tube. Here are suggestions for different age groups:

  • Babies: Hold the baby in your arms during feeding.
  • Toddlers: Have the toddler sit in the same chair he did before getting the feeding tube.
  • Older children: Have the child sit with the family during meal times.
Mon and patient with feeding tube

Helping your child remember how to eat by mouth

It is important to help your child remember that eating normally involves the mouth and face. Touching his lips and mouth during feedings will make it easier for your child to go back to eating by mouth when the feeding tube comes out. Here are suggestions to help your child stay aware of his mouth and face: A speech pathologist may also give you some suggestions.

  • Babies: Give your baby a pacifier, toy, or vibrating teether. You can touch your baby’s gums during a feeding. You can also touch, stroke, or pat your baby while you sing or make funny sounds together.
  • Toddlers: Touch your toddler’s lips, give him mouth toys, or touch his gums during feedings.
  • Pre-school and school-age children: Blow bubbles or play musical instruments during feedings.
  • Any age: Have your child rub different textured materials on his face during feedings, or do this yourself.

A speech language pathologist can give you other suggestions for helping your child remember that feeding involves the mouth and face.

Oral stimulation tools

Oral stimulation tools

How Child Life can help

A child life specialist can help your child cope with getting a feeding tube before and after the tube is put in. St. Jude child life specialists can also help siblings understand why the patient is getting a feeding tube and how they can help their brother or sister.


If you have questions about how child life specialists can help with tube feeding or anything covered in this information, call the Child Life office at 901-595-3020.

Child Life specialist using medical play to show how a feeding tube works.

Child Life specialist using medical play to show how a feeding tube works.


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.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

تنبيه: إذا كنت تتحدث باللغة العربية فيمكنك الاستعانة بخدمات المساعدة اللغوية المتوفرة لك مجانا. .يرجى الاتصال بالرقم. 5833-278-866-1  (الهاتف النصي: 1040-595-901-1).