When you or someone you care about is diagnosed with a health issue that requires a feeding tube, the most commonly recommended delivery system is a 60mL plastic syringe that wasn’t designed for tube feeding. Most people will settle for this delivery method and find tips and tricks to make it work for them. WHY?
Here are three things to consider when deciding on a tube feeding delivery method:
Synthetic formulas are the go-to recommendation of most doctors and dietitians, because that’s what they were trained to recommend. The products are considered nutritionally complete, with the recommended vitamins and minerals, meet food safety requirements and have been formulated for specific conditions. The delivery systems are designed to work with them.
Many people are finding that synthetic formulas just don’t cut it. Sure, they are convenient and flow through tubing easily (due to their thin design), but they get their calories from loads of sugar and other processed ingredients.
They have the recommended vitamins and minerals, but they are synthetic, which means our bodies absorb them differently from the vitamins and minerals we get from real food.
In response, a growing group of tube feeders and their caregivers have started to blend their own food. It takes some time to do it, but the people who have the time to blend their own tube feeding nutrition have found it the best option for their long term health.
There are a lot of great resources on the internet with recipes for blending your own food, plus support groups on Facebook to help and support you as you blend your own food. Why should a person using a feeding tube not eat real food?
In the last few years a number of new companies have come out with mass produced tube feeding formulas made from real food. This is a great convenience for the home tube feeder in that they can get the benefits of real food without having to make and store their own blends.
You want to make sure your delivery system matches your lifestyle. If you are active – going to school, work, travel – you don’t want your movement limited by how you eat your meals.
Pumps and gravity systems take time and have special set up instructions. Because of that, many people get frustrated. They don’t want to hang a bag full of food and sit and wait for the bag to drain.
If they’re using a syringe to deliver their food, it takes time bolus syringes and it can get messy, especially when they leak or accidentally disconnect.
If you decide to tube feed overnight, an enteral tube feeding pump is a great choice. Enteral tube feeding pumps can be programmed to deliver small amounts of food over a long period of time and will alarm to wake you up if there is an issue.
But, if you want to tube feed blenderized real food you may want to reconsider. The pumps aren’t designed to deliver thick, chunky nutrition. In fact, some pump manufacturers specifically warn against blenderized real food delivery.
If you are strictly going to tube feed during the day and don’t have any volume restrictions, you probably don’t want to be tied to an enteral feeding pump and will choose between bolus or gravity feeding systems.
In the end you have options to choose the tube feeding delivery system that is right for you. A little self evaluation of your lifestyle will help you make the right choice.