How to make tube feedings more social

For many of us, mealtime is when we gather to share stories, laugh and simply engage with each another by doing something that connects us all, eating. But kids who are tube fed can find mealtime a very isolating experience; often feedings are approached as just another task to complete in the day.

LaRabida Children’s Hospital on Chicago’s South Side hopes to change how people think about tube feeding. It spearheaded a program for patients to promote positive feeding experiences. The goal is not only to encourage positivity during in-patient visits but also at home and beyond. The Tube Feeding Task Force’s initiative, Snack Attack, creates an opportunity for in-patients to have their feeding together, simply as a typical mealtime. Not only does this ease discomfort children may experience, but it encourages socialization.

“Mealtimes can serve as an effective bonding experience between children and adults and should be a routine during their day,” says Allison Lee, chief of speech language pathology at LaRabida, the mastermind behind the task force.

It is an initiative that parents should feel empowered to bring to their children’s schools. Luckily, as parents we can advocate for these opportunities for our children during IEP meetings.

For school-age children, lunch time is an important part of their day. Unfortunately, in many cases, children who are tube fed are not enjoying their meal with their classmates in an atmosphere that encourages social-emotional connections. This can lead to feelings of isolation and discouragement.

Cultivating a more inclusive approach to how we view tube feeding is important for the growth and development of our children. When I learned feedings would take place in the nurse’s office or in the classroom, I felt it was important that my child eat with his peers in the cafeteria with his classmates.

While feeding tubes are not typically considered an opportunity to promote social-emotional nourishment, it can be with the switch of our mindset.

Consider the ways your child’s feeding tube experience can cultivate inclusive opportunities that can help them thrive. As parents we have the ability to create these opportunities starting at home.


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