As a Paediatric Dietitian I work with many children with feeding tubes. This includes both long and short term tube feeding which we call enteral feeding. We tube feed children who cannot meet their nutritional requirements by feeding orally themselves, and this can be for many reasons such as premature birth, faltering growth, swallowing difficulties, physiological problems, long term disabilities, genetic, neurological and heart conditions to name a few.
The need for tube feeding a child is usually assessed by a team of people including Speech and Language Therapists, Paediatricians, Children’s Nurses, Paediatric Dietitians and the families as well.
As Dietitians we tend to choose the appropriate feeds based on a child’s nutritional needs and medical requirements. The feeds are usually a commercial feed which is prescribed and obtained from a feed company such as Nestle Health Science, Nutricia, Abbott, and Fresenius just to name a few. Or in babies we will usually feed an infant formula.
Recently there has been growing interest and popularity around blended diets which is the idea that real foods are blended to a consistency that can be given via a feeding tube. Dietitians historically could not support this method of feeding, however with growing evidence and support from the British Dietetic Association we can now offer this method of feeding to families in a safe way.
Blended diets are not appropriate for all tube feeders and therefore you should discuss this option with your child’s dietitian before starting a blended diet. A full assessment will be undertaken as to whether this method is appropriate, and this will include but is not limited to:
- Assessment of age, medical condition, nutritional requirements and feeding history
- Safety of food to provide a balanced diet and ability to meet nutritional requirements e.g. exclusion of foods a child is allergic to
- Type of tube a child has
- Family expectations and understanding
- Ability to provide full blended diet or to include commercial feeds as well
- Childcare providers
- Ability to train families
I recently had a discussion with a nutrition rep who provided some approved recipes for blended diet. I particularly liked this one as it means that children on a blended diet can enjoy a Christmas dinner with their family on Christmas day. This recipe is only approved for this specific feed and you should always check with your dietitian before trying anything new as this will not be appropriate for all children, however if you are interested in trying this recipe with your child’s feeds, or you would like to know more about blended diet please speak to your Dietitian.
Thanks to Nestle Health Science for this recipe.
I hope this is useful, and if you have any questions about blended diets please do get in touch.
Have a wonderful Christmas everyone x