A number of families enter into tube feeding without having a choice, when there is an obvious issue that prevents feeding – aspiration of all thicknesses, structural issues, or genetic, neurological, pulmonary, or cardiac conditions – to name a few broad categories.
But, many find themselves faced with a true decision. They have a child who is eating and drinking orally, but not enough to gain weight. Often that child receives the Failure to Thrive (FTT) label. There isn’t a standard definition of what constitutes FTT. However, it is commonly defined by a failure to gain enough weight to support expected growth. Doctors may talk about “falling off the curve,” referring to the percentiles on growth charts and where they expect a child to be. A child may not gain or grow for months at a time during periods of more rapid childhood development, or make too little progress. Attempts are often made to make food more caloric, and to encourage more eating or drinking. But, a child may be spitting up or vomiting, experiencing diarrhea, or he or she may increasingly refuse food.
By the time you discuss tube feeding, many things have probably already been tried. Tube feeding is often the last resort, and very rarely a first-line treatment option. Check out these Myths and Facts about tube feeding.
Malnutrition and dehydration aren’t to be taken lightly, particularly in young children. Malnutrition can have long-term effects on growth and development, especially brain development in the first few years of life. Moreover, those who are undernourished are more susceptible to illness and will take longer to recover. The primary goal of your medical professional may be to get your child adequately nourished and hydrated, with an eventual focus on weight gain.