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When Your Child Needs a Nasogastric (NG) Tube
Outline of baby with head turned to side showing mouth, esophagus, stomach, nasal cavity, trachea (windpipe), and lungs. NG tube is inserted in nose, through esophagus, and into stomach.
The NG tube is inserted through your child’s nose, down the esophagus, and into the stomach.

If your child is having trouble swallowing food or liquids safely, the healthcare provider may advise tube feeding. Tube feeding is often done with a nasogastric (NG) tube. This is a soft, thin tube put through your child’s nose and down into the stomach. It sends liquid food directly to the stomach. Liquid food given through the NG tube is digested the same as food eaten normally. The NG tube may look uncomfortable. But it should not be uncomfortable for your child.

Why an NG tube is used

An NG tube is often used for many reasons. For example, it may be used if your child:

  • Needs short-term help getting nutrients or medicine

  • Is not growing properly on regular food

  • Has trouble swallowing

  • Has an infection or is recovering from surgery and can’t eat food for a short time

  • Needs extra nutrition in addition to regular feeding

An NG tube is only meant to be used for a short time. If your healthcare provider feels your child may need a more long-term solution, there are other kinds of tubes. These can be put directly into the stomach or part of the small intestine with a small surgery.

Contact information to keep handy

Ask for phone numbers to call if you need help. Also make sure you have the phone number for your child’s medical supply company. You’ll need to order more supplies for your child in the future. Write all of these phone numbers below.

Healthcare provider phone number: ____________________________________

Home health nurse phone number: _____________________________________

Medical supply company phone number: __________________________________

Caring for the NG tube

The tube will be first inserted in the hospital. You may find that it is easier to care for than you think. You’ll be shown how to insert, remove, and care for the NG tube at home. You’ll be taught how to make sure the tube is inserted correctly every time you feed your child. Ask your child's healthcare provider how often the NG tube needs to be replaced.

Replace NG tube: ______________________________

Feeding your child

You’ll need to feed your child through the tube. You will be shown how to do this before your child is discharged from the hospital. If you need more help, talk with the hospital about how to arrange a home health nurse to help you.

Checking placement of the tube before feeding

Every time you feed your child, you’ll need to make sure the NG tube is in the proper place. The end of the tube must be in your child’s stomach, not in the lungs or throat. To check if the tube is in place, you will draw some liquid from the stomach and test it. Do this check before each feeding.

Types of feeding

There are 2 types of feeding with an NG tube. Your child may be have one or both types of feeding. They are:

  • Continuous feeding. Liquid food is dripped slowly through the tube for part or all of a day. This type of feeding is only done using a pump. The amount of food to be given and time frame are often set on the pump for you. Don't change pump settings unless you’re told to do so.

  • Bolus feeding. This is a meal-sized amount of liquid food given through the tube several times a day. Bolus feeding is given using a syringe or a pump. Your child’s healthcare provider or home health nurse will tell you how much liquid food to use for each feeding. You’ll also be told how often to feed your child.

For bolus feeding, fill in the numbers below:

Feed your child on this schedule: ____________________________________________

Give this much at each feeding: ______________________________________________

When to call the healthcare provider

Call your child's healthcare provider right away if any of the following occurs:

  • You’re not able to place the tube.

  • Your child has trouble breathing.

  • The skin around the tube site has redness, swelling, leaking fluid, or sores.

  • You see blood around the tube, in your child’s stool, or in the contents of the stomach.

  • Your child coughs, chokes, or vomits while feeding.

  • Your child’s belly looks bloated or feels hard when gently pressed.

  • Your child has diarrhea or constipation.

  • Your child has a fever 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by the healthcare provider.

© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.