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HealthSheets™

Your Child's Nasogastric Tube: Syringe Feeding

Your child is going home with a nasogastric (NG) feeding tube in place. This is a soft thin tube inserted through your child’s nose down into the stomach. It sends liquid food directly to the stomach. You’ll need to feed your child through this tube. You were shown how to do this before your child was discharged from the hospital. This sheet will help you remember those steps at home. If you need more help, talk with the hospital about how to arrange a home health nurse to help you.

Outline of baby's head and chest showing NG tube in nose connected to feeding port and feeding syringe. Liquid food in feeding syringe flows into baby through NG tube.
Give the feeding by allowing the food to run through the syringe by gravity.

Keep in mind that there are many types of NG tubes and syringes. Your child’s NG tube and supplies may look or work differently from what are described and shown here. Make sure to follow the instructions given by your child’s healthcare provider or home health nurse.

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: __________________________________

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. Do not change pump settings unless you’re instructed 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: ______________________________________________

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. Perform this check before each feeding.

The supplies you’ll need are:

  • Syringe

  • pH testing strips

Follow these steps:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water.

  • Attach the syringe to the end of the NG tube. Make sure the other port of the tube is closed off.

  • Pull back on the plunger of the syringe until you see liquid from the stomach in the syringe.

  • Look at the color of the fluid. It should look clear or light yellow.

  • Check the pH of the liquid from the stomach using pH paper. Stomach (gastric) pH should be 1 to 4 if your child is not taking a proton pump inhibitor or H2 receptor antagonist.

  • If you are not sure the tube is in the stomach, don’t proceed with the feeding. Re-insert or gently the NG tube as you were instructed at the hospital. Repeat the above steps to check for correct placement. 

  • Remove the syringe from the feeding tube.

  • Tape the tube securely in place along your child’s nose or cheek as you were shown in the hospital.

  • Wash the syringe out with soap and water and allow to dry.

  • Proceed with feeding as instructed.

 

Outline of baby's head and chest showing NG tube in nose connected to feeding port and feeding syringe.
Put the feeding syringe tip in the port.
 

 

 

 

Outline of baby's head and chest showing NG tube in nose connected to feeding port and feeding syringe. Hand is holding NG tube steady while other hand pours liquid food into feeding syringe.
Fill the feeding syringe with liquid food.

 

Feeding your child

After checking placement of the tube, feed your child the amounts on the schedule as noted above.

The supplies you’ll need are:

  • Liquid food

  • Feeding syringe

Follow these steps:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water.

  • Check the label and expiration date of the liquid food. Don’t use any can or bag of food if the expiration date has passed. Instead, get a new can or bag of food.

  • Open the feeding port cap at the end of the NG tube. 

  • Pull the plunger out of the feeding syringe.

  • Connect the feeding syringe to the feeding port of the NG tube.

  • Gently bend or pinch the tube with 1 hand. Keep bending or pinching the tube as you slowly pour the food into the feeding syringe with your other hand. This keeps the food from flowing through the tube until you have finished measuring it. 

  • Fill the feeding syringe only to the amount that was prescribed by your child’s healthcare provider.

  • Release the hand that is bending or pinching the tube.

  • Hold the feeding syringe straight up. This allows the food to run through the tube by gravity. Adjust the angle of the feeding syringe to control the flow rate of the food.

  • If the food flows too slowly or doesn’t flow at all, place the plunger in the syringe. Gently push the plunger a bit. This can help remove anything that is blocking or clogging the tube. Do not push the plunger all the way into the syringe or with force.

  • Refill the feeding syringe with food, if needed. Repeat steps until your child has had the prescribed amount of food.

  • After the feeding, flush the tube with water as you were shown in the hospital. 

  • Disconnect the feeding syringe.

  • Close the feeding port cap of the tube.

Additional instructions: _____________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________________

When to call the healthcare provider

Contact the 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.

© 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.