Feeding Tube Education: Troubleshooting

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My child is vomiting

Possible Reasons

Venting your child's stomach

  • The tube is in the wrong position.
  • Your child has an illness such as a viral infection.
  • Your child has too much air in their stomach.

What to do

  • Vent your child’s stomach by opening the plug and attaching a 60 ml syringe to the feeding tube to let gas out of the stomach.
  • Call your family doctor if vomiting continues.
  • If your child vomits green bile, call your family doctor.
My child is nauseated

Possible Reasons

  • The feeding is too fast.
  • Your child has an illness such as a viral infection.

What to do

  • Slow the rate of flow of the feeding, doubling the time it takes to feed.
  • If that does not work, try delaying the feeding for an hour and then give it slowly.
  • If your child still feels nauseated the next day, call your family doctor.
There is a build-up of skin around the opening that is pink-red, shiny, thick & bumpy

Possible Reasons

  • This is granulation tissue, a normal body reaction to the tube.

What to do

  • Continue daily skin care. Secure the tube to the skin to prevent rubbing.
  • If the tissue becomes irritated or bleeds easily, call the doctor who takes care of the skin around your child’s tube. The doctor may treat this problem.
Tube in clogged

Possible Reasons

  • Feeding tube is blocked.
  • This can happen slowly over time, from a build-up of formula inside the tube.
  • It can happen suddenly, for example, when crushed medication blocks the tube.

What to do

  • Draw up 2 to 3 mL of warm water.
  • Attach the syringe to the feeding tube. Push the warm water in gently and pull the plunger back slowly.
  • Repeat several times.
  • If the problem continues, call the doctor who takes care of problems with your child’s tube.
My child is coughing or having trouble breathing during or after feedings

Possible Reasons

  • The formula may be coming back up into the throat from the stomach.

What to do

  • Slow down the flow of formula.
  • Talk with the person who handles problems with feeding about changing the flow of formula.
  • Make sure your child is in a safe position for feeding (sitting or propped up).
  • If the problem continues, call your family doctor.
My child has cramps

Possible Reasons

  • The formula is cold or not mixed properly, causing the bowels to contract.

What to do

  • Make sure the formula is at room temperature before using.
  • Be sure to use the right formula recipe.
  • Formula may be infusing too fast. Slow down the flow of formula.
My child is bloated

Possible Reasons

  • The formula may have gone in too quickly.
  • Too much gas in the stomach.

What to do

  • Delay the next feeding by 1 hour or slow the rate of feeding by half for 4 to 6 hours. Then slowly increase the rate back to the usual level.
  • Open the plug and attach a 60 ml syringe to the feeding tube to let gas out of the stomach.
  • If your child is able, exercise such as walking may relieve bloating and gas.
  • If bloating lasts for more than 2 or 3 days, call your family doctor.
My child is constipated

Constipation is defined as hard bowel movements or no bowel movements for 3 days. 

Possible Reasons

  • Your child is not getting enough fluids.  
  • Medicines may cause constipation.

What to do

  • Ask your family doctor, pediatrician or pharmacist if your child’s medicines may cause constipation.
  • Talk to the dietitian or nurse about the amount of fluids and fiber your child is getting.
My child has diarrhea

Diarrhea is defined as more than 3 loose, watery bowel movements in a day.

Possible Reasons

  • Medicine may cause diarrhea.
  • The feeding is going in too fast.
  • The feeding tube may have moved out of place.
  • Your child may have an illness or infection.

What to do

  • Talk with the dietitian about changing the flow of formula.
  • Always wash your hands before cleaning the site or feeding your child.  
  • Always use clean equipment.
  • When your child has diarrhea, you need to replace fluids. Talk to the dietitian or nurse about how to do this.
  • If diarrhea lasts longer than 2 days, call your family doctor. 
The skin around the tube is red, swollen, draining or sore

Possible Reasons

  • Leaking around the tube may irritate the skin and cause redness.
  • Pain, swelling and redness are signs of infection.

What to do

  • Do skin care more than once a day. Cover the site with a dressing to keep it dry. Change the dressing often.
  • See ‘Leaking around the tube.’
  • If the problem continues, call the doctor who takes care of the skin around your child’s tube.  
We are having problems with the pump or extension tubing

Broken clamp

Possible Reasons

  • Clamp is worn out

What to do

  • Call the home care company that provides your feeding supplies for a replacement.

Plug or cap breaks off tip of feeding tube

Possible Reasons

  • Plug or cap is worn out

What to do

  • Call the home care company that provides your feeding supplies for a replacement.

Tip of feeding bag tubing keeps coming out of feeding tube

Possible Reasons

  • Tube port is worn out
  • Build-up of oils inside

What to do

  • Call the home care company that provides your feeding supplies for a replacement.
  • Wet a cotton swab with water and clean the inside of the adapter and the tip of the feeding set.

Pump is not working

What to do

  • Refer to the pump manual and call the home care company that provides your feeding supplies for help.
There is leaking around the tube

Possible Reasons

 Leaking can irritate the skin and cause a burning feeling.  Leaking may be due to:

  • The tube is not secured properly.
  • The tube does not fit the opening properly.
  • A build-up of granulation tissue.

What to do

  • Check that the feeding tube is secure in the correct position (not pulled).
  • Continue skin care and try to keep the skin dry.
  • If leaking continues, call the doctor who takes care of problems with your child’s tube.