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HealthInfo Canterbury

Overview of tube feeding

Mō te whāngai ki te ngongo

Tube feeding, also called enteral nutrition, is a way of providing nutrition to your body. You might need to tube feed if you have a condition or illness that means you can't eat, or you can't eat enough.

When you tube feed, a special liquid formula (also called feed) goes through a feeding tube into your stomach or small intestine. The formula provides all the nutrients you need to stay healthy.

The feeding tube

Tubes can go to different places along your digestive tract.

Your doctor will decide which type of feeding tube is best for you.

The feed

There are different types of feed. Your dietitian will select one that best meets your nutrition needs. They'll also decide how much you need to have each day. Your dietitian will prescribe the feed and arrange to have it delivered to you. The feed is fully subsidised so there's no cost to you. There's also no charge for delivery but you may have to pay a prescription charge.


Either a feeding pump or a syringe can be used for tube feeding. Feeding using a syringe is also called bolus feeding. Your dietitian and nurse will give you all the equipment you need. They'll also teach you how to tube feed and look after your feeding tube.

The pages about tube feeding with a nasogastric or nasojejunal tube and tube feeding with a gastrostomy tube have more details about the types of feeding.

You can learn more about using a pump for tube feeding by watching these pump feeding videos.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed September 2021.

Page reference: 482888

Review key: HITUB-482880