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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Overview of tube feeding for babies and children

Tube feeding is a way of providing nutrition to your tamaiti (child). It is also called enteral nutrition.

Your tamaiti might need to tube feed if they have a condition or illness that means they cannot eat or drink. They might also need to tube feed if they cannot eat or drink enough to grow.

Your tamaiti is tube fed with a special liquid formula (also called feed). The formula goes through a feeding tube into their stomach or small intestine. The formula provides all the nutrients they need to stay healthy and grow.

The feeding tube

Illustration showing nasogastric and nasojejunal feeding tubes going through the nose into the stomach and jejunum respectively and a gastrostomy tube going through the stomach wallTubes can go to different places along your child's digestive tract.

The feed

There are different types of feed. Your dietitian will select one that best meets your child's nutrition needs. They will also decide how much your tamaiti needs 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 is no cost to you but there is a delivery fee.

For pēpi (babies), standard infant formula from the supermarket is often the best choice. You will need to pay for this but once your pēpi is 12 months old, the formula is fully subsidised.


There are 3 methods of tube feeding. These are gravity feeding, bolus feeding and pump feeding. A syringe is used to deliver the feed for bolus and gravity feeding.

Your dietitian and nurse will give you all the equipment you need. They will also teach you how to tube feed your tamaiti and look after their feeding tube.

The following pages 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. Page created November 2023.


Page reference: 1145148

Review key: HITUB-482880