Unsolicited advice, it’s the bane of any parent’s existence. Especially when it comes to comments about your child’s eating habits. Or, in the case of a child’s feeding tube, their “not-eating” habits.
Gatherings with family and friends can be fraught with unwanted comments and questions about your child’s feeding tube. Aimee Henrikson, Registered Dietitian (RD) and Pediatric Medical Scientific Liaison for Nestlé Health Science, provides some perspective on how to deal with sensitive questions and comments about your child’s feeding tube.
What prompts tube-feeding questions?
Anyone who is a parent may have experienced a fussy eater. So it is not surprising that people feel qualified to comment on the eating habits of other people’s children, even if they are being fed through a feeding tube.
Many people can’t understand why a child won’t eat and requires a feeding tube. In many cases, a child with a feeding tube doesn’t look sick. However, the child may have a medical condition that prevents them from being able to eat or they may have the ability to eat but may still require supplemental tube feeding to get all the nutrition they need.
With some medical conditions that require tube feeding, a child may also have challenges digesting and absorbing nutrition. For example, the child might need a specialized formula that contains protein in the form that is broken down into smaller sizes called peptides. In this case, a formula like Peptamen Junior®, which is peptide-based, could be more appropriate and may be delivered through the child’s feeding tube.
So, what sort of comments are made to parents?
The patient advocacy groups we work with tell us that comments can run the gamut from innocent questions to statements that are quite hurtful, such as “Leave her with me, I will have her eating in no time.1” It’s helpful to remind yourself about people’s motives. Sometimes your friends are just trying to relate to you or to establish a common bond when they share their stories about their child’s picky eating habits. Other times, they are just curious, and may have questions about tube feeding.
How can parents successfully handle the comments?
Here are a couple of suggestions on how to deal with the tube-feeding questions and comments you might receive:
Don’t assume negative intent. It is easy to become angry or defensive when someone makes a comment about your child’s feeding tube. It might even feel like your parenting abilities are being questioned. But, sometimes, people are genuinely curious or concerned about you and your child. Take a breath and start by assuming there are positive motives behind their questions. This will make you feel more in control. Who knows? A healthy discussion might ensue.
Be positive about your child’s feeding tube. The nutrition your child receives from their feeding tube is helping them grow and flourish. Take the time to share all the things your child can do because they are tube-fed.
Provide short, factual answers. The Feeding Tube Awareness Foundation has a great list of suggestions for answering the difficult questions you might get, such as “What’s wrong with him?” or “If she is eating food now, why does she still have the feeding tube?”
Let your child answer. If they are comfortable and old enough, letting your child answer the feeding-tube questions can be very empowering.
More questions about your child’s tube feeding?
Check out MyTubeFeedingkid.com for a comprehensive online resource dedicated to children with a feeding tube and other unique nutrition needs. MyTubeFeedingkid.com features kid-friendly educational content, including interactive games and puzzles aimed at making the tube-feeding experience easier for kids, parents and caregivers.
- Understanding the Parent Perspective, Feeding Tube Awareness Foundation