Before my son was born I knew nothing about feeding tubes. I naively thought they were for elderly and severely brain injured patients. Never in a million years could I have imagined sending my six–week-old son to surgery for a G-tube.
I hated it at first. I felt like a failure for not being able to help my child take his nutrition by breast. Although my first baby was also in the NICU, I was able to eventually breastfeed him. I thought we needed to be more patient with our new baby. I questioned the NICU therapists who gently told me over and over again to not push him. They were concerned he could develop feeding aversions. I resented the tube and saw it as the enemy, stealing precious bonding time for me and my son.
But the more I saw my baby struggle to eat, and the more I understood how dangerous it was for him because he was aspirating, the more I knew a G-tube was inevitable. I don’t have a medical background. Everything about his feeding tube — from the button surgically inserted in his tummy, to the tubing, to the electronic pump — intimidated me. His G-tube meant having a bunch of medical equipment in my house with me as his main caregiver. That’s what I felt like too. Caregiver. Certainly not mama.
The learning curve was steep and intense and I fought it the whole time we were in the NICU. Once we got home I began to make peace with the tube. I began to see it as an assistant, and a fellow advocate in helping my baby gain the nutrition he needed to thrive.
Here are some things that helped make tube feeding friendlier:
- Stay organized. Tube feeding is much more involved than bottle or breast-feeding. You need lots of supplies and equipment you can’t buy at Target. Everything is shipped to your home in big boxes. You’ll need to find someplace to store it and that place should be easily accessible and organized.
- Pump breast milk. Not every mom wants to, or is able to, pump breast milk. I struggled so much with the fact that I wasn’t giving my baby all of the good stuff — liquid gold as the NICU nurses lovingly referred to breast milk — so I decided to pump for six months. The feeding tube was simply the means for which my son could get my milk.
- Cuddle. Typically when you feed a baby, you cuddle close to one another. It’s a natural position for breast or bottle feeding. With a feeding tube you don’t have to. I could have easily propped my son up in a comfy bouncy seat, while I did the dishes. However, I made an effort to hold my son with each of his tube feedings. This helped us bond better with one another.
- Find tube-friendly clothing. I quickly learned that clothing would be a challenge with tube feeding, especially infant clothes which involved a lot of onesies and sleeper pajamas. I began to cut holes in my son’s adorable baby blue clothes until I found that some people were making tube accessible clothes.
Tubesies offers a tube friendly bodysuit for babies with a G-tube. Their onsies have a waterproof velcro pocket with access across the bottom for the tube. The pocket is hidden within the the adorable designs. The best part is that they are cute, cute, cute!
The lovely people at Tubesies are offering a giveaway for Preemie Babies 101 readers! Two (2) winners will each receive one (1) Tubesies tube-feeding bodysuit. Enter via the Rafflecopter below!
Eating is the main way we nurture our babies. You can still nurture your baby with a feeding tube!
Although everything felt foreign and frustrating in the beginning of tube feeding my baby, I was able to find ways to appreciate my son’s tube for the ways it helped him thrive. After all, it offered him a non-stressful way to receive the nutrition he so desperately needed in order for his brain and body to develop to his best possible potential.