Why may my baby need a gastrostomy tube?

Sandra Carroll
Neonatal Nursing
Babies who are unable to take the necessary amount of nutrition by mouth will sometimes need a gastrostomy tube to support their growth, development and overall health. In these cases, the baby is unable to take adequate amounts of formula or breast milk in a safe and efficient way. The decision is then made by the medical team and family to provide a long-term alternate route of nutrition through the insertion of a gastrostomy tube (also called a "g-tube").

There are many reasons that a baby may not be able to take enough through the mouth. Complications due to prematurity can lead to needing a g-tube. These complications are usually related to respiratory or neurological problems which cause an inability to coordinate suck-swallow-breathe patterns for safe feedings.

Another reason may be congenital issues (problems that are present at birth). Some examples would be genetic abnormalities, structural abnormalities in the oral/facial area; or structural abnormalities of the trachea/esophagus. These issues can impact feeding in many different ways. 

Once a baby has a g-tube, it is usually recommended that the baby have on-going feeding therapy (by either a neonatal/pediatric occupational therapist or neonatal/pediatric speech language-pathologist). Feeding therapy will focus on keeping/making the muscles and nerves active and strong, so that the baby can hopefully transition away from the g-tube and eventually be able to use the mouth for taking in nutrition.

G-tubes are helpful to the baby and family because it allows the family to be at home and safely receive their nutrition. The baby's clothes will cover the site where the g-tube, and the baby is able to still be held, have proper amounts of "tummy time" and be a part of the family.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.