For Nutrition Month, we’re highlighting our ‘Steps to Feeding’ program that supports children to start eating after being dependent on tube feeds. It’s one of the many ways BC Children’s supports children and families to achieve their nutrition goals.
Steps to Feeding is an intensive two-week hunger-based program that helps children wean off tube feeding when they’re ready, using a safe, coordinated and supervised approach. It’s unique within Canada and modelled after a successful program at Seattle Children’s Hospital.
Many medically fragile children require tube feeding from birth or when they are facing medical challenges. Although many children are able to transition from tube feeding without difficulty, some require more support to move to oral feeding and develop oral motor skills.
The Steps to Feeding program can have a profound impact on patients and their families as one mom attests,
“The program has been really positive for us. Mackenzie wasn’t eating anything before and now she loves food and wants to eat all day long!”
At the start of the program, the Steps to Feeding team – made up of a doctor, nurse, social worker, occupational therapist and dietitian – reduces the child’s calories and fluids fed through the tube. This triggers the child’s sense of hunger and interest in eating.
Every day for two weeks, the family participates in 2-3 meals a day that are individualized to the needs of the child. The sessions are supported by the health care team and mimic a typical family meal. They help familiarize children with new food tastes and textures, and encourage positive behaviours associated with meal time, such as time together as a family and enjoyment of the social aspects of eating.