There are many resources around feeding and carrying, but less so around tube feeding and carrying. As this has been a way of life for us for almost 6 years, I have put down both my personal and professional experiences into this blog. Tube feeding is varied from child to child, so please do take what is relevant!
Carrying has made a huge difference to us both in so many ways. Not only has it seen us through NICU, hospital stays, surgeries and endless appointments but it's given us time to be cuddled up when things have been hard, hand free to spend time with my eldest daughter and freedom that we may not otherwise have had.
I quickly learnt how to do Isla's feeds whilst she was in the sling. In NICU, I was alone for most of her night feeds when she was awake so the sling made it so much easier to prepare feeds, test her tube was in the right place and then feed her. She had terrible reflux and it was the only place she would settle. When we got home, I loved carrying her because I'd had to ask to hold her for what felt like forever. It made carrying out all of her care so much easier with a toddler too.
Our carrying journey has evolved over the years. Isla has had 3 different feeding tubes and each time we've had to find a new way of using the sling. If you need any help with carrying your little one in special circumstances, please do get in touch.
I also have a separate blog post on carrying and surgery here and how slings have impacted our coping mechanisms with a complex medical journey here . For more information on the different types of feeding tubes, see here .
With any baby/child, the main consideration is safety. This may mean that you need to discuss sling use with your child's medical team to ensure they can be safe in the sling, depending on their specific needs. Please find more information on carrying safety here.
There is no 'best sling' for tube feeding, it will come down to what feels most comfortable and easy for you. You also absolutely do not have to tube feed your child whilst in the sling! This is just written as a guide to those who want/need to as I have found myself in that situation many times.
There are less considerations for a nasal tube (whether NG or NJ) unless a feed is attached (see below). Otherwise, it is just important to ensure the tube or tape don’t get caught in anything whilst putting the sling on. It can feel very daunting, especially in the early days, so do get some support if you feel you need it.
Stomach tubes can be a bit trickier but still completely possible with some extra thought. Access can be more limited but I have found that loosening the sling/carrier off on that side a little can make enough space to connect the tube or button up.
Again there isn't a specific sling/carrier that is best. Some options to allow for better access but I'd highly recommend going through and trying some with a Carrying Consultant to see what is best for you.
If your child has a PEG, it's important to consider whether it could get caught or press on the skin. You may need to loosen the straps slightly or consider a more off centred position to avoid this. This can also happen with a button so keep checking in and remain responsive, as always.
Carrying equipment/emergency kits etc
Anyone who has ever looked after a tube fed child knows how much extra stuff there is to cart about! Here's a few ideas:
(We also quite often use the pushchair and sling/carrier in various combinations)
Carrying whilst on a feed/with oxygen
There are many ways of carrying whilst your child is on a feed or oxygen. It just takes a little bit of extra thought! There is no magic one sling that will work, it’s finding what is comfortable for you and then how the tube feeding can work with it. This Instagram post may help you to see the different possibilities.
This post also shows how to carry the feed whilst back carrying. The bag shown is small but this does work with the pump issued back packs too.
Buckled carriers that you bring up over baby are great as you can get them settled first. This video shows how.
A ring sling or woven wrap also works well, as you can add this over the top of baby. You can find a step by step photo tutorial here.
As you can probably see, there aren’t any that won’t work. If you’re struggling to find a way with the sling/carrier you have then do get in touch with me or your local sling library and we will help!