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Is Enteral Feeding Safe?

Although Enteral Feeding and G digestive methods of feeding may seem similar, there are some important differences that you should be aware of. While both are used during the initial phase of lactation, with breast-fed babies beginning their gastrointestinal tract on a full stomach, there are important differences in calorie needs and nutritional requirements between the two. Also, although both use the mother’s own milk, in order to provide protein and nutrients for the infant, there are major differences in how the formula is handled and delivered. This is important, as babies require different amounts of formula based on their weight at different stages of growth.

There are many similarities between both enteral feedings and parenteral nutrition, however. The primary difference is the location from which the food is dispensed. Nasogastric tube feeding (N tube feeding) is usually employed for a shorter period of time, like six to twelve weeks, for infants who are only needing occasional nutrition. This is done by the mother to nurse the baby in her arms, which provides the necessary calories and other nutrients. In this system, the formula is also pumped into the mother’s breasts. Breast tube or bottle feeding, on the other hand, is usually employed for infants who are not able to nurse, as this provides constant and adequate nutrition.

Although both involve using the mother’s own milk, there are some important differences between these two methods of infant enteral nutrition. First, neither is a true fast food. Under the circumstances, what a baby receives through these tubes does not resemble the nutrition of breast or bottle feeding. Also, both involve the use of tubes inserted into the stomach, in order to deliver nutrients directly to the intestines. However, because the infant is not being fed directly from the mother’s stomach, neither the stomach nor intestines are impacted, unlike in gastric tube feeding, when the infant absorbs the nutrition directly from the tube into the intestines.

Another key difference is that neither the tube nor the stomach can be felt, despite some experts’ claims that a baby will feel the benefits of a true gastric-bypassing diet, through the mouth. This makes it difficult to compare the effects of breast or bottle-feeding to that of enteral nutrition. There is also the fact that the infant cannot voluntarily select a meal, with neither a period of time nor a clear choice of foods. He/She simply consumes whatever food is offered. For this reason, most medical professionals agree that enteral feeding should be the first option offered to infants with sufficient weight, in order to ensure they receive all the essential nutrients for proper growth.

Enteral-feeding is an attractive alternative to tube feedings and breastfeeding, but like all medical procedures, there are potential complications. However, most of these complications are not life-threatening, the team leader emphasizes. “In most cases it’s mild and usually not life-threatening,” he says. He and other gastroenterologists recommend that patients considering this feeding method consult one of their colleagues before undergoing any such procedures.

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