Blended diets offer benefits for children with feeding tubes

blender with food in it
PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK

For years, the standard practice for children with feeding tubes has been to provide them with commercially available formula as a source of complete nutrition. While some children have no difficulty tolerating these formulas, others may experience problems such as significant vomiting, diarrhea, retching or growth issues. For these patients, a blended diet may offer a number of benefits.

“These blenderized feeds have been revolutionary for the care of children with aerodigestive disorders,” says Rachel Rosen, MD, director of the Aerodigestive Center at Boston Children’s Hospital. “They improve both gastrointestinal and pulmonary symptoms and allow for personalized diets designed by parents and clinicians.”

An array of potential advantages

Also known as a blenderized or pureed diet, a blended diet is just as these names suggest: table food that is pureed in a blender and given to the child through their feeding tube. They can be used in children with a variety of medical conditions, including in those with food allergies and sensitivities.

Due to the success Rosen and her colleagues have seen from blended diets in many patients, the Aerodigestive Center is one the largest groups in the U.S. to routinely use this approach. As a result, the center is at the forefront of research into the use of blended diets in children. For example, they have found through research at Boston Children’s that hospitalizations are reduced in children receiving these types of feeds.

This method of feeding also improves vomiting, gastroesophageal reflux, constipation, diarrhea, and aspiration risk, and may even improve the likelihood that children will get off of feeding tubes all together. Many families are more satisfied with this type of feeding as it allows for families to customize diets based on their family preferences and allow children to experience the sight and smell of the same foods their families enjoy during mealtimes.

Consultation is critical

Blenderized foods can be administered the same ways as regular canned formula — by gravity, bolus or pump. Because of the complexities of blended diets, however, it’s important for primary care physicians and parents to consult with a gastroenterologist or nutritionist to ensure that the child is receiving the appropriate balance of nutrition and that the composition of the diet addresses their individual gastrointestinal and pulmonary needs.

Learn about the Aerodigestive Center.