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The first time a child who is being tube fed sleeps over at someone else’s house is always stressful for the parents, but there are steps you can take beforehand to relieve some of your concerns and give you some peace of mind.

Naturally no parent wants their tube-fed child staying somewhere else, due to the real risks associated with tube
feeding. However, all kinds of situations arise when a sleepover becomes necessary. It might be that the parents have an urgent appointment out of town and so the child DSC_0080might stay overnight with relatives, such as the grandparents, or it could be that the parents, already dealing with the worry of the child’s condition that necessitates tube feeding, simply want a break. Whatever the reason, it’s wise to plan ahead, and here’s a useful checklist.

1. Sit down with the caregiver – the family member or friend who will be looking after the child and feeding them – and discuss in simple steps what needs to be done. They may well have seen you feeding your child many times, but doing so themselves is a different story. Make a list of what they have to do and what foods are to be used and when. Be very clear that only the food you give them can be used, and nothing else.

2. In the days leading up to the sleepover, invite the caregiver to your home a number of times and have them do the feeding. Provide written step-by-step instructions and have them do the feeding based on the instructions.They may be nervous at first, but with you guiding them in what to do, after a few goes they’ll soon get the hang of it. Seeing them comfortably feeding your child will certainly help to put your mind at rest when you go away, knowing that at this stage they are more than capable of tube feeding.

3. Talk to the caregiver about what can DSC_0220go wrong with feeding tubes. This can include them becoming displaced and causing discomfort for the child. If that happens, have the caregiver either call you immediately or take the child to the doctor or hospital. Other issues to be concerned about are the sites where the tubes are inserted into the body – either the nasal passage or the abdomen – and inform the caregiver that they must not be tampered with.

If the sites need any special care, for example dressings need to be changed, then you should also explain and show what needs to be done.

4. Pack plenty of supplies to cover for any spillages or accidents. The caregiver is not as used to tube-feeding as you are, and accidents can happen.

5. Leakages can happen at any time, but often occur during the night. Suggest that the bed has a mattress protector just in case of leakage and also pack extra pyjamas.

Preparing in advance like this will be good for your child, and for you.