The first families to benefit from our Improver-funded project to help parents wean their babies from tube feeding came together with past tube graduates this week celebrating with a Christmas picnic.
Weaning babies and children off tube feeding can be a lengthy and stressful process, especially when it involves multiple hospital visits.
The $100,000 grant from The Improvers paid for a pilot program to include net coaching for 12 months. This involves specialists coaching parents via video conferencing and an expanded support network, reducing the number of hospital appointments.
Another advantage of doing the treatment at home is it’s a more relaxed environment as it’s where they practice eating and drinking every day, according to Paediatric Dietitian Jacqui Willcox.
The net coaching program is the brainchild of Jacqui and Paediatric Speech Pathologist Rachael Fairhurst.
“Four months into the trial, we are well on the way to proving this as a successful way of delivering care with the hope the program can be funded permanently. We are aiming to have 15-20 families come through the program before June next year,” Jacqui said.
Since 2014 there has been a 170 per cent rise in the number of tube-dependent children being treated by Gold Coast Health.
“We’ve delivered face-to-face tube weaning at the hospital for two years, providing a service to kids who need tubes to provide nutrition to live. Before this funding, children were waiting months to start tube weaning, with some children missing the opportunity to wean at the right time," Rachael said.
“We provide a rapid tube-weaning program, teaching children to feel hungry and thirsty by reducing the nutrition we provide down the tube and at the same time supporting them through therapy sessions to develop their oral sensory motor skills needed to eat and drink.
“Our application to the Improvers was to increase the team and include psychology and occupational therapy support, and transition the program to include video conferencing, allowing more families access to the program from their homes.
"With the support of the Improvers funding, families are now seen within one to two weeks of readiness, with five children successfully weaned before Christmas.
“Weaning kids off tube feeding can be life-changing and the earlier it’s done, the better for a child’s development and their long-term love of food.”