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Tube Feeding: How to Gravity Feed

Amy Long Carrera, MS, RD, CNSC, CWCMS
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist | Shield HealthCare
10/23/15  4:04 PM PST
Gravity Feed

Gravity feeding is a way to deliver formula through your feeding tube. With this feeding method, formula flows out of a bag and into your tube by gravity. This method is slower than feeding with a syringe and uses a roller clamp on the bag’s tubing to control the rate. Most people who gravity feed take a “meal” every few hours during the day. A feeding will usually take between 30 to 60 minutes.

To gravity feed, you will need:

  • 60-milliliter catheter tip or oral syringe
  • Cup of room-temperature water
  • Formula
  • Gravity feeding bag
  • IV pole

To prevent infection, always wash your hands before handling the feeding tube and supplies.

How to Gravity Feed:

  1. If you have a low profile feeding tube, prime the extension tubing to remove any air before attaching it to the feeding tube. Priming the tubing helps prevent air from entering your stomach and causing discomfort.
    1. Clamp the extension set.
    2. Remove the plunger from the syringe and attach the syringe to the extension tubing.
    3. Pour about 15 milliliters of formula into the syringe.
    4. Unclamp the extension set, allowing the formula to flow just to the end of the tubing and clamp the extension set.
    5. Attach the extension set to the feeding tube.
  2. If you have a regular gastrostomy tube, flush your tube with water to prime the tubing.
    1. Remove the plunger from the syringe.
    2. Attach the syringe to your feeding tube.
    3. Pour 10-15 milliliters of water into the syringe and let it flow through your tube.
  3. Clean off the outside of your formula container with a clean towel and open it.
  4. Close the clamp on the gravity feeding bag.
  5. Open the bag and pour in the desired amount of formula.
  6. Carefully squeeze the air out of the bag and close it.
  7. Hang the bag on the IV pole.
  8. Prime the bag’s tubing to remove air. This will prevent air in the tubing from going into your stomach and making you uncomfortable.
    1. Slowly open the roller clamp and allow the formula to flow until it reaches the tip of the tubing.
    2. Close the clamp.
  9. Remove the cover on the tip of the gravity bag’s tubing.
  10. Attach the tip of the tubing to your feeding port. Slowly open the roller clamp to start feeding.
  11. Control the rate of feeding by adjusting the roller clamp.
    • It should take between 30 to 60 minutes to deliver 8 ounces of formula, depending on your tolerance.
    • You can speed the flow of formula by opening the roller clamp.
    • Slow the formula flow down by closing the roller clamp on the tubing.
    • You may need to slow down the formula if you start to feel nauseous or too full during the feeding.
    • You may also need to feed more slowly if you experience stomach upset or loose bowel movements immediately after your feedings.
  12. When you are done feeding, disconnect the gravity bag tubing from your feeding tube.
  13. Flush your feeding tube with the amount of water recommended by your healthcare team.
  14. Close the feeding port and disconnect the extension tubing if applicable.
  15. Wash your hands. Wash and air-dry all equipment and supplies.
  16. Refrigerate any leftover formula and use within 24 hours.

You can also watch a video about How to Gravity Feed here.

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