When Your Child Needs a Nasogastric (NG) TubeOutline of baby with head turned to side showing mouth, esophagus, stomach, nasal cavity, trachea (windpipe), and lungs. NG tube is inserted in nose, through esophagus, and into stomach.

If your child is having trouble swallowing food or liquids safely, the doctor may suggest tube feeding. Tube feeding is often done with a nasogastric (NG) tube. This is a soft, thin tube inserted through your child’s nose down into the stomach. It delivers liquid food directly to the stomach. This way, the food bypasses the mouth and esophagus (the food pipe from the throat to the stomach). Liquid food given through the NG tube is then digested as if it had been eaten normally.

Why an NG tube is used

An NG tube is often used if your child needs short-term help getting nutrients or medications. Your child may not be growing properly on regular food or may have trouble swallowing. An infection or recovery from surgery may mean your child can’t eat food for a short time. An NG tube may also be used in addition to regular feeding to supply extra nutrition.

Inserting the NG tube

  • The tube will be first inserted in the hospital. You’ll be shown how to insert, remove, and care for the NG tube at home.

  • You’ll be taught how to make sure the tube is inserted correctly every time you feed your child. See the tint box below for step-by-step instructions.

  • The tube will need to be replaced every 14 days.

  • Some parents find the NG tube unsightly at first. However, it shouldn’t be uncomfortable for your child. And you may find that it is easier to care for than you think.

Checking placement of the tube before feeding

Every time you feed your child, you’ll need to make sure the NG tube is in the proper place. The end of the tube must be in your child’s stomach, NOT in the lungs or throat. Perform this check before each feeding.


  • Syringe

  • pH testing strips


  • Wash your hands with soap and water.

  • Check for proper tube placement:

    • Attach the syringe to the end of the tube and make sure the other port of the tube is closed off.

    • Pull back on the plunger of the syringe to get stomach contents.

    • Check the pH using pH paper. Gastric (or stomach) pH should be 1 to 4 if your child is not on proton pump inhibitor or H2 receptor antagonist. Please discuss what medications your child is taking with his or her doctor.

    • Observe the color of the fluid. Gastric (stomach) pH should be 1 to 4 and look clear, or light yellow.

  • Remove the syringe from the feeding tube.

  • Tape the tube securely in place along your child’s nose or cheek (as you were shown in the hospital).

  • Wash the syringe out with soap and water and allow to dry.

  • Proceed with feeding as you have been instructed.

Note: If you are NOT SURE the tube is in the stomach, DON'T proceed with the feeding. Re-insert or advance the NG tube as you were instructed by the health care provider and REPEAT the steps to check for CORRECT placement. 

When to call the doctor

Call the doctor right away if you notice any of the following:

  • Choking

  • Trouble breathing during feeding or giving medication

  • Diarrhea or constipation

  • Vomiting

  • Bloating or rigid abdomen (belly feels hard when gently pressed)

  • Fever over 100.4°F (38.0°C)