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Withdrawing feeds from children on long term enteral feeding: factors associated with success and failure
  1. Charlotte M Wright1,
  2. Kathryn H Smith2,
  3. Jill Morrison2
  1. 1Department of Child Health, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  2. 2Royal Hospital for Sick Children, NHS Greater Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Charlotte M Wright, Community Child Health, University of Glasgow, PEACH Unit, QMH Tower, Yorkhill Hospitals, Glasgow G3 8SJ, UK; cmw7a{at}


Background Enteral feeding is vital for sick infants, but the transition to normal diet may be difficult. The authors describe a feeding team which provides multidisciplinary management of ‘hard to wean’ children within a large children's hospital, using reduction of feed volume to stimulate hunger, combined with psychological input to improve mealtime interactions and relieve parental anxiety.

Aims To assess the impact of feed reduction on growth and identify factors associated with successful feed cessation.

Subjects and methods Clinical and anthropometric data retrieved from case notes and clinic database for all 41 children referred for feed withdrawal over a 5-year period.

Results The children were aged median 4.0 (range 0.7–15) years when first seen; 27 (66%) were male and before reduction they received a median of 3766 (range 1987–9728) kJ daily from enteral feeds. Parents were often extremely anxious about weight loss and needed considerable support to make feed reductions. After follow-up for median (range) 1.7 (0.4–5.4) years, 32 (78%) were on solely normal diet, seven were still enterally fed and two were reliant on oral supplement drinks. Those referred after age 5 years were more likely to still be on artificial feeds (OR 7.4 (1.3−42); p=0.025) or to have taken more than a year to stop (OR 6.9 (1.1–43); p=0.04). Feed reduction was commonly followed by a decline in body mass index, but this was not associated with slow growth.

Conclusions A majority of children eventually ceased feeds successfully, but slow and failed weaning is more likely after age 5 years.

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.