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Overview of enteral nutrition in infants and children

Sharon Collier, RD, MEd
Christopher Duggan, MD, MPH
Section Editor
Kathleen J Motil, MD, PhD
Deputy Editor
Alison G Hoppin, MD


Enteral nutrition consists of providing nutrients via the gastrointestinal tract. Although the term technically refers to nutrition given either by mouth or through a feeding tube, in common usage the term usually refers to tube feeding. In comparison to parenteral nutrition (the provision of nutrients via a venous catheter directly into the bloodstream), enteral nutrition offers several advantages, including lower costs, beneficial effects from utilization of the gastrointestinal tract, and avoidance of the many potential complications of parenteral nutrition.  

For many pediatric patients with suboptimal nutrition, intake by mouth can be improved by offering high-calorie foods, oral supplements, or boosting the nutrient density of foods by adding high-energy supplements such as fats (oils, cream, or butter), carbohydrates (sugars and powdered supplements), and proteins (milk or other protein powders). Children who are still unable to take in sufficient energy through these approaches, or those who are unable to tolerate oral feedings because of the underlying disease, are candidates for enteral nutrition.

Related content can be found in the following UpToDate topic reviews:

(See "Measurement of growth in children".)

(See "Parenteral nutrition in infants and children".)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Feb 22, 2017.
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