Tube feeding - Gastrostomy Buttons

Disclaimer: This fact sheet is for education purposes only. Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for your child.

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What is a gastrostomy?

A gastrostomy is an opening from the skin directly into the stomach.  The opening (known as a stoma) is created by making a small cut during an operation. This opening is located on the left side of the abdomen between the ribs and the belly button. A small device called a gastrostomy button is placed in the hole to keep it open.  The button and connecting tubes carry formula, fluid and medicine directly to your child’s stomach.

Who needs a gastrostomy button?

Children who are unable to eat or drink enough for their growth and or a child who has trouble swallowing safely (dysphagia) may need a gastrostomy. The gastrostomy may be temporary or permanent.

What to expect in hospital after the operation?

The new button will be covered with a dressing for a day or two. There may or may not be a small tube attached to a bag for the 1st day. When the nurse removes the dressing you may notice a stitch, this is to hold the button in place. If your child has a stitch, your local doctor can take the stitch out a week after the operation.

Your child’s stomach will be sore for a couple of days. The doctor will prescribe medicine for pain.

The nurse will show you how to connect the right tubes to your child’s new button for giving formula and medicine.

The gastrostomy specialist nurse will visit you during your stay to assist you with the button and answer your questions.

Your child’s surgeon and or dietitian will develop a plan to slowly increase the amounts of formula and water given through the gastrostomy over a few days. Your child may start by receiving formula delivered by a pump or they may start with small boluses given by gravity.

A dietitian will advise you which formula is best for your child and your options for purchasing this.

How long will my child stay in hospital?

Your child will be in hospital for a few days. You will be shown how to care for your child’s button. The doctors and nurses will let you know when you can go home.


During your stay in hospital staff will provide you with an application form and other paperwork to help you register your child with a NSW Health Service called EnableNSW.

This Government service will provide you with an ongoing supply of gastrostomy buttons and equipment for feeding. If your child requires a pump for their gastrostomy feeding, the hospital staff will let you know how many feeding sets EnableNSW will give you each year.

How do I care for my child’s gastrostomy button at home?

  • Keep the skin around the button clean and dry. If the skin is red and irritated it may need to be cleaned more frequently. If any leaking fluid is causing the skin to look red or sore, use a barrier cream to protect the skin around the button.
  • Turn the button 360 degrees every day once the stitch is removed. If there is no stitch check with your health professional as to when it is safe to turn the button.
  • Check the water level in the balloon every 1-4 weeks according to your health professional’s recommendation. The amount of water to be placed in the balloon will also be recommended by your health professional.

What to do if your child’s new gastrostomy button comes out?

If your child’s button comes out and you can’t put it back in

call your health professional immediately.

If you are unable to contact your health professional,

please present to your nearest emergency department for assistance.

Ideally this should happen within 90 minutes

as a new gastrostomy opening (stoma) will start to close within a few hours.

Please seek advice before using the reinserted button.

Call your doctor or clinical nurse consultant if...

  • Your child’s button appears loose. It is recommended that you first check the water level in the balloon if you have been shown how to do this.
  • The skin around the button is red and sore.
  • The skin around the gastrostomy hole becomes raised or starts to bleed (granulation tissue)


  • The gastrostomy may be temporary or permanent.
  • Having a gastrostomy requires surgery and your child will be in hospital for a few days.
  • Your child’s gastrostomy requires daily care.
  • EnableNSW will supply your child with an annual allocation of gastrostomy button and feeding equipment for a minimal cost.  For further information and supplies please call EnableNSW on 1800 ENABLE.
The Children's Hospital at Westmead
Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick
Hunter New England Kids Health

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