Speech-Language Services

Intensive Feeding Program

The Happy Mealtimes program helps wean children from tube feeding so they can successfully eat on their own.

Our intensive feeding program Happy Mealtimes helps wean children from their feeding tubes, and also helps children who do not have a feeding tube but are at risk for not meeting their nutritional needs.

Children with a medical history of tube feeding may have some of the most challenging feeding problems. They often don’t know what it feels like to be hungry or full, they may have oral motor or sensory issues, and their inexperience with feeding may cause adverse feeding behaviors.

The complexity of their feeding difficulties often makes traditional outpatient treatment less effective. Families become frustrated, and children remain unable to successfully transition to oral feedings.

Happy Mealtimes is one of just a few programs of its kind in the country, designed to address the needs of children who are being weaned from long-term gastric or nasogastric tube feeding. Led by speech-language pathologists with specialized training in pediatric feeding, this intensive four-week program helps families through this process, with the ultimate goal of complete tube weaning within one year. The program also helps to prevent the need for tube placement for children who are at risk or failing to thrive.

What to expect during the Happy Mealtimes program

Over the course of four weeks, children and their families are seen three times a day for feeding therapy, while also receiving additional therapies as needed. We provide training for parents to help them manage any resistant behaviors so they can help their child become a successful eater.

Our strategies aim to help your child:

  • Enjoy positive eating
  • Decrease behaviors that interfere with eating
  • Improve the oral motor skills necessary for eating age-appropriate foods
  • Increase food intake amount and variety
  • Gradually decrease dependence on tube feeding

Our speech-language pathologists work together with other specialists, such as a pediatric nutritionist to assist with your child’s nutritional needs, and a pediatric occupational therapist to assist with sensory, motor and self-feeding concerns.

Our team approach to your child’s treatment and our focus on family involvement helps children and families find success when other traditional programs have failed. We follow up with patients and families for a year after completion of the program to continue monitoring food intake and weight gain, and provide input and consultation with the speech-language pathologist near your home who continues to work with your child.

While Happy Mealtimes is an intensive four-week program, children do not need to be hospitalized during this time, and families may stay at the Ronald McDonald House on the Johns Hopkins All Children’s main campus for a small fee so they can be available for the full schedule of daytime treatments.

How to enroll your child in Happy Mealtimes

With the agreement of your child’s physician, the program is available for children who are:

  • 18 months or older with cognitive skills at or near age level;
  • Currently receiving a portion of their nutritional needs through tube feedings, but who are medically able to eat orally, and who follow a normal mealtime schedule for their age/developmental level, or;
  • At risk for requiring supplemental tube feedings.

Families must demonstrate a strong commitment to attending and fully participating in the four-week daily treatment program and follow-up outpatient services. The program is intended for children and families who have found limited prior success with traditional feeding programs despite consistent attendance. Families will need to provide their child’s complete medical and treatment records before entering into the program.

Our team will work with your child’s current gastroenterologist throughout the program to consult on tube weaning and any related medical issues. If your child does not currently see a gastroenterologist, we can assist you in obtaining an appointment to see a board-certified pediatric gastroenterologist near our facility.

Contact us

For more information on Happy Mealtimes and whether the program is right for your child, call us at 727-767-4141.

Medical records may be faxed to 727-767-6743.