Clinical Nutrition

Intensive Feeding Program

What is the Intensive Feeding Program?

The Intensive Feeding Program is a 2-week outpatient program to improve oral eating and drinking for children ages 1 through 21 who are tube fed. It is for children ready to transition from tube feeding to eating by mouth.

We focus on helping your child:

  • Improve eating skills
  • Increase oral intake of food and fluids
  • Reduce their need for a feeding tube

Seattle Children’s Clinical Nutrition and Occupational Therapy specialists work together with a nurse practitioner in the Intensive Feeding Program.

Services We Provide

  • To tell whether the program is right for your child, we ask you to complete an online application. It includes a questionnaire (PDF) (Spanish) and food intake record (PDF) (Spanish). This helps us understand your child’s and family’s needs.

    Then you and your child come to Seattle Children’s for an evaluation. Your child will see a registered dietitian nutritionist, occupational therapist and nurse practitioner. We check that:

    • Your child is medically ready to transition from tube feeding to oral feeding
    • Your child is ready to transition at least partly to oral feeding
    • The program and schedule will work for your family

    Within 1 week after the evaluation, we let you know if your child is in the program. We might recommend steps to help your child and family get ready for the program.

    If the program is not a match for your child’s needs, we will explain why and suggest other resources or options for you.

  • Your child comes to Seattle Children’s with at least 1 parent or caregiver daily for 2 weeks, Monday through Friday. Sessions include:

    • 3 meals per day with your family and a feeding therapist
    • 2 visits per week with a dietitian
    • At least 1 visit with a nurse practitioner
  • After the 2-week program, we see your child for 3 follow-up visits. These take place at 2, 5 and 9 weeks after the program.

    Follow-up visits give us a chance to check your child’s health and talk with you about their progress with oral eating. We’re here to answer questions and help you and your child with any challenges.

What kinds of patients are treated in the Intensive Feeding Program?

This program is for children who:

  • Depend on a feeding tube for some or all of their nutrition
  • Are medically stable as determined by their primary care provider or specialist
  • Can swallow safely to eat and drink by mouth
  • Are ages 1 through 21
  • Can take part in the entire 2-week program with at least 1 family member

We see children who live in Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana or Idaho. Many are already patients at Seattle Children’s. The Intensive Feeding Program also accepts children who are not already patients here.

What to Expect

    • The appointment will last 1 hour and 45 minutes.
    • You will see a team of 3 providers: a registered dietitian nutritionist, occupational therapist and nurse practitioner. It can be helpful to have another caregiver with you to play with your child while you talk with our team.
    • Make sure your child is hungry enough to eat a snack at the start of the appointment.
    • What to bring:
      • Toys or other items to entertain or comfort your child.
      • 1 or 2 foods your child accepts. Our clinic is a peanut-free area, so please do not bring peanuts, peanut butter or food with peanuts.
      • 1 or 2 foods you are working on getting your child to eat.
    • If your child does not eat orally, bring a snack so the team can see how your child interacts with food and what a typical mealtime routine is like for your child.
    • Your appointment will be at the hospital campus. Find a map and directions.
    • Arrive 15 minutes before your appointment to allow time for registration.

Scheduling an Appointment With the Intensive Feeding Program 

  • If you would like a referral to the Intensive Feeding Program, talk to your primary care provider or a specialist who knows your child well.
  • A week after the provider sends the referral, call the Intensive Feeding Program scheduler at 206-987-2113, option 2, to confirm that we received the referral. When you call, we will tell you how to access the online application.
  • Next, wait to hear from us. We will call you to schedule a pre-program evaluation. We will need your online application done at least 2 weeks before your appointment.

Who's on the team?

Providers on the team include:

Leadership

  • Beth Clark-Alt, OTR/L

Nurse practitioner

  • Julia Mitzel, ARNP

Occupational therapists

  • Karen Quinn-Shea, OTR/L
  • Tanis Rusin, MS, OTR/L
  • Margaret “Peggy” Smith, OTR/L

Registered dietitian nutritionist

  • Kim Nowak-Cooperman, MS, RDN, CD

Resources for Patients and Families

Contact Us

For more information, contact us by calling the Intensive Feeding Program scheduler at 206-987-2113, option 2. If you would like an appointment, ask your child’s primary care provider or specialist for a referral.

Providers, see how to refer a patient.

Paying for Care

Learn about paying for care at Seattle Children’s, including insurance coverage, billing and financial assistance.