Children on feeding tubes are being taught how to eat and drink again in a pilot programme at Starship Children's Hospital.

Around 70 children are discharged from the national children's hospital each year with feeding tubes still in place, requiring help to continue their liquid feeds through a tube inserted through their nose or surgically inserted into their stomach.

The trial Hunger Provocation Programme, launched on Monday, teaches these children to get off feeding tubes to learn to feed themselves.

"These tube-fed children may not learn the oral motor and sensory skills needed to eat and miss out on the social aspect of mealtimes," said Mandy Beatson, Starship paediatric speech language therapist.


"The programme is a first step towards ensuring these children are provided the support and opportunity to live more normal lives."

It was estimated there are more than 600 tube-fed children in New Zealand, and one in four are appropriate for tube weaning. Four patients have been selected for the roll out of the programme this month.

Three-year-old Nakiyah Reid, who travelled from Wellington for the three-week programme, had been dependent on a feeding tube since she was born.

Mother Shoni Reid said she was "super excited" about the trial.

"It has been such a huge stress on us. She deserves to eat like her sisters," she said. "To have my baby eating means the world to me."