We know you and your child are happy to be going home from the hospital. You may have some concerns, however, about the effect hospitalization may have on your child's behavior once you return home. This information is designed to give you an idea of some of the types of behavioral changes you may see and how to handle them.

Your child may not exhibit any behavioral changes, but many children do when they return home from the hospital. Under the stressors of hospitalization, many children will give up newer, less well-established skills and behaviors and return to earlier, more comfortable patterns of behavior. For example, babies and toddlers may:

  • Be more cranky
  • Cry more than before
  • Exhibit more whining
  • Demand to nurse more often or want to go back to nursing even though they have been weaned
  • Have difficulty being away from parents, even for short periods of time, and may display more clinging behavior
  • Have changes in sleep patterns or have nightmares
  • Show more aggressive behavior or a marked decrease in activity
  • Have more temper tantrums
  • Regress to wanting a bottle, wearing diapers or crawling instead of walking

Older children may:

  • Show a greater concern for their bodies
  • Have sleep pattern changes
  • Have nightmares
  • Require more attention from close family members
  • Wet the bed

Whether you see any or all of these changes depends on how long your child was in the hospital and his/her reactions to being there. Children cope with hospitalization in different ways. Going home tells your child he/she is safe and secure. You should continue to hold, hug and cuddle your child to comfort his/her fears and try to return to your regular family routines as soon as possible.

As these routines of family life get back to normal and become familiar again, "a process that usually takes a week or two," your child will respond and begin to act "like he/she used to." However, if you continue to have concerns about your child's behavior, contact your pediatrician or family physician and discuss these concerns.