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While your child is certainly going to be happy to go home from the hospital, you could observe some changes in behavior in your first days and weeks home.

Not all children exhibit behavioral changes when they come home from the hospital, but many children do. After the stress of hospitalization, many children will give up newer, less well-established skills and behaviors. They may 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 after they have been weaned
  • Have difficulty being away from parents, even for short periods of time, and display more clingy behavior
  • Exhibit 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
  • Exhibit sleep pattern changes and have nightmares
  • Require more attention from close family members
  • Wet the bed

Children cope with hospitalization in different ways. You could see any, all or none of these changes depending on how long your child was in the hospital and their reaction to being there. Going home signals to them that they are safe and secure. You should continue to hold, hug and cuddle your child to comfort their fears. 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 they used to. However, if you continue to have concerns about your child's behavior, contact your pediatrician or family physician.