Babies & ToddlersKids

How your child’s eyesight develops from birth to six months

In the first few months of life, newborns show rapid development in practically all visual functions and capacities.

Before reaching maturity, your baby’s eye growth passes through stages, similar to how she will hit various milestones at different times in her development.

Dr Claire Cullen, an ocular surgeon specialising in paediatric ophthalmology, explains that a baby’s vision is the least developed of all their senses at birth. Your baby’s capacity to clearly perceive objects, concentrate on them at various distances, and follow them as they move improves as she grows.

Your newborn baby’s sight

At birth, a baby’s vision is around 20 to 25cm, which is about the same distance between your baby’s face and yours when you’re holding her in your arms. Because of her limited vision, she will be drawn to the darker colour of your nipples, encouraging her to eat and assisting in the establishment of breastfeeding.

Don’t be discouraged if your infant responds to your “oohing” and “aahing” by staring everywhere but at you. Because a newborn’s vision is considered to be 10 to 30 times weaker than that of an adult, things are a little hazy for her.

Your baby’s eye colour

Before you make any assumptions about your child’s eye colour, keep in mind that his or her eyes will continue to change for up to six months. This is due to an increase in the number of pigmented cells in the iris (the coloured part of the eye). All babies are born with blue eyes that may (or may not) gradually change over time.

Your baby’s sight at six weeks

Your infant will be able to focus on and follow the light from a torch or toy with more accuracy now. At this point, she can distinguish your facial features and expressions and responds with a smile.

Your baby’s ability to perceive depth is also evolving right now. It’s a smart idea to introduce black and white toys to your child because she’ll be drawn to contrasting patterns and colours. Your baby’s vision will be checked at her six-week check-up by moving an object in front of her and noting whether she can concentrate both eyes at the same time and follow the moving object.

Your baby’s sight at eight weeks

Your baby’s colour vision is improving, but it may still look like her eyes are working independently of one another. She may also appear to be looking aimlessly around the room. This should improve in three to four months, but if your infant is still having trouble with both eyes, consult your paediatrician, who will schedule an eye check-up with an ophthalmologist. The specialist will be able to determine if your baby has a pseudo squint, which is caused by the flat, broad bridge of her nose.

If there is a family history of squints, a standard check is required. If a real squint, or strabismus, is discovered, the ophthalmologist will provide treatment alternatives. Early referral can lessen the likelihood of sight loss in the squinting eye, known as amblyopia or ‘lazy eye.’ In this instance, an eye patch will have to be put over the good eye to urge the other eye to work harder. Even young babies can be issued glasses if the problem is obvious and an operation to realign the eyes is required.

Your baby’s sight at two months

Your baby can now clearly see your face, and because her eyes are working together, she will be able to focus on objects more readily. She will close her eyes if objects are quickly placed in front of her. Don’t be surprised if she appears to be terrified and stares at stuff with wide eyes. This is simply her attempt to focus on something most of the time, and it will fade as her eyesight improves.

Your baby’s sight at three months

Your baby should now be able to follow slow-moving objects with ease. She’ll turn her gaze if you hold a toy around 25 cm away from her and slowly move it closer to her nose. This capacity to converge guarantees that the image of the toy appears in the same spot at the rear of each eye, which is critical for the development of three-dimensional vision, or depth perception.

Babies at this age should begin reaching for items as their hand-eye coordination improves, making playtime with your infant more enjoyable. Sensory games like peek-a-boo and belly time are great ways to encourage growth while bonding with your child. By singing action songs and rhymes with plenty of movement, it will help encourage your baby to focus on you. Purchase a mirror for safety reasons, as children enjoy exploring their faces.

Your baby’s sight at six months

Your baby’s eyes should now be operating together as a cohesive unit. Her depth perception will be formed as well, so your baby will be able to tell how far an object is from her and appreciate seeing it in three dimensions and full colour.

You’ll have to be extra careful about what you leave laying in your baby’s grasp now that she can see and pick up an object as small as a crumb.

At this point, she has a better sense of depth, size, colour, and shape, which improves her visual awareness. By the end of your child’s first year, she’ll notice that her favourite toy appears smaller when held further away, but is the same size and shape when held closer.  

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