Your Baby's Vision Development

Soon after birth, your doctor will briefly examine your infant's eyes to rule out signs of congenital defects in the eye (cataracts) and other serious eye problems (infections). Though such eye problems are rare, they must be detected and treated early to minimize their impact on your child's vision development.

 
 
At birth, your baby sees only in black and white and shades of gray. Nerve cells in their retina and brain that control vision are not fully developed. Also, a newborn infant's eyes don't have the ability to accommodate (focus on near objects). So don't be concerned if your baby doesn't seem to be "focusing" on objects, including your face. It just takes time.
 
 
Despite these visual limitations, within a few days after birth, infants prefer looking at an image of their mother's face to that of a stranger. One thing you may notice about your newborn son or daughter is how large their eyes are. This is because normal infant development proceeds from the head down. At birth, your baby's eyes are already 65 percent of their adult size!
 
 
Your Baby's Eyes in the First Month
 
 
Your baby's eyes are not very sensitive to light in the first month of life. In fact, the amount of light required for a 1month old infant to be aware that light is present (called the light detection threshold) is 50 times higher than that of an adult.
 
 
So it's OK to leave some lights on in the nursery- it won't affect their ability to sleep- and it may help keep you from stubbing your toes on furniture when you go in to check on them!
 
 
Infants start to develop the ability to see in colours very quickly. At one week after birth, they can see red, orange, yellow and green. But it takes a little longer for them to be able to see blue and violet. 
 
 
Don't be too concerned if your baby's eyes sometimes don't appear to be working together as a team early on. One eye may occasionally drift inward or outward from proper alignment. This is normal. But if you see a large and constant misalignment of their eyes, notify your health care provider right away.
 
 
To help stimulate your infant's vision, decorate their room with bright, cheerful colours. Include artwork and furnishings with contrasting colours and shapes. Also hang a brightly coloured mobile above or near their crib. Make sure it has a variety of colours and shapes.
 
 
Vision Development: Months 2-3
 
 
Many advances in vision development take place in months two and three. Their eyes are beginning to move better as a team. Your child should be following moving objects at this stage and starting to reach for things he sees.
 
 
Also, infants at this stage of development are learning how to shift their gaze from one object to another without having to move their head. And their eyes are becoming more sensitive to light: at three months, an infant's light detection threshold is only 10 times that of an adult. So you may want to dim the lights a bit more for naps and bedtime.
 
 
To help stimulate your 2-3 month old child's vision development, follow the following recommendations:
 
 
  • Add new items to their room or frequently change the location of their crib or existing items in the room.
  • Talk to your baby as you walk around the room.
  • Keep a night light on to provide visual stimulation when they are awake in their crib.
  • While infants should be placed on their backs for sleep to decrease the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), put them on their stomachs when they are awake and you can supervise them. This provides important visual and motor experiences.
 
 
Vision Development: Months 4 to 6
 
 
By age 6 months, significant advances have taken place in the vision centres of the brain, allowing your infant to see more distinctly and move his eyes quicker and more accurately to follow moving objects.
 
 
Visual acuity improves from about 20/400 at birth to approximately 20/25 at 6 months of age. Colour vision should be similar to that of an adult as well, enabling your child to see all the colours of the rainbow.
 
 
Babies also have better eye-hand coordination at 4 to 6 months of age, allowing them to quickly locate and pick up objects and accurately direct a bottle (and many other things!) to their mouth.
 
 
Six months of age also is an important milestone because this is when your child should have his first eye examination.
 
 
Even though your baby doesn't know the letters on a wall chart, your eye doctor can perform non-verbal testing to assess his visual acuity, detect problems and evaluate his eye teaming and alignment. 
 
 
At this exam, your eye care practitioner will also check the health of your baby's eyes and look for anything that might interfere with normal and continuing vision development. 
 
 
Vision Development: Months 7 to 12
 
 
Your child is now mobile, crawling about and covering more distance than you could ever have imagined. He is better at judging distances and more accurate at grasping and throwing objects.
 
 
This is an important developmental period for your child. At this stage, infants are developing a better awareness of their overall body and are learning how to coordinate their vision with their body movements.
 
 
It's also a time that requires greater diligence on your part to keep your baby from harm. Bumps, bruises and other serious injuries can occur as he begins to physically explore his environment. In particular, keep cabinets that contain cleaning supplies locked and put barriers in front of stairwells.
 
 
Don't be concerned if your infant's eyes are beginning to change colour. Most babies are born with blue eyes because darker pigments in the iris aren't completely developed at birth. Over time, more dark pigment is produced in the iris, which will often change your child's eye colour from blue to brown, green, gray or a mixture of colours.
 
 
To stimulate the development of your child's eye-hand-body coordination
 
 
  • Get down on the floor with him and encourage him to crawl to objects.
  • Place a favourite toy on the floor just out of his reach and encourage him to get it.
  • Also provide plenty of objects and toys that he can take apart and put together.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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