How Your Newborn Baby Sees the World

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As pediatric optometrists in Orange County, we see many babies for their first eye examination. It’s a critical part of their first year to ensure they have healthy vision that will develop properly.

Naturally we hear this question all the time from new parents, “how does my baby see the world?” We love answering these questions and guiding new parents.

Because infant’s vision changes so rapidly during these critical periods of development, it’s so important to be proactive. For instance, a baby may have one eye that is nearsighted and one eye that is farsighted. This can lead to a lazy eye or amblyopia, which will have lifelong consequences if not caught early. Even with vision therapy it might not fully resolve. I’ve yet to meet a pediatrician that checks for this, so parents please be on the lookout and be the advocate your child needs.

Vision is a learned process, and the ability for our brain to use and understand what our eyes see grows with time.

As a parent, watch for signs and symptoms of vision problems. Remember to take your child to their first eye examination between six to twelve months of age.

A comprehensive eye examination with an optometrist or ophthalmologist will look for much more than the general vision screening at the pediatrician’s office.

How does your Newborn Baby see from Birth to 3 months

Your baby will not have perfect visual acuity when they are just born. In general, things will be hazy compared to how adults see. They will be able to see general shapes and objects decently. However, they will have trouble distinguishing fine details between objects so the toys you give them should have high contrast.

Maybe you’re gung-ho about teaching your baby the different colors of the rainbow. If so, my advice is don’t spend too much time on this just yet. Studies show babies won’t have the ability to sense colors until after 3 months.

There are times when your baby may appear to have eyes that are crossed. Don’t fret just yet, as the eyes may not have learned how to coordinate as a team. Monitor it closely, and keep your pediatrician and eye doctor in the loop. If the eye is constantly turning in, this will warrant an examination sooner however.

In the first three months, babies will see best within 10 inches from their face. Distant objects will be quite blurry and challenging for them to follow. By eight weeks old, they should be able to fixate and follow your face however. Tracking moving objects at the two month mark is what you should expect. By three months of age, your baby should be able to reach for and grab objects.

Baby’s Vision From Four to Six months of age

During this period they will begin to have good color vision, usually by month five. So go ahead parents and tell them what color certain objects are. In addition, they now have developed finer depth perception and the ability to grasp the world in three dimensions. So watching a ball slower roll towards them or people moving about will become much more interesting. Beforehand their visual space appeared two-dimensional as they did not have stereopsis yet.

As their eye movement control improves, so will their eye-hand coordination. They should playfully grab at objects and begin to inspect them more so. Improved visual acuity also helps to enable finer awareness of details.

Baby’s Vision from Seven to Twelve Months of age

Most babies will learn to crawl during this period, typically by eight months old. Their eye-hand coordination and body control will rapidly progress because of this. Try to encourage crawling because studies show that babies who go straight to walking have weaker eye tracking skills than babies who crawled first. So no need to stress if your child is not walking during the seven to twelve month window as that is perfect fine developmentally. 

At around nine months, your baby will probably start to pull themselves up to standing. Soon afterwards they will begin to grab at objects and hold them between their fingers and their thumbs. Because they can see things in three-dimensions, they’ll be more apt to throw objects (sorry parents). This happens because they can now accurately judge distances.

Parents sometimes wonder about the color of their son or daughter’s eyes. A large part of eye color is determined by the concentration of melanin in your iris in combination of how light scatters off the unique physical structure of your iris. There are a multitude of genetic inheritance factors in play as well, which means that just because both parents have brown eyes it is still possible to have a baby with blue eyes. Your baby’s eye color can change during the first year but by the twelfth month it should be be stable except in rare cases.

How much Screen Time for Kids?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time until after 18 months. But there is an important caveat, which is live video chat. While we recognize that video chatting is no replacement for in person interaction, the bonding and relationship-building benefits with close family members outweighs the negative impacts of screen time.

In general however, avoiding screen time and promoting play with toys helps with visual processing and the mechanics of the eye. We also know that children who spend more time outdoors and play are far less likely to become nearsighted or myopic. Myopia has become a major epidemic in just the last few decades, affecting above 85% of people in some Asian countries. Its prevalence has nearly doubled in the United States since the 1970s and besides the need for glasses, increases the risk for blinding diseases such as retinal detachments and macular degeneration.

Serving the communities of Costa Mesa, Irvine, Newport Beach, Tustin, Santa Ana, Huntington Beach, and Fountain Valley. Schedule a visit with Dr. Valerie Lam or Dr. Thanh Mai to learn more. Our optometry practice is located in Costa Mesa at 3151 Airway Ave. Suite J2, Costa Mesa, CA 92626 and we offer vision therapy, orthokeratology services, scleral lenses, and treat keratoconus.

About the Author:

Insight Vision Center Optometry is your friendly neighborhood office, utilizing the latest technology and a brand new office bursting with enthusiasm to give you the best vision. We service those in the Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Santa Ana, Huntington Beach, Irvine, and Tustin areas extending throughout Orange County.

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