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Mar 06


A Brave New World: How Babies Develop Vision

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Love at first sight is definitely true for parents. While they fall in love upon laying eyes on their newborn child, it actually takes up to two months for babies to recognize their parents' faces. A baby’s eyes undergo complex development throughout the first two years of life, to the point that scientists continue to study visual growth even to this day. From learning how to control gaze tracking to focus on faces and objects, we’ve got the details on each stage of infant sight evolution.

Because a baby must learn how to use his or her sight, from Day One, the eyes are a newborn’s tool to exploring the world. Healthy eyes and good vision play a critical role in how infants and children learn to see. Eye and vision problems in infants can cause developmental delays. It is important for parents to detect any problems early on to ensure babies have the opportunity to develop the visual abilities they need to grow and learn.

Birth to four months

At birth, you might spot a baby looking intently at a highly contrasted target and assume the newborn is taking it in. But babies don’t have the ability to tell the difference between objects or even move their eyes between them. They can, however, focus on objects 8 to 10 inches from their faces.

During the first month of life, vision improves. Eye-hand coordination starts to develop as infants track moving objects by reaching for them. By the time eight weeks have passed, babies can begin to focus their eyes on the faces of a parent or another person near them.

At the three-month mark, babies will begin to follow moving objects with their eyes and reach for things.

Five to eight months

At this point, control of eye movements and eye-body coordination skills will begin to improve. Depth perception, which is not present at birth, starts functioning at this time. Colour starts to take shape in a baby’s vision, and eye-hand-foot-body coordination increases to coincide with learning how to crawl.

Nine to 12 months

At about nine months old, babies start to pull themselves up to stand. By month 10, thumb and forefinger grasping begins, aided by the use of vision.

On a baby’s first birthday, walking and developed eye-hand coordination is taking place. They can now judge distances and even throw objects with precision.

One to two years

At age two, a child's eye-hand coordination and depth perception is well developed. Environmental exploration, looking, and listening are of extreme interest. Children this age recognize familiar objects, pictures, and can use tools such as utensils, crayons, or pencils.

Keeping a watchful eye

Parents play a very important role in ensuring their child's eyes and vision develop properly. Constantly watch for signs of eye and vision problems and seek out professional eye care advice if you have concerns. Your little one’s first comprehensive vision assessment is recommended to take place as early as six months of age.

Although eye and vision problems in infants are rare, they can sometimes develop. Parents should look for the following signs that may indicate a vision concern:

  • Excessive tearing caused by a blocked tear duct.
  • Red or encrusted eyelids caused by an eye infection.
  • Constant eye turning caused by a problem with eye muscle control.
  • Extreme sensitivity to light caused by elevated pressure in the eye.
  • Appearance of a white pupil caused by a symptom of an eye cancer.

Evidence of any of these signs requires immediate attention from your pediatrician and/or optometrist. Talk to your local FYidoctors eye doctor if you have any questions. 

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