Eye health is important in every stage of life, even in infancy. There is no way for a baby to know when there is something wrong with their eyes. Heck, even some adults can’t recognize the signs. As parents, it’s up to you to know the phases of baby vision development. And, how to take care of your baby’s eye health.
Say your baby could tell that something was wrong with their eyes. The only way they can communicate this is through crying. There’s always some sort of guesswork involved. You’re probably groaning at your computer right now because you don’t want to have to guess. As if you don’t have enough on your plate as a new parent! Don’t stress, we’ve done the legwork for you. All you need to know about your baby’s eye health is right here.
Newborn Baby Vision Development
Just like learning to walk and talk, babies need to develop their eyesight. Vision is an acquired skill, not a given. Most babies achieve this on their own as part of their natural growth and development. Other babies, however, run into problems and need some extra guidance.
When a baby is first born, the only thing their eyes can perceive is the difference between light and dark. This develops in the mother’s womb. Because of this ability, babies can make out shapes by seeing where the light and dark meet. It isn’t until weeks after their birth that a baby can begin to recognize their first color: red, followed by orange, yellow, and green.
Though babies are born with an unimpressive 20/400 vision, by the time they reach six months old, they should be closer to having 20/20 vision. The interesting part about this is that even though babies are born with 75 percent of their adult eye size, their eyes are the least developed of the five senses.
Until about three months into your baby’s eye development, they cannot focus their eyes on objects farther than 10 inches away. This doesn’t mean that their eyes aren’t working hard anyway. During this time, hand-eye coordination begins to develop. Your baby should be able to track movement with their eyes, like when you walk past them or wave your hand.
By five months old, your baby’s depth perception will become sharper. The eyes begin to develop a sense of the 3D world. This develops for about five months. By the age of 10 to 12 months, your baby should be able to accurately judge distance. They should be able to grab and throw objects with some precision.
By the age of two, babies should have well-developed eyes that are ready to explore this curious world.
Help Your Baby’s Eye Development
There is a lot you can do as a parent to make sure that your baby is developing in all the right ways. Your baby will most likely develop just fine on their own. But a little push in the right direction never hurt anyone!
The first thing you can do is to encourage your baby to crawl. Somehow, we’ve got it in our heads that being able to walk early is a mark of a baby’s intelligence. The truth is, as reported by the American Optometric Association, babies who start walking too early may not develop as good hand-eye coordination as a baby who crawls for longer.
There’s a reason why baby toys are so colorful and interactive. A lot of that has to do with the development of the baby’s eyes. If you want your baby to have well-developed senses of color, depth, shapes and have a little fun of your own, get your baby colorful and interesting toys that’ll spark their sense of wonder.
By giving your baby lots to look at, their brain learns to work together with their eyes to recognize objects. This will help the development of the brain’s ability to process information through the eyes.
To help your baby track movement with their eyes, try talking to them as you walk around the room. This should be done ideally before five months. Before then, babies can only see roughly up to 10 inches away. The sound of your voice will help them understand where you are in the room even if they can’t see you just yet.
How to Recognize Vision Problems in Babies
Another big part of helping your baby’s development is making sure they aren’t experiencing any vision problems. Their first year outside of the womb is absolutely crucial to eye and sight development. If something goes wrong, it could have negative and permanent effects on your baby’s eyes.
That being said, vision problems in babies are pretty rare. But it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you find your baby exhibiting any of the following symptoms, take them to see an eye doctor or pediatrician:
- Excessive tearing
- Red or crusty eyelids
- Constant eye turning or rolling
- Extreme light sensitivity
- Whitened pupils
Baby’s First Eye Exam
Even if your baby isn’t experiencing any of the previous problematic symptoms, they still need an eye exam. Like adults, even if nothing appears to be wrong, eye exams can reveal things we can’t see from the outside of the eye.
You should take your baby for their first eye exam between six and nine months. Your baby will be tested for nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. Their eye movement abilities and overall eye health will also be assessed. Vision problems in babies under nine months are more easily treatable than after nine months.
When no problems are found with your baby’s eye health, breathe a sigh of relief. You can put off their next eye exam until between the ages of two and five years old. At this time, their eyes will be fully developed. After that and until the age of 19, it’s recommended to have your child’s eyes examined annually.
Babies need their parents’ protection from all angles. Natural baby vision development is no exception. Give your baby a head start in life by helping them to develop their eyes to be strong and healthy.