Eye health is important in every stage of life, even 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 how to take care of every aspect of your baby’s health, even the eyes.
Even if your baby could tell that something was wrong with their eyes, the only way they could communicate this is through crying. Either way, there’s some sort of guess work involved. You’re probably groaning at your computer right now. 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 Eye 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 actually develops in the mother’s womb. Because of this ability, babies are able to 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 the age of three months, a baby generally cannot focus the eyes on objects more than 10 inches away. This does not mean that the eyes are not working hard anyway. During this time, hand-eye coordination begins to develop and your baby should be able to track movement with their eyes.
By five months, 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, babies should be able to accurately judge distance. They should be able to grab and throw objects with 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 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 first.
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 a lot to look at, it also trains the brain to work together with the eyes to recognize certain objects. This will help the development of the brain’s ability to process information as well as your baby’s 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, seeing as before then babies can only see roughly 10 inches in front of themselves. 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
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 you don’t see your baby experiencing any of the previous problematic symptoms, that does not mean that they don’t 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 of being born. Your baby will be tested for excessive amounts of nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism; eye movement ability; and overall eye health. A vision problem caught in a baby this young is a problem that is more easily treatable.
When no problems are found with your baby’s eye health, you can put off their next eye exam until the age of two to five. At this time their eyes will be fully developed. After that and until the age of 19, it is recommended to have your child’s eyes examined annually at the very least.
Babies need their parents’ protection from all angles. Natural eye development is no exception. Give your baby a head start in life by giving them the tools they need to develop their eyes to the best that they can.