Development of baby vision: How your little one sees as he grows

There are various phases of development of baby vision. Read on to know if your baby has healthy eyesight according to his age.

Did you know that when you hold your small baby and he looks at you, he really can't see you? That's because while he has the physical ability to see, he cannot yet make sense of it. But as he grows older, he will be able to. That's how the development of baby vision takes place.

A baby's vision goes through various developmental phases during his first year. Although a baby's hearing abilities fully develop by the end of the first month, the development of baby vision takes place over the next six to eight months.

It is only by the end of this time that he can properly see everything around him. 

Development of baby vision: What your baby sees during his first year 

At the time of his birth, your baby can physically see everything around him. He is capable of picking out people and objects. But his brain is not yet capable of processing that visual information. 

So while he can see, everything is still fuzzy and unclear to him. You might not know this, but during his first month he can only see as far as your face when you hold him. 

As he grows and his brain develops, his vision starts to become clearer. He also begins to identify people and objects.  

How does a baby's vision develop? 

At the time of his birth your baby will only be able to see people and objects that are eight to 12 inches away from his eyes. But, he can detect light, movement as well as shapes, though it will all be blurry at this stage. 

Your baby will also be fascinated by your face and different textures and patterns. So it's a good time to keep him close and help him touch, feel and recognise your face. But this is just the beginning. As time passes by and he slowly grows, his vision will become stronger.  

Now let's walk through the various phases of development of baby vision. Beginning from his birth, we will track this development up until he turns one. 

development of baby vision By the fourth month your baby will develop a better depth perception. | Image courtesy: Pixabay

1. The first month

The fact is that when a baby is born he doesn't really know how to use his eyes. You might notice that his eyes wander and sometimes even cross each other. Everything is new for him and so is the coordination of his eyes. 

If you swish any object, your hand or even your face past his eyes during his month, he may look at it transfixed. That's because he is still trying to comprehend his ability to see. 

By the end of this month or by the next month, he will be able to focus his eyes on one thing more often. In the meantime you might want to play a little game of eye-to-eye. Bring him close to your face and fix your eyes onto his. Tilt your head from side to side and notice his eyes following yours. 

2. The second and third months

Your baby is able to see colour from birth, but he cannot distinguish between tones. So he will not be able to make out orange from red. This is why he gets transfixed on black and white and even contrasting patterns.

You will notice that in this month, he will point at objects with primary colours and complex design patterns. 

Encourage your baby by showing books, toys and objects with primary colours and complex patterns. This way he will be able to work his object-tracking skill. He will continue with the same skill set well into the third month as well.  

3. The fourth month

During this month, your baby will develop better depth perception. Until now, he was still trying to figure out the exact shape, size and reach of an object. His brain was not able to comprehend these parametres well enough to send the instructions to his hand to grasp them. 

At four months, he is able to develop his motor skills. This also means his hand-to-eye coordination is better at this point. So you can help him practice develop this skill by helping him grasp things. You can buy toys that rattle or make a noise so he is able to locate them and hold onto them. 

Because if you do not, he just might go for your glasses!

4. The fifth month 

By this month your baby can successfully track moving objects. But these objects should be small and remain close to him. He may even be able to recognise toys and objects.

You can check if your baby is able to recognise moving objects by playing peekaboo with him. As you cover your face with your hands and he tries to uncover it, you can be certain that he is able to recognise moving objects. In this case, it's your face and especially your eyes. 

At this stage, your baby can also most certainly understand colours and recognise their tones. But he will still take a few more months to understand pastels. 

5. The eighth month

As soon as your baby turns eight months, his vision is almost similar to that of an adult. This means he can see objects clearer and has stronger depth perception.

He will be able to see most things in three dimensions now, although he will still prefer to grasp things that are closer to him.

At eight months, his vision is strong enough to identify objects and people across the room. He will also start crawling by this month, so that will further enhance his hand-eye coordination. 

6. Between the ninth and 12th month 

At the ninth month your baby can judge height and distance pretty well. This is because now they are trying to pull themselves up and stand. At this stage, your baby's eye colour will also fully develop. But you may notice slight changes later on as well. 

By the 10th month, they will be able to crawl to something far away and grasp it between their forefinger and thumb. This is thanks to their enhanced depth perception.

With further motor skills development such as walking, your baby's hand-eye coordination will improve too. 

With these growth spurts in these fixed intervals, the development of baby vision will be on track. But it also means that your role as a parent will also include that of a guide and teacher. 

development of baby vision As your baby grows, you will have to keep tabs on the development of his vision and his ability to identify objects and colours. | Image courtesy: Pixabay

What is the parent's role in the development of baby vision?  

You will have to keep track on the development of baby vision. This means you will have to take your baby for regular checkups. The specialist will check if he is developing normally and will also look for any congenital eye conditions. 

Make sure you share any family history of eye problems when you get the checkup done. 

From his birth till he turns one, you can practice hand-eye coordination with developmental toys or even with ordinary objects at home. When he is younger than six months, your face will fascinate him, so spend time with him and let him get used to it. This helps him recognise you even if he only sees a little part of you.

As he grows older you can help him recognise colours and shapes using various toys. Some that make noise can also help with this task.  

Once your child is three or four years old, your doctor may check if the development of baby vision has matured. This means he will take a look at your baby's acuity. This is usually done through graphs and colourful charts.

These eye examinations often reveal if your child needs spectacles or has any vision problems, such as colour blindness.

When should you worry about the development of baby vision?  

During the regular tests that check development of baby vision, your doctor will ask you about changes you might have seen in your baby's sight. You should be concerned in the following cases:

  • Your baby is unable to track moving objects like your face or a toy even after turning three or four months.
  • He is unable to move his eyes in either or both directions, or in all directions.
  • Your baby's eyes do not hold still and keep moving. 
  • Your newborn's eyes are crossed, either one or both turn inwards. (This is normal during the first few days, but if it continues after the first week, consult a doctor).
  • One pupil or both pupils appear white. 
  • Your baby seems uncomfortable in bright light, or his eyes are quite watery.

In case your baby was born prematurely and needed oxygen cylinders or medical assistance, he may be at a greater risk of developing eye infections.

These include blurred vision (astigmatism), nearsightedness (myopia), abnormal blood vessel growth, and eye misalignment (strabismus).

In general, you don't have to worry about your baby's vision development. Simply keep a track on the development of baby vision with the age-by-age information we've shared. 

Most importantly, enjoy every minute of your time playing, holding and getting to know your baby. 

development of baby vision

Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology

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