Baby’s eyes begin to form by 12 weeks gestation, when eyes migrate to the front of the face. The eyelids will remain fused together until 25-26 weeks, when they open for the first time. By 8 months gestation, the baby’s eyes are open when he is awake.
Parents often wonder what their baby sees gazing up at them, especially in the first weeks of life. Research tells us that babies have a preference for faces from birth. They learn to recognize their parents’ faces immediately, although they are nearsighted. Vision at this stage of life is blurry, and limited to about 8-12 inches. The first distinction in eye sight is the differentiation of contrasts, such as black and white. One of the amazing things about baby vision is how rapidly it takes off – although vision at birth is about 20/400, it improves rapidly from 4 months on and by 8 months, is often fully developed, and better than some adults!
Here’s a run-down of your baby’s visual development (individual results may vary a little):
Your baby will be able to focus on your face and see contrasts and movement. At this age, you may notice “googly eyes” — that is, baby’s eyes are not moving together, and, in fact, look like one eye is “roving.” Eyes can even cross. This can be disconcerting, but is normal at this age. Babies don’t start developing the ability to focus both eyes together until about 3-4 months of age.
Bright primary colors are starting to be interesting to your baby, although subtler differences in color (shades of blues, greens) are not yet distinguishable. This is a good time for visual stimulation with brightly colored mobiles, board books, and posters. He is also continuing to work on tracking skills.
Depth perception begins to develop, just in time for your baby to learn she has hands, and she can manipulate objects with them. She can now perceive size and shape of objects and is coordinated enough to make a grab for them!
Your baby is now starting to notice pastel colors and different shades. She is also easily tracking moving objects and able to see smaller objects. The idea of object permanence (the idea that something is still there even if it’s removed from sight) is beginning to develop also.
Vision is almost completely developed, with baby easily seeing objects across the room, full visual acuity, and depth perception. Her eye color will be close to its permanent color, though some small adjustment is still possible.
THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Let us know if you have an eye condition that runs in the family, especially those present in childhood. This helps us screen your baby and catch some problems very early on. Also, let us know at a visit if anything about your baby’s vision is worrying you. Some examples:
- One of your baby’s pupils appears white. Sometimes, this can show up in a photograph, where the red reflex is present in one eye, but not the other.
- Your baby has trouble moving either or both of his eyes in all directions.
- Your baby’s eyes seem to jiggle and are unable to stay still.
- At age 3-4 months, he’s having trouble focusing and following objects with both eyes. Also if, at this age, eyes appear to be crossed most of the time, or one eye seems to be turned in or out.
- There appears to be a cloudy film over your baby’s eyes, or her eyes seem very watery and sensitive to light.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, just call us in the office.
Dr. Susan Stevens, who co-teaches our “Puberty. Seriously?” class for girls ages 9-12, joined Kids Plus in 2012.