Can My Baby See Me? All About Newborn Vision

Like many new moms, I used to spend hours staring at each of my newborns, to the point where their faces become ingrained in my mind. But I’d also wonder: how well can they see me? 

Knowing how your baby sees and learning what milestones you can expect in visual development are keys to ensuring that your baby grows up with healthy vision. 

Newborn Vision: An Overview 

Most babies begin life with poor eyesight. Their eyes are often uncoordinated, and they’re only able to see objects placed about eight to 10 inches in front of their faces.  

This doesn’t mean that babies don’t see things, though. From the moment they are born, their eyes start picking up the shapes, especially those of moving objects. Their sight starts developing from the edges to the center. They are soaking in images, and they are beginning to learn what things around them are. 

What the World Looks Like to a Baby

A visual range of eight to 10 inches gives your baby an extremely narrow view of the world. Imagine only being able to see less than a foot away from your face. On top of that, there is a debate about how much color baby vision can perceive, with some medical professionals saying that babies may not see distinct individual colors until four months. So what does it feel like to see as a baby? 

This video shows you what it’s like for your baby to see from birth to twelve months. This visual explanation can help you understand the limitations of your baby’s sight, and it can give you a feeling for how your baby sees and interacts with the world around them. 

As you can see, your baby’s sight will change dramatically in that first year, and it will continue to change as they get older. Each step of the development introduces significant changes in how your baby will interact and grow. Knowing what skills they are trying to develop will allow parents to play with their babies in a way that entertains and teaches them new things.  

Important Phases in Sight Development

Luckily baby vision develops quickly with age. Parents will notice many different milestones that will signal that your baby sees the world as expected. Keeping track of these skills can help determine if your baby’s sight is healthy. 

Remember, though, that some babies develop at different rates. Some progress slower and some faster. These milestones are just guidelines so that you have an idea of what to expect. It is a quick and easy way to track your baby’s sight changes as they grow. 

However, if there is any concern about the baby’s vision, or you notice things like excessive tearing or red and encrusted eyelids, you should talk to your physician as soon as possible. 

Newborn to One Month 

From birth to one month, your baby will be sensitive to light. Their side vision (peripheral) will be the most developed, but their central vision hasn’t caught up. Within a few weeks, they will start seeing shapes, patterns, and colors better. Babies may begin to focus on objects right in front of them at this time. 

In the first few weeks, babies will only be able to see very bright colors. They will not be able to tell the difference between the different shades very well. 

Baby vision is still learning how to coordinate eye movement, so within the first month, and even well into the second month, don’t be alarmed if your baby’s eyes are crossed or appear to wonder. This is usually just a normal part of sight development. As they learn how to focus, the eyes will adjust appropriately in most cases. 

Two to Four Months 

By two months, your baby’s eyes will start to follow moving objects. The center of their vision starts to develop, and they will start focusing on faces and objects close to them. By three months, they will have the hand-eye coordination to play with things that are moving close by to them.

The third month should also be when your baby has learned to focus and track objects with both eyes. If you are still noticing wandering or crossed eyes, it may be time to contact your doctor. 

Five to Eight Months 

At five months, your baby’s depth perception increases. They are taking in the world in all its 3-D splendor. This allows their hand-eye coordination to get better, and they should be fully able to reach out and grasp objects they see. 

Their ability to distinguish colors has also significantly increased. They will start seeing shade variation in color, allowing them to see even more patterns and shapes. 

At this point, babies will see and recognize their parents and other objects from across the room. They are also developing spatial recognition and will understand what objects are, even if they can only see part of the object. 

Nine to Twelve Months 

Your baby’s ability to understand their surroundings with vision has grown by leaps and bounds. They start to gain fine motor hand-eye coordination. They can reach out, grab, and hold things between their thumb and forefinger. They can also judge distances very well. Well enough to start throwing things at targets.   

During this time, your baby’s eye color will become its final color. Up to this point, you may have noticed your baby’s eye color changing. Often babies are born with much lighter eye color, and sometimes it will get darker over time. There can still be some changes, but the general color is now there. 

As you can see, each stage of development brings new and fun depth to your baby’s sight. With each phase, your baby learns how to see the world around them better and more clearly. You’re going to want to help them see it as clearly as possible. 

How to Promote Healthy Vision in Your Baby 

When I first learned the stages of vision development, I was fascinated. However, it’s more than simply an interesting subject. It’s also an important one. 

Learning the stages of your baby’s visual development helps you make sure they grow up with healthy eyes. As your baby reaches different visual milestones, you’ll want to implement new methods to help with proper development. 

Here are some very simple steps that you can take at each stage to help ensure that your baby is getting the right stimulation. Adding each one will help your baby see better in the future. 

Birth to Four Months 

  • Change your baby’s position often, so they get different stimulation 
  • Use a nightlight in your baby’s room 
  • Talk to your baby as you move around

From birth to four months, your baby could be sensitive to bright lights. Keeping a dim light or a nightlight in their room will allow them to get used to light in a safe place. 

Moving your baby’s position and talking to them while you move around will help them learn spatial reasoning. This will help them understand what they are seeing and how it interacts with the world. 

Five to Eight Months 

  • Allow your baby to explore around them 
  • Provide different materials, colors, and patterns near the baby
  • Play games that involve hand movement, sounds, and interaction 

During the next four months, it will be essential to let your baby interact with the world that they are starting to see more clearly. Providing more colors and different materials allows them to learn how sight and touch can work together. 

Games that get the baby to move their hands and watch will help increase hand-eye coordination. Learning how to track items and touch them will teach your baby and be fun for all involved.

Nine to Twelve Months 

  • Play more games that allow the baby to toss or roll objects around 
  • Read to your baby and use your fingers to follow the words 
  • Use toys of all shapes to help develop hand-eye coordination

Your baby is fine-tuning skills that they have been experimenting with for the last nine months at this point in development. They are ready for some more challenging and fun games. Different sizes of balls, blocks, and toys will help children understand shapes.

The addition of reading and pointing out words will help the baby at tracking with their eyes. It also introduces them to concepts that will help train them on how to read. What starts as mimicry will become a lifelong skill.  

Doing these fun activities will help your child learn and grow. As your baby develops their sight, they will engage more fully with the world around them and soak up new information quickly.   

Watch Your Baby See the World

Baby vision is a unique thing. Learning how it starts and how it develops is crucial in understanding how your child will learn and interact with the world. With this understanding, you will be able to play and teach your baby much more effectively.  

I hope I’ve helped you understand what to look for in your baby’s sight development. While not every child will develop at the same pace, you should look for these advancements as they occur, to help your baby see the bright future in front of them.

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