Guide to your baby’s visual development

A child’s vision develops rapidly during the first two years of life, especially in the first six months. It is exciting to watch a baby’s visual world expand!

I have had the privilege of practicing pediatric ophthalmology for over 20 years, and I’d like to offer this brief summary of normal visual development in a baby’s first six months of life:

Birth: A baby’s vision is generally poor. He or she will blink to light. Misalignment is common, but should be for the most part transient. Commonly, a baby’s eyes will turn out and up, especially when he or she is sleepy.

3 weeks: Baby will begin to produce tears while crying by 3 weeks of age on average, but this is highly variable and can occur much later.

6 weeks: Baby should be smiling in response to your smile and making eye contact by this time, and will usually follow a moving stimulus as well, although not consistently. The most attractive target for a baby is the human face, at about 10-14 inches. So get up close and personal on a frequent basis!

3 months: Baby should reliably fix on and follow lighted toys, faces and objects—especially those of high contrast (black/white/red). The eyes should be aligned the majority of the time. Baby will look at and be entertained by his or her hands.

6 months: Baby’s visual world will have expanded considerably by this age, with the baby now attentive both to his or her side vision as well as the central vision. The eyes should remain aligned, and an eye doctor should be able to prove use of the baby’s two eyes together. The baby should appreciate color.

There’s an App for That

REBIscan’s BabySee app simulates an infant’s vision (with real-time comparison to an adult’s vision) and is available for free on Apple devices. Get started by entering your baby’s date of birth. If your baby was born prematurely, be sure to enter the baby’s due date (instead of the baby’s actual birthday). Just as a premature baby is frequently behind in other areas of development, his/her visual milestones may also be delayed, though most infants catch up remarkably quickly.

Remember, if you have any concerns about your baby’s eyes or visual development, ask your baby’s doctor.

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