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Upon birth, infants have relatively poor eyesight. But, by the time they reach their first birthday, their vision is almost fully formed.

There are five stages of an infant’s development:

  • Birth to four months.
  • Five to eight months.
  • Nine to twelve months.
  • One to two years.

Most babies start to stare at their parent’s faces when they are just hours old. By the fourth month, infants begin processing the faces of other people.

What Do Babies See? Your Baby’s Vision Development from Birth to 24 Months

Babies do not have fully developed visual abilities at birth, but their vision usually develops quickly during their formative years.

Unknown to some, parents should play a significant role in developing a baby’s eyesight, so you must know how the baby’s vision develops. This will help you to detect any early vision problems in your baby and have them treated as soon as possible.

Stages of Your Baby’s Vision Development

Infants are born with relatively poor eyesight and are generally nearsighted. Babies’ vision usually develops in stages called visual milestones.

They learn to focus on different images and identify different colours at these stages. They can also recognize different objects in their environment.

The stages of your baby’s eye development include:

  • Birth to four months.
  • Five to eight months.
  • Nine to twelve months.
  • One to two years.

Birth to Four Months

Immediately after birth, the infant’s vision is usually blurry but is capable of seeing the faces of their parents. At this stage, they only see things that are eight to 10 inches away.

At eight weeks, the eyes start working in unison, and the baby has stable eye contact. They can see faces clearly and respond to them with facial expressions. By the end of the four months, the baby should be capable of following objects with their eyes.

Five to Eight Months

At five months, a baby’s vision develops further, so they can judge how far or close an object is. Their colour vision is also advanced, so they can see different colours, including those that look similar.

At around the seven to eight-month mark, your baby will start to develop motor skills. They also coherently develop their eye-body coordination skills as they learn to walk.

Nine to Twelve Months

Your baby will likely be walking around on their feet at this age. Their motor skills develop further, improving their eye-body coordination.

One to Two Years

When a child is one year old, their visual capabilities, including depth perception, are well developed. They can now recognize familiar objects such as drawings in books.

When Does My Baby See Color?

Babies can see colour right from the time of birth. But, at this age, their brains cannot distinguish those colours. At around two to four months, they can differentiate colours with similar shades, such as orange and red.

When Can My Baby See Faces?

Most babies will typically start staring at their parents’ faces even when they are just hours old. And, by the fourth month, your baby’s brain will begin processing people’s faces. At this age, their brain recognizes people’s faces faster than it does other objects.

How Parents Can Help With Vision Development

Vision development in infants is a natural process. Nevertheless, a parent’s help is necessary to ensure proper vision development. There are many different things you can do to help develop your baby’s vision at each stage of development.

From Birth to Four Months

Install night lights in your baby’s room as this will help them to get used to the different colours of the light bulbs. Change the position of the baby’s crib from time to time to enable them to view other parts of the room. You can also walk around the room while talking to your baby, it will help move their eyes around.

Five to Eight Months

Encourage visual stimulation by hanging objects on the baby’s crib. You can also place your baby on the mat and play games that allow your baby to move different parts of their body.

Nine to Twelve Months

Encourage your child to crawl on the floor at this stage. It would help if you also bought toys such as stack blocks to help improve their motor eye-hand coordination skills.

One to Two Years

At this stage, your child’s eye-body coordination has improved massively, but it’s still developing. Avail games that will enhance motor skills. Reading and showing them storybooks with drawings is also helpful as it enables them to visualise.

Signs of Eye and Vision Problems In Your Baby

Eye and vision problems are rare among babies, but some may develop complications. The child might present with typical problem symptoms in eyes, such as having watery eyes, blurry vision and eye squint.

However, your child may also have other symptoms that you may not notice. Other signs of vision problems in children include:

  • Short attention span
  • Head tilting
  • Eye turning
  • Light sensitivity

They will also avoid activities like drawing that require up-close focus.

Common Eye Issues in Infants

Approximately three per cent of children have vision problems. The root cause of these vision problems is usually abnormal visual development in their formative years. Some of the common eye issues in infants include:

  • Orbital Cellulitis: It’s a condition affecting the eyeball and the surrounding tissues. It is common for children that have lumps around their eyes.
  • Lazy Eye: This happens when one eye has underdeveloped vision compared to the other. Children with eye squint (abnormal eye turns) are at high risk of developing Lazy Eye disease.
  • Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye): This is a disease-causing inflammation of the outer membrane covering the eyeball. Infants with watery or sticky eyes will most likely have conjunctivitis.

First Eye Exam

A baby should have a comprehensive eye exam before they hit one year. In most cases, a paediatrician (baby doctor) will conduct the eye test, but an eye doctor can also do it.

The test will primarily involve a screening exam that looks for any structural disorders and infections in the eyes.

They also check for issues with eye alignment, especially when a baby is six months old. If there are any mild conditions such as Pink Eye disease, the paediatrician can treat them. If the vision problems are more severe, however, they will refer the baby to an eye doctor.

How To Find A Doctor For My Baby

It is essential to seek a baby doctor three months before your baby is born. When choosing a paediatrician, you should consider the following:

  • A doctor close to your home.
  • A doctor that has been recommended by your family doctor.
  • A doctor that has the proper credentials and experience.
  • A doctor whose office hours are convenient to your schedule.

How Often Should Babies Get Eye Exams At Different Ages?

Babies should have regular eye checkups from birth. The test will help to detect and manage any eye conditions your baby might have. The CDC recommends the following frequency for your child’s exams:

  • From birth to three months.
  • From six to twelve months.
  • When they are three years old.
  • When they are five years old.

Age Bracket                                                         Frequency of Eye Exam

Birth to one year                                                Once at six months old

One to three years                                             Once at three years old

Three to five years                                             Once at five years old

Five years and over                                            Once after every one to two years

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the first thing a baby sees?

Although your baby can technically see at birth, their brains can’t decipher what they are looking at, which explains why babies can see colour but not as well as older people. They are better at making out objects with black/white and high contrast patterns.

The first thing they will likely see is you feeding them as babies are able to see objects eight to ten inches away from their faces.

What does a two-week-old baby see?

At two weeks, your baby can start recognising familiar faces such as their parents. Their vision is still not fully developed, however, and you will thus need to stand close to them so that they can recognise you.

What can babies see at one-month-old?

At one month, your baby can see objects close to them (eight to ten inches away). However, their eyes are still a bit crossed and, consequently, it makes it difficult for them to focus on distant objects.


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