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Healthy Eye Development in Infants

Dr. Tucker
Wednesday, December 6th, 2017 by Dr. Tucker

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Vision is a skill, and babies need to learn to see just as they learn to walk, talk, and make friends. Over time, babies learn to focus their eyes on different objects and learn to use their eyes together to communicate with their brain. At about six to eight months, most babies can visually see the world with a developed clarity similar to adults, however the baby’s brain doesn’t process that visual information at nearly the same level. It takes a lot of work for baby to learn to see. This vision development timeline explains some of the stages along the way to clear vision.

Newborn

Newborn babies can see up to 12 inches away, which is usually just about to the face of anyone holding baby. Beyond that, a newborn can detect shapes, light, and movement. Babies are drawn to high contrast patterns and faces at this stage because nearly everything else is a blur. Many newborns struggle to use their eyes in tandem, so they may even appear crosseyed or to have a wandering eye at times.

One month
By this stage, babies have improved their ability to use both eyes together, somewhat. At the first month marker, many babies can now focus both eyes on a moving object to track it. A baby will likely still prefer high-contrast patterns at this stage, but is developing a more nuanced sense of color.

Two months
At two months, babies’ brains begin working to learn how to distinguish colors and they may now focus on bright, primary colors and more intricate designs. Babies also begin to develop more advanced abilities to track objects and distinguishing various tones in color.

Four months
A baby will begin distinguishing size and shapes of objects, as well as their position in the world. As your baby’s eyes and brain work together to solidify their sense of objects and their proximity, they will begin getting the message to grab ahold of objects in front of their faces. They may still lack to the motor development to truly coordinate this task, but a baby’s skills will improve very quickly with practice.

Six Months
Babies have begin developing object permanence at this stage, and their ability to track small objects is much improved. A baby can also distinguish between bold, primary colors at this point, and may begin developing a preference for lighter, pastel shades.

Eight Months
At this point, your baby has developed vision very similar to an adult in depth and clarity, but their brains need more time to learn how to process what it is they are actually seeing and their motor skills need lots of fine-tuning. At eight months, the color of a baby’s eyes have also liked reached their final color.

Healthy Vision for Infants

At each doctor’s visit, your doctor will check your baby’s eyes and vision to make sure they are developing correctly. Even if no eye or vision problems are apparent, at about age 6 months, you should take your baby to your doctor of optometry for his or her first thorough eye examination. An optometrist will test for eye movement ability, eye health problems, and test for excessive or unequal amounts of nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. While these problems are not especially common in babies, it is important to identify children who have these issues as young as possible. Vision development and eye health problems are highly correctable when treatment begins early.

Sources: American Optometric Association, American Academy of Ophthalmology 

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