Your Baby’s Vision Development

Dr. Russel Lazarus, February 8, 2021

Congratulations! You’re the proud parent of a new baby and you are so curious as to what they can see in their first year of life.

Author: Dr. Valerie Lam

The moment a child opens their eyes from birth, they begin to take in all their surroundings and try to make sense of it all. Their vision and the developmental phase of processing occurs over a few stages and sets the foundation of being able to properly navigate through this big world.

Stage 1: 0-3 months

Your newborn sees rather fuzzy images of the world as they are just getting accustomed to the immense amount of light that’s all around them now!

They can see only between 8-10 inches from their cute little nose and your loving face.

However, this is the most important thing they need to look at right now since creating a social-emotional bond with their parents is of utmost importance.  Infants are also learning how to fixate their eyes on a target of interest and also start to recognize colors (although they definitely can’t name them yet!)

Stage 2: 3-6 months

Your baby can start to see about the distance of the room now and should start tracking with their eyes!  

Several eye movements that are so crucial to proper vision development are:

  • Pursuit eye movements: Smooth eye movements that follow a moving target
  • Saccadic eye movements: Quick eye movements that jump from one target to another
  • Convergence: Your child should start to cross their eyes inward when something comes towards their nose.

If your infant’s eye(s) occasionally or frequently cross inwards towards their nose or drift outwards, this could be a sign of strabismus, or an eye turn. 

If you notice an eye turn, it is important that your child is examined by an optometrist that is comfortable seeing infants, to get this checked out right away.

Oftentimes, an eye turn can correct itself as the infant learns how to control their eye movements better. However, there is a chance that it will not resolve and instead, develop into a lazy eye or eye turn, in which case further treatment may be needed.

If you suspect your infant has an eye condition, contact an eye doctor near you, who can diagnose and treat the condition.

SEE RELATED: 5 Things Parents Should Know About Visual Development

Find an eye doctor for children near you

Stage 3: 6-12 months

By the end of your baby’s first year, their vision should be mature enough to see nearly everything you can!

They should be reaching and grabbing for toys, picking up small objects (they love to find tiny treasures in your carpet!), and creeping and crawling or even cruising by now.  Their vision should also be integrating with their gross motor development as they learn how to navigate through the world.

When is the best time for your baby’s first eye exam?

The best time to bring your infant in for their first eye exam is between 6-12 months. 

Even at this young of an age, optometrists are able to complete a comprehensive eye exam to ensure that your child’s eyes are healthy.  Optometrists are able to measure their optical prescription, eye movements and eye alignment, and eye health.

LEARN MORE: Guide to Visual Development

Schedule an appointment with an eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam, and to discuss any questions you may have about treating your child’s eye condition.

It is crucial to ensure that your baby’s vision develops correctly as they grow, because 80 percent of what they will learn in life will be processed in the brain and enter through their visual pathways!