All you Need to Know about Your Baby’s Vision
Just as your baby develops skills for speaking and walking, they aren’t born with their vision fully developed either. Their eyesight develops very quickly in their first few months of life. Babies learn from visual cues and observing their environment and vision problems can cause developmental delays. This is why it’s important to bring your baby in for regular eye exams, beginning at six months of age. (Check out this post on for more information on how eye exams work for babies and toddlers.) How do you know if your baby’s vision is developing normally? Read on, to learn more about your baby’s eyesight within the first two years, what to expect, and when you should worry.
What is the first thing a baby sees?
Not much! At first, your baby mostly sees fuzzy shapes and can’t see moving objects or distinguish shapes. They see best up close, at 8-10 inches away, that’s why it’s good to get close up to your newborn. They generally like looking at faces.
Can newborns see faces?
Yes and no. They can see your face close up as noted above, but are unlikely to be able to distinguish features.
What your Baby Sees and When
Babies’ eyes and brains develop quickly within the first two years of life. Below is a general timeline according to What to Expect.com and the American Optometric Association (AOA) of how your baby’s vision develops and what milestones to expect at different ages.
Between 2-3 months of age babies will start to recognize familiar faces and begin to see different shades, though not colours. That’s why many toys geared towards this age bracket have black and white patterns. Babies at this stage are extremely nearsighted and have difficulty with eye to body coordination, eyes may even appear crossed. At three months they begin to improve focus and may enjoy looking at a favourite toy.
This is a big milestone in terms of eyesight development. At this age babies’ eyes will track movements and start to follow you. They will also begin to notice colour differences, especially red and green. They will begin to see more clearly as they look at your face, and may begin to notice how tired you look! Something else that’s important at this age is babies’ eyes begin to work together so they should no longer appear cross eyed.
5 to 8 months
Babies eye movements and coordination continues to improve along with their depth perception (ability to judge how far or near an object is) and they begin to see in 3-D. If you’ve been dressing your baby in neutral colours up to this point, now may be the time to switch it up and see what your baby responds to. This is the age where they develop good colour vision and may react more to bright colours. When babies begin to crawl, it will further develop their eye-body coordination, usually around 8 months.
9 to 12 months
Babies go from crawling to pulling themselves up, getting ready to walk. Encouraging crawling instead of early walking is said to be better for hand eye coordination notes the AOA. In terms of vision babies can now see and judge distances which helps them to throw or catch a ball.
By 2 years old
By 2 years of age, a child’s eye-hand coordination and depth perception should be well developed and they can recognize and point out objects and pictures in books.
Beyond the age of 2
Your child’s vision doesn’t get close to 20/20 until age 3 or so, and their depth perception will continue developing until they’re 4 to 6 years old.
Signs of Vision Problems in Babies
What are some signs that my baby’s eyesight isn’t developing normally?
Checking to see if your baby is reaching the milestones of vision development as outlined in this post and making sure you bring your baby to the eye doctor for children’s eye exams from the age of 6 months is one way to make sure your baby’s eyesight is developing as it should.
Signs that may indicate vision problems in babies include:
- Failure to maintain eye contact and track objects- by three months of age, if your baby fails to maintain eye contact and can’t follow or track objects you should check with your pediatrician that everything is developing normally.
- Eyes are misaligned or crossed- as mentioned above this is common in babies up to three months of age. If eyes are still misaligned at four months or older you should speak with your pediatrician.
- Amblyopia or Lazy eye- this usually presents in toddlers where one eye may wander or have trouble focussing. According to the Mayo Clinic it is the most common cause of vision loss in children. If detected early it can be corrected. Sometimes it may go unnoticed, which is why regular children’s eye exams are so important.
Though eye and vision problems in babies are rare, signs that may indicate a medical issue and should be investigated by an eye doctor as listed by the AOA and Optometrists.org include:
- Excessive tearing- though babies eyes do water quite a bit, this may be an indication of blocked tear ducts.
- Red or encrusted eyelids – this could be a sign of an eye infection such as pink eye and should be looked at by a doctor.
- Eyes that move rapidly up and down side to side
- Squinting or head tilting
- Very droopy eyelids
- Eye discomfort or pain that doesn’t resolve
- Constant eye turning- though it is normal for infants to be a little cross eyed up until three months of age, if an eye is turning it may signal a problem with eye muscle control.
- Extreme sensitivity to light- this may indicate an elevated pressure in the eye.
- The appearance of a white pupil- though rare, may indicate the presence of eye cancer.
If you notice any of these signs, have your baby seen by a pediatrician or qualified children’s eye doctor immediately.
Don’t forget to book your baby’s first eye exam by 6 months. If you notice your child isn’t meeting any of the developmental milestones for vision as listed in this post or have any other concerns, be sure to have your baby seen by a pediatrician or reach out to us!