Baby's Vision Milestone: Seeing Clearly

Your baby's vision will go from blurry to bright in a few months. Learn how to make the most of his new views.
Thayer Allyson Gowdy

What Your Baby Sees

Birth: A newborn can focus only 8 to 10 inches away until about 3 months of age. She is also able to see only high-contrast colors (such as red, white, and black) and large shapes. "The ideal distance for her to take in your face is while you are feeding her," says Sharon S. Lehman, M.D., a pediatric ophthalmologist at the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, in Wilmington, Delaware.

1 month: Your baby starts to engage visually, looking you in the eye.

3 months: She is able to track a toy as you move it from left to right.

4 months: Her baby blues begin working together to develop depth perception. Your munchkin can now tell the difference among colors and can see several feet away.

7 months: Hand-eye coordination improves as your baby learns to crawl, says Kansas City, Missouri, pediatrician Natasha Burgert, M.D.

Encourage It

Let him look: Hold your baby close, gaze into his eyes, and chat away. "There is nothing more stimulating to a baby's visual development than the human face," says Dr. Lehman.

Be bold: Catch his eye, especially during the first 4 months, with graphic black-and-white or brightly colored objects and toys.

Play with his reflection: Help your little guy spot his likeness in a toy mirror, or sing and dance with him in front of your bathroom mirror.

Grab some classics: "Show him how things fit together using blocks or puzzles," Dr. Lehman suggests.

Try simple games: Starting at about 6 months, roll a ball back and forth to boost his hand-eye coordination. You can also encourage his visual memory by hiding a toy under a blanket and then revealing it to him.

Should I Worry?

In most cases, no, but talk to your pediatrician if you have concerns or spot any of these warning signs:

  • She has a white spot on her eye in photographs, which could be a sign of a serious eye disease.
  • She doesn't maintain eye contact or track objects at 3 months. This may be due to a visual perception problem.
  • She usually tilts her head to see at 6 months. One eye may be developing faster than the other.
  • She's a preemie, which predisposes a baby to vision problems. She should be examined by an ophthalmologist before going home from the hospital

Yikes! Is He Cross-Eyed?

Don't panic about early misalignment. Some crossing and drifting is normal in the first 4 months, as your baby figures out how to focus both eyes at the same time. If you notice his eyes doing this a lot, though, or if it continues after 4 months of age, tell your pediatrician.

Are you worried that your little one is having problems with his eyes? Learn what could be wrong and whether to call the doctor.

Originally published in the August 2015 issue of American Baby magazine.

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American Baby

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