15 Facts You Didn’t Know About a Newborn’s Vision

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Interesting Facts about Baby’s Eyes

When our babies burst into the world, the first thing we want to do is gaze lovingly into their sweet little eyes and show them exactly who we are and why we love them so much.
But when a baby is first born, their eyes are only beginning to develop into the visual hub that they’ll one day use to process all the things they see throughout their life.
According to the American Optometric Association, parents play the most important role in making sure a child’s eyes and vision develop properly.
As parents, it’s hard to know the correct steps to take to ensure proper eye health for our newborns.
The process to healthy eye development actually begins while a baby is still in the womb.
While pregnant, we need to provide adequate nutrition and daily prenatal vitamins to help the eyes develop correctly.
We should also avoid smoking or taking any medications that aren’t provided by a prenatal doctor because both could pass harmful chemicals through the placenta and delay baby’s eye and brain development.
During pregnancy, a baby’s eyes begin forming at two weeks and the optic nerves begin to connect to the brain at six weeks.
By week 16, baby can note the differences between light and dark. By week 26, baby can officially blink.
So what other unbelievable things do we need to know about our newborn’s vision?
baby eye examination

Check out these 15 things you didn’t know:

#1. Load up on Lutein

Recent studies have shown that the power-packed nutrient, Lutein, provides a hefty dose of eye protection during pregnancy. Naturally, we can find Lutein in eggs and dark leafy greens, like spinach, broccoli and kale.
protein foods
Formula-feeding mamas can find certain brands, like Similac, also contain this super nutrient. In years past, Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) has been hailed as a super omega-3 fatty acid that helps with eye and brain development. Almost all prenatal vitamins contain DHA and aid in healthy eye development.

#2. Antibiotic Cream at Birth

When a baby is handed to its mother for the first time, it’s sometimes alarming to see a clear ointment has been applied to their newborn’s eyes. This ointment is actually called Ilotycin and is used to treat and prevent any bacteria that may enter the eyes from the birth canal. Bacteria that may be present include conjunctivitis (pinkeye), e. coli, gonorrhea and chlamydia. Neonatal eye infections can cause blindness if not treated properly.

#3. Face First

Happy mother and baby
At birth, our babies can only see 8 to 12 inches away. This means, the first thing that they will get to see is the outline of our faces.
A study published in the medical journal, Frontiers in Psychology, by Francesca Simon and Elisa Di Giorgio show babies prefer their mother’s face to any other object.
It’s important for eye development to spend the majority of the first few weeks talking to baby only inches away from his face.
The coos and expressions will help baby learn to focus sooner. Mamas can expect that first smile to come when baby learns to recognize his mother’s face.

#4. Shades of Grey

black and white baby mother
It’s true that newborns can only see black, white and shades of grey for the first few weeks of life. The high contrast of dark lines on a lighter background hold baby’s attention the longest. Though we tend to decorate our nurseries in pretty pastel hues, we should really be focusing on black and white checkerboard patterns and bulls-eyes.

#5. Lights On!

For the first few weeks, babies’ brains can’t really process if the bedroom light is on or not, so we don’t need to worry about turning on the light for those midnight diaper changes or 2 A.M. feedings. It won’t hurt their eye development because they aren’t yet sensitive to light.
According to the BrightFocus foundation, light is fine in moderation.

#6. Brain Power

Studies show that newborns are born with everything they need to be able to see but that the missing link comes from the brain not being able to process the information they are taking in through their eyes. The Public Broadcast Station (PBS) documentary, The Secret Life of the Brain, states that a newborn’s underdeveloped vision is a protection system so a baby doesn’t become overstimulated. Newborn’s cells are not yet coated with myelin, a white, fatty substance that aids in the way the messages are transmitted to the brain. This is why babies have a hard time seeing contrasts between objects and colors.

#7. Big Eyes

baby big eyes
According to the University of Illinois’ College of Medicine, a newborn’s eyes are 75 percent the size they will be when they are an adult. This may be why we’re sometimes astonished by the fact that our babies eyes seem to be so big and beautiful. Eyes should reach their full size at puberty.

#8. Safe to Cross

baby eyes wandering
A newborn’s eyes, once open, may seem to be crossing or wandering off. One eye may even look in a different direction than the other eye. According to the University of Illinois’ College of Medicine, this is totally normal and will get better close to the 4-month mark when eyes start to straighten out.

#9. Colors of the Rainbow

rainbow
A baby will begin to see color as early as 4 or 5 months, but he will still have trouble distinguishing between different shades and tones.
He will start by seeing red, followed by orange, yellow and green. It may take longer before he can distinguish between the shades blue and violet because their hues are so similar in color. Primary colors are a great option for selecting nursery colors or toys because they promote stimulation and eye development.

#10. Out of Focus

For the first few months, objects and faces will be out of focus because baby hasn’t learned to zoom in on one thing just yet. He is terribly near-sighted and may not be able to see any objects that aren’t directly in his line of sight. He may move his eyes toward light and track objects with his head horizontally across the midline but objects at this time will mostly be blurry for him. At first, a baby may only be able to focus on a face or object for a few seconds but by 8 weeks old, he can hold his gaze much longer.

#11. Hand-eye Coordination

hand eye baby
Your brain and eye connections are still being learned and processed, so don’t expect junior to be able to roll a ball just yet.
At the newborn stage, a baby’s hands are clenched in a fist. How much do we all swoon over those pinky grasps? But by 3 or 4 months, baby will start to reach for and grip the items that he sees.

#12. Vision Stats

When a baby is born, his vision is just 20/200 to 20/400 which is extremely near-sighted. By the time they reach 6 to 8 months of age, a baby will be well on his way to having 20/20 vision just like adults. Most children will reach their full vision potential by the time they are 2 years old.

#13. Depth Perception

A newborn doesn’t see depth just yet. They see items as flat and cannot perceive a three-dimensional view of objects. At about 5 months of age, baby will start to notice 3-dimensional objects. It can take far longer for baby to learn to navigate the world of crawling on the coffee table.

#14. Baby Blues

blueeyes
Babies are all born with eyes that have a blue or grey hue. This is because the eyes only produce a tiny amount of melanin while in utero. When a baby is born and exposed to the melanin from the sun, eyes settle to their natural color. A baby’s eye color does not affect how a baby will see. A baby’s eyes should reach their real color by 9 months of age.

#15. Eye Exams

At birth, newborns will have their first eye examination. Doctors will check for congenital cataracts and any other neonatal eye problems, such as glaucoma or malformed eyelids. Parents will want to remain proactive and the AOA recommends eye examinations starting at 6 months. These first checkups will look for proper eye alignment and test how long a baby can hold his gaze.

Our eyes allow us to take in and process the world around us. Such a complex system will take some time to form. But before you know it, our babies will be exploring every part of the world and recording it in their little memories.
Thanks for reading!

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About Author

Toki Castro-Tover

I’m Toki, military wife and mom of 2 baby girls under 2! I believe mothering will always involve long hours, heavy physical work and the type of worry that could bring down an elephant if put into a dart gun. I’m here to cultivate a sense of inner support to calm our mini little storms… Get to know our family here: Rock The Baby Bump (www.rockthebabybump.com)

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