Your Infant's Visual Development
One of the greatest moments after the birth of your baby is the first time your newborn daughter or son opens their eyes and makes eye contact with you. But don't be concerned if that doesn't happen right away.
The visual system of a newborn infant takes some time to develop. In the first week of life, your newborn's vision is quite blurry, and they see only in shades of gray. It takes several months for your child's vision to fully develop.
Knowing the expected milestones of your baby's vision development during their first year of life can insure your child is seeing properly and enjoying their world to the fullest.
During Your Pregnancy
Your child's vision development begins before birth. How you care for your own body during your pregnancy is extremely important for the development of your baby's body and mind, including their eyes and the vision centers in their brain.
Be sure to follow the instructions your obstetrician (OB/GYN doctor) gives you regarding proper nutrition and the proper amount of rest during your pregnancy. And of course, avoid smoking and consuming alcohol or drugs during pregnancy, as these toxins can cause multiple problems for your baby, including serious vision problems.
The First Month
Color vision develops in the first few weeks of life, so your baby is starting to see the world in full color. But visual acuity and eye teaming takes a bit longer -- so if your infant's eyes occasionally look unfocused or misaligned, don't worry.
The eyes of infants are not as sensitive to visible light as adult eyes are, but they need protection from the sun's harmful UV rays. Keep your baby's eyes shaded outdoors with a brimmed cap or some other means.
Months Four to Six
By 6 months of age, significant advances take place in the vision centers of the brain, allowing your infant to see more distinctly, move their eyes faster and more accurately, and have a better ability to follow moving objects with their eyes.
Visual acuity develops rapidly, improving from about 20/400 at birth to about 20/25 at six months of age. Your child's color vision should be nearly fully developed at age six months as well, enabling them to see all the colors of the rainbow with ease.
Children also develop better eye-hand coordination at 4 to 6 months of age. They're able to quickly locate and pick up objects, and accurately direct a bottle (and many other things) to their mouth.
When Its Time for an Eye Exam
If you suspect something is seriously wrong with your baby's eyes in their first few months of life (a bulging eye, a red eye, excess tearing, or a constant misalignment of the eyes, for example) take your child to a pediatric ophthalmologist or other eye doctor immediately.
For routine eye care, the American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends you schedule your baby's first eye exam when they are six months old. Though your baby can't yet read letters on a wall chart, your optometrist can perform non-verbal testing to determine visual acuity, detect excessive or unequal amounts of nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism, and evaluate eye teaming and alignment. At this exam, your doctor will also check the health of your baby's eyes, looking for anything that might interfere with normal and continuing vision development.
We welcome providing eye care for even the youngest children. For more information about eye exams for kids or to schedule your child's first eye exam, please call our office.
At birth, your baby sees only in shades of gray. Nerve cells in their eyes and brain that control vision aren't fully developed. Also, their eyes don't have the ability to change focus and see close object clearly. So don't be concerned if your baby doesn't seem to be focusing on objects right away, including your face. It just takes time. (Despite these limitations, studies show that within a few days after birth, infants prefer looking at an image of their mother's face over anyone else's.)
Months Two and Three
Your baby's vision is improving and their two eyes are beginning to move better as a team. They should be following moving objects at this stage, and starting to reach for things they see. Also, infants at this stage are learning how to shift their gaze from one object to another without having to move their head.
Months Seven to Twelve
Your child is now mobile, crawling about and covering more distances than you might have expected. They are also better at judging distances and more skilled at locating, grasping and throwing objects, too.
During months 7 to 12, your child is developing a better awareness of their overall body and learning how to coordinate their vision with their body movements. At this time, watch them closely to keep them from harm as they explore their environment. Keep cabinets that contain cleaning supplies locked, and put a barrier in front of stairwells.
Cooing, sitting up and crawling are signs that your baby is growing. Did you know her vision has stages of development too?
Most parents believe that vision is something that just develops naturally, and therefore does not need to be checked until school-age when it has already fully developed. The truth is that vision is learned—and the most critical stages of vision development occur in the first year of life.
In an effort to encourage infant eye and vision assessments and ensure they are accessible to everyone, the American Optometric Association (AOA), and The Vision Care Institute of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc., and Optometry’s Charity™ – The AOA Foundation, partnered to create InfantSEE® a no-cost public health program developed to provide professional eye care for infants nationwide.
Through InfantSEE®, optometrists provide a one-time, comprehensive eye and vision assessment to babies in their first year of life, usually between the ages of 6 and 12 months, offering early detection of potential eye and vision problems at no cost regardless of income or ability to pay.
The program's goals:
Though babies can’t talk, optometrists use their clinical education, training and experience, along with instruments such as lighted toys to provide non-invasive eye and vision assessments for infants.
The optometrist evaluates:
The doctors at Weaver Eye Associates are among the thousands of members of the American Optometric Association enrolled as InfantSEE® providers.
According to new data collected by the American Optometric Association (AOA) there is a growing need for early vision examination in infants. The data also showed that two groups at greater risk for visual concerns were premature babies and minority babies.
Parents may learn more about the importance of infant vision care and the InfantSEE® program by logging on to www.infantsee.org. Please call Weaver Eye Associates to schedule your baby’s InfantSEE® assessment.
InfantSEE® is a public health program, to ensure that optometric eye and vision care becomes an integral part of infant wellness care to improve a child’s quality of life.
- Identify and treat risk factors that may have adverse effects on eye and vision health.
- Through early identification, reduce the impact of amblyopia (presently 1 in 30) and other conditions that may lead to impairments and/or loss of sight, or may also affect the child’s spatial and cognitive development.
- Educate parents about the importance of eye care for their children.
- Visual Acuity
- Refractive Status
- Eye Movement
- Eye Alignment/Binocular Potential
- Eye Health
For more information on children's vision, visit All About Vision®.
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