Your Infant’s Visual Development

Birth and the hours afterwards are an amazing series of events and one of those great moments is when your newborn daughter or son opens their eyes and first makes eye contact with you. For many babies in Northern Colorado and around the world, this may not happen right away and don’t be concerned if it doesn’t.

The entire visual system of a newborn is still developing after birth. During the first week after the birth of your son or daughter their vision is still generally blurry, and the only color difference they can see is shades of gray. It will take several months for your child’s vision to fully develop.

Becoming acquainted with the general milestones of a baby’s vision development during their first year can help you gauge where your child is at along the way,insure your child is seeing properly and enjoying their world to the fully.

During Your Pregnancy

Your baby’s eyesight is developing way before birth. How take care of yourself plays a big role in the development of your baby’s body and mind during pregnancy. Here in Fort Collins, Loveland and Greeley this development includes their eyes and the vision centers in their brain.

Please be sure to follow all of the instructions your obstetrician (OB/GYN doctor) gives you in regards to  getting proper nutrition and the correct amount of daily rest during the length of your pregnancy. And of course, do stop smoking and partaking in alcohol or drugs during pregnancy, as these substances can cause many issues for your baby, including serious vision problems.

At Birth

At birth, your baby sees only black and white and variations therein. Nerve cells in your infant’s eyes and brain that control vision will still take months to fully develope. Also, their eyes don’t yet have the ability to change their focus and see close object very clearly. So please don’t be too concerned if your baby doesn’t seem to be focusing on objects right away, including your face. It will just takes time. (Despite these limitations, studies show that within a few days after birth, infants prefer looking at the image of their mother’s face over anyone else’s.)

The First Month

Your baby’s vision continues to develop in the first few weeks of life here in Northern Colorado and during this time they are starting to be able to see color. Visual acuity and eye teaming can take a while longer. If your baby’s eyes occasionally look unfocused or misaligned, don’t be concerned.

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 2 and 3

As your baby is getting a bit bigger and older their vision is slowly improving and their two eyes are beginning to move better as a team. They should be starting to follow moving objects (and people – mom and dad) at this stage in development, and are beginning to reach for things they can see. Babies at this stage of development are beginning to learn how to shift their gaze from one object to another without having to move their head all around.

Months 4 to 6

By 6 months of age there have been significant advances that have taken place in the vision centers of the brain. You should be noticing by now that your baby will be seeing more distinctly, they should be able to move their eyes faster and with greater accurately, and also have an increased ability to follow moving objects (and people) with their eyes.

Visual acuity develops rapidly in infants, improving from about 20/400 at birth gaining clarity to  about 20/25 at six months. Your baby’s color vision should be almost completely developed at age six months, thus allowing them to view the all the colors of the rainbow.

Here in Fort Collins, Loveland and Greeley, babies also develop better eye-hand coordination from 4 to 6 months. They are now able to quickly locate and pick up objects, and accurately direct a bottle (and many other things) to their mouth.

Months 7 to 12

Look out Northern Colorado – your child is now mobile, crawling around and is able to cover more distance than you might have expected! They may even be able to climb and are also better at judging distances. Your child is now more skilled at locating, grasping and throwing objects as well.

From the months 7 to 12, your child will be developing a better awareness of their overall body and will be learning how to coordinate their vision with their body movements. At this time you will need to watch them closely to keep them from harm as they explore their environment. Be sure to keep cleaning supplies in cabinets that are up high in a cabinet where your child will not be able to get into them (locking a cabinet only protects them when the cabinet is closed). You will also want to put up a gate in front of stairwells.

When it’s Time for an Eye Exam

If you suspect that there is something 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) please take your child to a pediatric ophthalmologist or other eye doctor without delay.

For routine eye care, the American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends you schedule your baby’s first eye exam when they are six months old. Even though babies can’t read the letter chart we your eye doctor can use non-verbal testing to determine visual acuity, detect excessive or unequal amounts of nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism, and evaluate eye teaming and alignment. During this exam, your eye doctor will also check the health of your baby’s eyes; they will be looking for anything that may interfere with normal and continuing vision development.

We welcome providing eye care for even the youngest children. For additional information or to schedule an appointment, please call 970-204-4020 or click on the link on the side of the page.

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