“What can my baby see?”

Marshall Dorsett, O.D.

There is plenty of anxiety with the birth of a child.  The unknowns about our baby's development and whether everything is well with them is foremost on our minds.  We all want to make sure we do everything we can to make sure they can do, hear and see everything they need to.  Every baby should be brought in to see their eye doctor by their first birthday.  Until then, we will naturally continue to worry whether everything is developing properly.
Your newborn's eyes are approximately two-thirds the size of an adult's eyes.  This is disproportionately large to their facial structure and gives a newborn's eyes the “big” appearance.  At this point, your newborn cannot focus up close and may not pay attention to objects close up.  Your newborn's vision is primarily black, white and shades of gray.  He or she will find high contrast objects, such as familiar faces, of interest.  Parents should avoid changing their appearance, such as hair style or wear a cap, as it looks like a whole different person to a newborn.

During the first month of life, we should act like Motel 6 and “keep the light on”; as the one-month-old needs about fifty times more light than an adult to see.  Leaving the light on will also prevent you from bumping into things in the night when you repeatedly check on them.  Due to amount of light your newborn needs at this age, he or she will not even detect a night light in the room.  At this point, your newborn will start appreciating red and green colors.  Its reasonable to notice the eyes occasionally drifting, but this should not happen frequently.  If it does, take him or her to see an eye doctor.
By the second to third month, your newborn becomes more light sensitive and only needs about five times as much light as an adult.  The sharpness of the vision is continuing to improve and eye movements are becoming more coordinated.  You can help this develop by talking to your baby as you walk around the room and by moving objects near them.  An additional health tip to remember is to put your baby on its back to sleep and tummy to play.
Near the half way point of the first year of life, babies start to appreciate colors similar to an adult and gain better hand-eye coordination.  Be careful, as it seems like everything goes in their mouth at this point.  Vision has significantly improved by now; going from seeing the equivalent of the big E on the top of the eye chart to seeing the second to bottom row on a typical eye chart.

When your child nears his or her first birthday, you should have an appointment scheduled with an eye doctor participating in the InfantSEE program (http://www.aoa.org/x5428.xml or 800.365.2219).  These examinations are free by participating doctors.  You may notice your child's eye color changing to a more blue or darker color at this point.  Your child will also be developing improved depth judgment and you will need to make sure your cabinet doors are locked.
It is a pleasure to help you take care of your child's vision.  Please don't hesitate to call if you have any questions or concerns about your child's vision (800.287.5020).