Baby Eyes: Color, Vision, and More
Babies are born with a remarkably developed set of senses. And while a newborn baby's eyesight is not completely mature at birth, right from the start, your baby can see the most important thing in the world: you, as you hold him in your arms.
Over the first few months of life, you'll be able to observe the ways that your baby's visual skills improve — specifically, his range of vision, tracking ability, and color perception — along with related aspects of his development, such as arm and hand control.
When Do Babies’ Eyes Change Color?
At the same time that your baby's vision is evolving, the color of his eyes may be changing due to a pigment called melanin, which also affects skin color and hair color. If your baby is born with darker eyes, brown or dark green, there's already a lot of melanin present, and your baby's eye color probably won't change (although it could). But, light colored eyes, such as blue or light gray, have less melanin to start with, and they could change to a different shade at some point as more melanin is produced. The timing for when babies’ eyes change color varies quite a bit: it could happen in the first few months or even the first year or two. It's hard to predict, but it's fun to watch for!
Your Baby's Eyesight: Range and Distance
When can babies see? And how far can babies see? At birth, your newborn’s vision is limited, and he can only focus on something that's about 8 to 12 inches from him — such as your face when you're holding him, or the corner of his crib. He can't yet see very clearly beyond 12 inches. Within this range, he'll examine things quite closely. At first, when he looks at your face, his eyes will be drawn to a single facial feature (such as your eyes), but soon, he'll be able to include your entire face in his scope of vision.
This limited range will gradually expand, and at about 3 months, your baby may start to notice you when you are halfway across the room — and maybe even smile at you! He may also be able to gaze at an object lying just a few feet away, such as a toy. By the time he's 4 months old, as your baby’s eyes develop, distance vision has progressed so much that he can stare out the window or look at something on the wall with interest, and by 7 months, his distance vision will be almost fully mature.
If your baby is around 4 months old, consider trying these stimulating play ideas.
Your Baby's Eyesight: Tracking
Another part of your baby's visual development is tracking, or the ability to watch or follow a moving object with his eyes. It's a crucial skill for learning about the world and moving around safely, as eventually your child will need to understand how to track movements of cars, for example, before crossing the street.
Notice how your newborn will struggle to watch a rattle when you shake it in front of his face, but in two months' time, he has better coordination and focus in both eyes as they work together to follow the rattle's movement. Depth perception starts to develop at about 5 months, after your baby has had some practice following objects coming toward him or away from him and can put together a three-dimensional view of the world.
When your baby is about 3 months old, he'll likely be able to use his arms and hands to swat at things in front of him (missing more often than not). Over time, as his motor skills improve, so will his aim and tracking ability. At about age 3 or 4, your child will be skilled enough to follow a ball coming toward him and extend his hands to catch it.
Your Baby's Eyesight: Color Perception
Newborns, it turns out, see mostly in black and white. That's because the color cells at the back of the eyes aren't fully developed at birth. You might wonder: When do babies see color? At about 1 month, your little one can detect the brightness and intensity of colors, and by 3 months, your baby can actually start to see several basic colors, including red. Your baby's color vision is fully developed by about 4 months, when he'll be able to see lots of colors and even shades of colors.
So, what can babies see? Watch how your baby responds to colors and patterns, say, as he looks at a mobile. You may notice that at 1 month, he'll be drawn to simple black and white designs, such as bold stripes, or those with strongly contrasting colors. Around the time he's 3 months old, he'll likely prefer circular patterns, such as spirals or bull's-eyes.
As the months go by, enjoy your baby's progress, and share his delight in his new abilities and achievements. If you’re interested in even more development milestones, then check out the typical growth phases of 3- to 9-month-old babies. Plus, if you have any questions or concerns about your baby’s eyesight, be sure to raise them with your baby's healthcare provider.
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