The eyes are the window to the soul, so they say. And you can't wait for that moment when you can spend your days gazing into the eyes of your beautiful newborn.
The eyes also can be a window into your genetics — from the color to the shape. And they can be a key indicator of a range of health problems. The key to one of the five senses that humans experience, your baby's eyes are important for several reasons, including the connection that they have with you and other members of their family.
From the moment that your baby's eyes lock onto yours, you will fall in love. But those beautiful eyes won't stay the same. The color could change, and so could the vision. And there are treatments from glasses to surgery and maybe more that could help a baby who is struggling to see. Nutrition is also important in taking care of those important orbs.
Baby's eyes are not just a pretty part of the face, and parents should be concerned about making sure that they are in good working order — or at least as best as possible. There are many issues and interests about eyes, and we thought we would help you understand them a bit more.
Here are 15 amazing facts about eyes from color to sight.
15 Ol' Blue Eyes
It isn't true that all babies are born with blue eyes. Babies with darker skin often have darker eyes. Many babies are born with blue eyes, especially if their parents have fair skin. But that doesn't mean that the baby's eyes will stay that color.
At the beginning of their lives, babies have little melanin which is what gives pigment to your eyes as well as your skin and hair. As your baby grows, they will also gain more color to those parts of the body, and the color will be based on the genetics of the parent.
Two blue-eyed parents are likely to have blue-eyed babies, but the genetics can go back a few generations, which is how two brown-haired parents can end up with a red-head. There are also multiple genes that determine the eye color, so it can be a little harder to predict than your teacher lead you to believe when he taught about dominant and recessive genes.
For the most part, eye color begins to change around 6 months old, and for most kids it is set by the first birthday. However, some kids' eyes continue to change until they are 6.
14 Color Concern
Most of the time, when a baby's eye color changes, there is nothing to be concerned about, but occasionally something happens that can tip you off to an issue.
If your baby's eye looks clouded, take them to the doctor. And sometimes only one changes color — yes, there are some people whose eyes are different colors, but it's rare and should be checked out to make sure it isn't a signal that something is going on.
Occasionally, baby's eye color changes more than once, and that's OK as well. Watch out for strange shapes and uneven pupils, and if you have any concerns talk to your opthalmologist.
Red eyes can be indicative of albinism, and sometimes there are other cues about your baby's health that can be detected in the color of his eyes. Watching your baby's eyes change colors is exciting, but it is also worth your attention for other reasons. So pay close attention to those baby blues.
13 Perfect Perspective
Your baby's vision changes over time, and its amazing how the development tracks along with the other milestones your baby encounters in the first year or two.
In the beginning, when the most important thing going on in your baby's life is its bond to its mother, he can see best an object about 8-10 inches away. Amazingly, that is about the space between the baby and his mother's face when he is nursing. Pretty soon, the mother's face is a baby's favorite sight, and that is no surprise.
Within a few months, the baby's eyes can track objects around the room, and the eye-hand coordination begins to improve at about the time when babies start grasping for objects. Crawling helps baby develop the ability to coordinate his eyes with his body at around eight months, and at bout a year, babies can judge distances — and throw things to test it.
12 Black And White
Some moms and dads decorate the nursery will mobiles that are black and white, all because doctors say that your baby will first see in shades of grey.
In the first week of life and beyond, your baby's vision is developing, and it can take some time. Your newborn isn't sensitive to light, and after a week, colors begin to enter her field of vision. She will be able to see red first. Then she can see green, orange and yellow, although blue and violet take longer.
While your baby may not be able to see the full color spectrum, by about 5 months, she can see most colors and is ready to enjoy all of the many hues in the world around her. There isn't much need to keep things black and white for baby. Pretty soon, she will be enjoying the vivid world around her, and life will be about much more than shades of gray.
11 Tear Ducts
Yes, your baby cries a lot. But actually very few of those cries will involve tears for at least the first month. Pretty soon, those tears could become a problem.
Most babies are born with a tear-duct system that is undeveloped, so many will end up with infections or even blocked tear ducts. It's a common problem, but luckily most babies grow out of it by their first birthday.
Some kids, those, will need a little bit of help in keeping the tear ducts clear. While your baby could be born with a narrow opening, you won't know it until your baby gets an infection or you notice excessive tears even when the baby isn't crying.
For some babies, warm compresses or little massages can help free the blockage, but sometimes babies need surgery. It's a short procedure that takes about 10 minutes, and it fixes the problem almost 90 percent of the time.
10 Ointment Option
Most babies receive an antibiotic cream in their eyes nearly as soon as they are born. Often times, it is slipped on while the baby is weighed and wrapped in a blanket in the first few minutes of life.
The ointment is an early intervention to make sure your baby doesn't get an eye infection. There are lots of germs that your baby could encounter in the birth canal, and sexually transmitted diseases like Chlamydia and gonorrhea can especially detrimental to baby's eyes. So most hospitals apply the cream automatically to every child, especially if the mother hasn't been tested.
It doesn't hurt the baby, and most doctors think it is worth the precaution. If it bothers you, ask about skipping the cream, although some states mandate it. It'll wash off, so don't worry about it. The reward far outweighs the risk, and it could save your baby's vision.
9 Premature Problems
One of the many health problems that can come with premature is a risk of eye issues. Babies born before 37 weeks gestation are at risk of retinopathy of prematurity, where abnormal tissue is found in the retina. It can cause scarring and poor vision, possibly retinal detachment and even blindness.
As extremely low birth weight is also a risk factor for the condition, it mostly happens to babies who are born very early. Premature babies should have their eyes evaluated by an opthalmologist to determine if they have any issues.
Premature babies are fragile in many ways, and there may be other issues that are more pressing early in your baby's life. But it is worth a checkup to see if there is anything a doctor can do to help her see more clearly.
8 Fused Eyelids
Ever taken care of a litter of newborn kittens? Or a litter of puppies? Notice something interesting about the eyes? You usually can't get a peek at their eyes for a few weeks because they are born with their eyes closed and fused together.
The same thing can happen for babies, although it is rare. In the womb, the eyes fuse shut at about 10 weeks gestation in order to protect the eyes as they are developing. Usually, they open on their own long before the baby is born. But if the baby comes early, their eyes could still be fused shut.
Most babies with fused eyelids are born before 26 weeks gestation, which is only a few weeks past the point that they are likely to survive a premature birth. Eventually, they will open on their own, although doctors often put covers over the eyes of micropreemies to protect them for a little while longer.
Only time will tell if your preemie has a vision problem, but don't worry about the eyelids. They will open.
7 Yellow Eyes
In the first days and weeks after birth, you could notice a new color in your baby's eyes, and we aren't talking about the pupil. Instead, the white part could turn yellow. That is a sign that your baby has jaundice, a common malady for newborns that could quickly turn into a dangerous situation.
Most babies have issues with their livers just after birth, as their bodies get used to taking over a task of disposing of red blood cells that their mother used to take care of. Often, bilirubin, which is normally produced in the body, can build up in a newborn faster than their liver can dispose of it, and you can see the signs in the skin and in the eyes.
For most babies, jaundice clears up after a few days of good feedings and dirty diapers (which is where the bilirubin eventually exits the body). Some babies need some time under special lights to help clear up the issue.
Parents should watch their baby's eyes to make sure that things are going well because if jaundice isn't controlled it can lead to brain damage. Usually the eyes are a good indication when things are not going well, so talk to the doctor if you see yellow in your baby's eyes.
6 Pink Eye
Another not-so-attractive color for baby's eye is pink. Again, we are talking about the white part here, not the pupil, because a pink hue can be an indication of an infection known as, well, pink eyes.
Conjunctivitis is a pretty common ailment for kids, although it usually doesn't show up until they are in preschool and around other kids. It is highly contagious and can quickly pass through a school or daycare as kids wipe their eyes and touch things.
In addition to the pink pigment to the eye, conjunctivitis can also come with a gross discharge that can cause the eyes to get stuck together when you sleep, and somtimes it flares up with other symptoms like coughing and runny nose.
Talk to your doctor, but you will likely need to give your child eye drops or another prescription. And be careful — you could catch pink eye yourself.
5 Crossed Eyes
For the first few months of your baby's life, it isn't uncommon to find that your baby's eyes don't exactly align. That's part of the immaturity of the eyes that comes with being a newborn.
But if the eyes seem crossed most of the time or if it doesn't get better by about 4 months, you should talk to your doctor. Your baby may have a condition called strabismus. It isn't so much about the eyes as about the brain, but if your baby doesn't work to improve the coordination then it could eventually diminish the eye muscles and damage depth perception.
Strabismus can run in families, and it can also be caused by conditions such as Down syndrome and cerebral palsy or even prematurity. A lot of times, glasses can help, and there is a surgery that may be recommended as well. Consult a doctor for the best course of action.
4 Lazy Eye
If your child's strabismus doesn't get corrected, it could devolve into amblyopia, which is known as lazy eye. That happens when the brain turns off the vision in one eye, and it also can be caused by vision problems, astigmatism, which deals with the shape of the eye, and issues like cataracts or drooping eyelids.
If you catch the issue before your child is about 5, then treatments are the most effective, but it could become permanent if it isn't treated early.
Glasses could be enough to correct the issue, but your child might need to wear an eye patch for a while or they could need eye drops. The treatment could take a few weeks or a few years, but if you catch it early, it usually gets corrected.
3 Other Causes For Concern
Your baby can't exactly read an eye chart, and he can't tell you that he can't see his brother across the room or that he sees two spoons when you feed him. But there are some red flags that you can look for to determine if something is wrong.
In addition to color issues and misalignment, other things to look for include drooping eyelids, a cloudy look in the pupil or a bulging eye. If you see a white spot in your baby's eye in pictures (like a red eye caused by the flash but white), then that could be a sign that something is wrong. Also, if your baby's eyes move back and forth really quickly, that could indicate an issue.
Your baby should be following objects by the time he is 3 months old, like watching you cross the room or a fan go around. Let your doctor know if he doesn't do that consistently or if he always tilts his head when he looks at things. Also take notes if he seems sensistive to light or squints often. These could indicate vision problems or even other brain issues, so be sure to talk to a doctor.
2 Baby Eye Exam
Pediatricians are trained to look out for common eye ailments for babies. They should check for them at each visit, just like they check out the heart and lungs. Some people in the medical community believe a trip to an optometrist or ophthalmologist is also in order, but others disagree. Those specialists may be called upon if the baby is premature.
During the first year, an eye exam is going to look a lot different than it does for parents. The doctor will use a penlight to examine the eyes and look for any discharge, check the reaction to light and the position of the eyes and study the eyelids and eyeball. The doctor will check to see if your baby follows an object and watch the alignment of the eyes.
The doctor will cover one eye and check how it tracks; then cover the other eye and try it again. If the results differ, that could mean that one eye sees better than the other.
Treatments for issues like strabismus are much more effective if they start early, so be sure to talk to your doctor and see a specialist if needed.
1 Eat Carrots
Nutrition is important for good vision, and just like your parents told you, that means you should be sure to eat your carrots when you are pregnant.
In addition, foods rich in vitamins C and E, 0mega-3 fatty acids and lutein are also really good for eye health. Those kinds of things are found in green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and kale, fish and nuts, avocados and eggs.
Interestingly, research has shown that babies who are breastfed tend to have much better vision than those who do not, and it is especially noticeable in premature babies. Doctors point to the presence of DHA in breastmilk as a possible reason, since DHA is one of the major components of the retina.
Nutrition is stressed for eye health throughout your life, so teach your child when he is young about eating his vegetables. It may not help him avoid glasses but it could keep his vision as sharp as possible.