As a baby grows during the nine months of pregnancy, they are developing and learning at an incredibly fast rate. They are born with ten fingers, ten toes and even have the capability of being able to pick out their mothers voice when heard. Their journey up to birth is amazing but of course it doesn't stop there. Babies go through various stages, leaps and developments and the first 1000 days are some of the most important days of their lives as they learn, grow and become amazing human beings.
One aspect of a baby's development, which is not only significant but also quite interesting, is the development of their vision and sight. A baby's vision is somewhat limited when they are first born but is constantly developing as they grow. We can track the change in their vision from month to month. The changes and growth of their vision is not only quite drastic for a newborn who is just getting to grips with the world around him, but also incredibly quick as their vision changes and improves quite rapidly.
These developmental milestones can be daunting, tiring and confusing for your baby as they go from blurry vision to colour and defined shapes quite quickly. There are, of course, many things we can do to help our babies transition with their vision and this month by month guide may help you to understand how they see and what you can do to help as their vision develops.
15 Before They Are Born
While your babys vision is the very last of the five senses to develop while in the womb, there are significant changes and developments which happen before your baby is even born. During pregnancy, your unborn baby's eyelids will remain closed until about twenty eight weeks pregnant. This allows your babys retinas to develop before they are struck by strong light after birth.
We often imagine that the womb is a very dark place but in fact its not completely black. As early as eighteen weeks pregnant, despite your baby's eyes remaining tightly closed, they may be able to see a small amount of light shining through. Amazingly, at thirty three weeks it's possible for your baby to make out shapes as their pupils have developed the ability to constrict and dilate.
14 Blurry And Blinking As A Newborn Baby
Babys visual development begins the moment they are born but they only have a visual acuity of 20/400 in comparison to an adults level of 20/20. But their rapidly developing vision will be as strong as yours by the time they are three to five years old.
At this stage they will only hold their gaze for a few short seconds and can only see eight to twelve inches in front of their face. This is the distance from their face to yours while feeding. They may even recognise your face at about three weeks old. During these first few weeks your baby sees only in black and white, with shades of gray peeking through as light reflections.
Parent Tip: It's important to encourage visual development in both eyes. A good way to do this is to try alternating sides while feeding so that both eyes are visually stimulated. Also when you are talking with your baby there is no harm in getting close to their face to encourage eye contact. Stimulate their vision by talking, smiling and laughing.
13 Shadowy Fascination At One Month
By one month old your baby may start looking at objects that are closeby and beside her. They will move their head back and forth to see around them rather than simply moving their eyes. Moving their eyes alone is a skill they have not yet learnt. You may notice your baby will move their eyes and head toward light sources and they seem incredibly fascinated by shadows.
They will track objects closeby to them across a room, especially faces and they will make eye contact and focus on you. Your baby's eyes are very sensitive to light at this stage and you may see their squinting or closing their eyes from bright light.
Parent Tip: At this stage, it can help to encourage your baby's vision by holding bold-patterned toys in front of them as patterns are easy to focus on and help to train the eye.
12 Recognising Faces At Two Months
By two months old your baby has had a significant leap in the development of their vision. They can now track objects with their eyes, not only in a line vertically but also in a circle as they move their head in motion with the movement of the object. It's possible that they will begin to move their eyes independently of their head at this stage although it may take another month to develop this skill properly.
They can now recognise faces and will usually burst into a smile when they see you. Your baby may also suddenly appear to find their hands and feet which become the most fascinating thing in the world. Colour is gradually making an introduction to your babys sight. They may see the colours red and green, although somewhat faded.
Parent Tip: As your baby's vision becomes more honed they are looking for objects to focus on. Choose toys that will stimulate their vision such as an arch for a bouncer, a play mat with hanging toys or a mobile for above their crib.
11 Brighter Colors At Three Months
As your baby's eyes develop you will notice how much more they enjoy to watch faces and recognise individuals. In fact, they will appear to be transfixed by the movements of your face and will also try to copy them if you move your eyebrows, smile, or make an O shape with your mouth. Your face, of course, will be their favourite. They also become fascinated with whatever is happening outside the window. It could be as simple as tree leaves blowing in the wind which catches their attention. Light reflections and movements encourage their vision to improve.
What you may or may not notice is that your baby's color vision is also developing. Their attention may be caught by brightly colored items, so choose toys and books that have strong colours rather than softer shades which are harder for your baby to see.
Parent Tip: To encourage your babys vision it is worthwhile placing, at your baby's eye level, a baby-safe crib mirror to allow them to watch themselves.
10 Eye Coordination At Four Months Old
You will notice the change in your baby now that they are four months old and their senses are more alert. By this stage your baby is able to see several feet away and they can focus better on individual items. In fact, they will lose the newborn baby cross-eyed look as their vision becomes stronger. They can even tell the difference between colours now.
They now understand their environment and can follow with their eyes alone an object as it moves across a room. They will intently concentrate on an object and you will have noticed over the past month or two how fascinated they have become with their hands and feet. Their hand eye coordination has improved and you will notice that they now stretch and reach out for a toy.
Parent Tip: You can help improve your baby's vision by encouraging them to reach for toys and books that will stimulate them. Bright colours and geometric images will help to keep their attention.
9 Watching The World Go By At Five Months
At five months old your baby is honing their skills when it comes to focusing and understanding what they see. Their vision is changing at a rapid rate so it's understandable for it to be a confusing time for them. Colours become brighter and stronger and objects lose their blurry edges.
To help your baby develop their vision there are many things you can do. Choose appropriate toys that will stimulate their vision but avoid using the same toys and books repeatedly. Give them variation to focus on when they appear bored by one toy (although it takes a while for a baby to become bored of anything). Your baby will also enjoy taking in the sights as you go for walks in the park or through the shopping centre. Leave the pram canopy down so they can watch the world go by.
Parent Tip: If you have been using the same cot mobile on your baby's crib for the past few months, consider swapping it for a different one to keep their interest and concentration on it. Choose one which is out of their reach as baby's by the age of five or six months are often able to pull themselves up into a sitting position.
8 Seeing Patterns At Six Months
Six months sees a major leap in the development of your baby's sight. By now their vision will have improved from 20/400 as a newborn to approximately 20/25. They will have developed good control of their eye movements and their hand to eye coordination will have improved. You will notice they have no trouble reaching for their favourite toy. Your baby is fascinated by toys with strong colours or bright geometric patterns, anything with high contrast, such as black-and-white checkerboards. Focusing on patterns such as these help to stimulate your baby's vision.
A major development at this time is the ability to understand depth perception. This allows us to judge whether objects are closer or further away. Your baby will not have understood this until now which is a a completely new idea for them. Your baby now sees in 3D!
Parent Tip: As your baby's vision improves, they will want to play with their toys and books more. You will notice that they reach and grab for more and more toys. Ensure toys are within their reach.
7 No Longer Cross Eyed at Seven Months
We are getting to the stage where your babies eyesight is almost fully developed. By seven months old, your baby has learnt the differences in colour, their vision has become less blurry as they have gained focus, they understand and are aware of depth perception and they follow objects across the room with their eyes.
The world around your baby is becoming more and more interesting as there is more for them to see and focus on. By now they notice even slight differences in shades of color. They may even have a colour they prefer. More often than not babies of this age either prefer red or blue as they are the strongest and richest colours for them to see. They will notice small details as well as large ones and have more interest in the pictures in their book.
Parent Tip: Even though your baby is training their eyesight themselves by playing with toys you can continue to encourage your baby also. Partially hide a toy behind another object and encourage them to find the partially hidden toy. You may be surprised by how well they can find them!
6 On The Move At Eight Months
At eight months old your baby is able to see objects quite near them as well as far away. Their hand eye coordination is getting better with every toy they play with as their motor skills improve in line with their sight. Their focus continues to improve and they can now hold the focus on a fast moving object. They can now notice a toy which is across a room or even you. They have, after all, been focusing on your face for quite some time now.
The toy which is across the room is a great way to entice your baby to get on the move. Now that they are able to see more, they are intrigued by more and will want to get to what has grabbed their attention quicker so crawling often starts as their vision becomes stronger. Also, sensory toys will be their favourite as they make the connection between an object and the sound it makes or the feel of its material.
Parent Tip: Your baby will be fascinated by new and interesting places so take them to new areas and point out objects to them and tell them what they are.
5 Exploring At Nine Months
Your baby is becoming more and more lively as their vision allows them to see almost everything around them now. While the outskirts of their vision remains somewhat blurry, they have a defined line of sight which allows them to see the majority of their small world. If they have managed to learn to crawl and are on the move they will have started to explore everything around them.
Be aware that this month brings its challenges for you as your baby is incredibly fascinated by everything and can even see the smallest of objects up close now. They will reach and grab for anything that holds their attention. Their hand eye coordination is well established by now so they will hardly miss. They will move from grabbing items with their fist to using a more delicate pincher grip eventually. Bear in mind, all of those dangerous items you don't want baby to pull at will have to be moved to the top shelf.
Parent Tip: To help your baby to develop the pincher grip, encourage them to point at pictures in their favourite books or push holes through play dough.
4 The Pincher Grip At Ten Months
At ten months old your baby has honed the skill of the pincher grip and is happily playing and exploring with toys that do more than just crinkle or squeak at them. Your baby is using their brain to understand what the task at hand is when it comes to their favourite toys. Their hand eye coordination, their memory and their problem solving skills are all coming to light as they focus and explore.
Your baby has become more independent and searches for their favourite toys in the toy box. Your baby is having fun challenging themselves and will spend quite some time trying to figure out the puzzle of fitting smaller objects into larger ones. They will develop the skill of using one hand to hold and stack cups while using the other hand for a different task. Learning to multitask at ten months old!
Parent Tip: Stacking cups are an ideal toy at this stage which greatly improves your baby's hand eye coordination and perception skills.
3 More Playful At Eleven Months
By eleven months old, your world and your baby's world has drastically changed. They are now on the move, exploring, and are increasingly more and more intrigued by everything they see. By this stage they are more than likely able to feed themselves by picking up and grasping food between their forefinger and thumb, the pincher grip. And they will love to make a mess as they go along!
Your baby is well capable of picking up items and will have learnt the wonderfully loud talent of banging these items together. It's a new world for your baby who is enticed by everything they see. At this stage, their eyesight is fully developed and they are enthralled by this new world that is opening up the room to them.
Parent Tip: Your baby will become more and more playful. They will love to play peekaboo with you, hide toys and solve puzzles. Anything which is intriguing and exciting will hold their attention for longer, for example toys such as a jack-in-the-box are great fun.
2 The World At One Year
And so, in your baby's incredible first year of life, along with a dozen more milestones, your baby has learnt a precious and wonderful life skill. They have gone from seeing the world through shades of grey and blur to vivid images and stark colours. Your baby has learnt to coordinate their movements with what they see and use this skill every day. They have learnt focus, tracking and depth perception which is all quite simply second nature to them now. Your baby is now learning to hone the skill of throwing and even has a spatial awareness which allows them to throw a ball with a certain amount of accuracy.
But the one constant for your baby this entire year has been your face which has seen your baby through this entire change. Help your baby to look after her eyesight by bringing them for regular checkups. And remember, your baby's vision will continue to develop right through toddlerhood.
1 Baby's First Eye Test
Your baby will undergo their first proper eye exam at possibly six months or one year. It's important to check your baby's vision as there can be developmental delays which can cause issues for your baby's eye sight. If there are problems, diagnosing them in the first year can greatly benefit your baby.
Your baby's vision changes quite a lot, as we've seen, over the first year of their life. You should be able to notice if your baby is having trouble with the development of their vision. Throughout the first year, your doctor or pediatrician should include a basic eye exam during each checkup. They will look for any vision problems and can treat minor eye issues like infections. If there are any more serious issues, your doctor will refer your baby to a specialist.
Parent Tip: If you notice that your baby's eyes are turned in or out, or if their eyes appear white in photographs, please ensure you consult your doctor straight away.
Sources: BabyCenter; Parents.com; WebMD