When Newborns Open Their Eyes: 20 Things They See

Moms can't wait to see their little one's baby blues. But more importantly, those eyes are the way that their child views the world. Newborns take in everything around them from the moment they are born, but they don't see the same way that mom and dad do, at least not at the very beginning.

Babies actually open their eyes for the first time in the womb, unless they are a micro preemie. Their vision, like other senses, begins to develop even before they are born, but that doesn't mean that they can see well at birth. Babies have a sense of what the world is like, but that the beginning everything is blurry and black and white. Some research shows that newborns might even see upside down for a few days before the eyes adjust to the outside world.

The truth is that newborns don't see very well, but they are able to focus on things that count the most. The baby zeroes in on the big things and is able to hold a gaze with her mom and dad. It only takes a few weeks for the eye muscles to strengthen and things start to sharpen.

Here are 20 things newborns see when they open their eyes.

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20 Blurry Picture

At birth, the baby's eyes are open and working, but they are still developing their strength. That's why newborns have pretty blurry vision. It's hard for the eyes to see much at all, considering doctors believe that newborns have a vision that is about 20/400, only getting to the 20/20 stage after a few years.

In fact, there is some research that shows that it's possible that a newborn's brain is still trying to figure out how to interpret the images that are coming in through the iris. They start out upside down, so it's possible that things are flipped for a few days after the birth.

It can take a while to figure it out, and everything will be blurry for a bit while the baby gets his eyes stronger and his brain ready to comprehend it all.

19 Focusing On Faces

It's hard for a newborn to focus his eyes in the first days of life, but moms will notice that there is one spot that the little one seems to zone in on first.

Things are blurry at short distances and long distances, but the perfect place to focus is about nine to 12 inches away, which just happens to be the distance the baby is from mom's face when he is nursing.

It's a beautiful gift that newborns are first able to focus on faces. That can help the mom and dad to bond with their little one, as they look into their little one's eyes. This blessing is so foundational to the entire relationship, and it's all because that's the way that a newborn's vision develops.

18 An Important Bullseye

There is one other thing that nature has created in a perfect way for a newborn baby with the development of his vision in the earliest days. A woman's body and her pregnancy hormones have created a bullseye to the one thing that the baby needs to see in order to survive — the all natural food supply on the mom.

A woman's chest can change a lot during pregnancy in terms of size, but one important difference is that the tip can get a lot darker in colour. It looks like a bullseye, so the baby has a big target to latch on to get his nourishment and help begin the process of lactation. The baby can see it well, and that makes it easier to get started breastfeeding.

17 Cross-Eyed Baby

When moms look into their newborn's eyes, they sometimes wonder if they can see at all. That's because many little ones appear to be cross-eyed in the very first few months of life. But some of that is just the shape of the eyes and the face. Plus, the baby doesn't have great eye muscle control, so sometimes the eyes don't move in sync.

The truth is that it can take a while for the eyes to work together and of course in conjunction with the brain. For most babies, the cross-eyed issue can go away around three months, and if not, moms and dads should talk to the pediatrician. There might be a lazy eye issue or another problem, and many times those are easily fixed with a little therapy.

16 Big And Bold

Babies like patterns. It's evident pretty quickly after the birth, but in the very beginning, those patterns have to be big and bold to gain the baby's attention. Of course, we understand that since the baby has a hard time focusing on anything small at this point in time.

Big, bold patterns on wallpaper can be really interesting for all of us, and that might be because they piqued our interest when we were so tiny. This could even be the very beginning of our art appreciation. It might have to be huge to be seen, but that definitely makes it worth looking at.

15 A Note About Black And White

It's hard to know exactly how a baby sees, so there is some conflicting information on this next one.

Research shows that babies have the capacity to see colours from birth, but many doctors still believe that newborns see in black and white in the very beginning. There are shades of gray, but the world isn't as colourful for babies in those first few weeks.

It's possible that seeing colours comes in later because of how the brain is interpreting the images, much like the possibility that babies possibly see upside down in the very beginning. It's very apparent that babies see things better when there is a big contrast, and black and white is certainly a big contrast. So that might be a lot of where the theory comes from.

14 Looking Toward The Light

Moms might notice on the day the baby is born that the baby looks toward things in the light. That's because babies can tell the difference between like and dark very early — in fact, they can see that a bit when they are in the womb.

The fact that the baby can distinguish between light and dark can help moms to set up a routine from the very beginning. If the mom keeps the room dark at night, it might help to establish sleep patterns a little better. The baby needs to eat every two hours in the first few days of life and very regularly for a few months, but acknowledging night and day can make it easier for them to start to get the idea of sleeping at night.

It doesn't always work, but moms should try just about anything to ensure that they can get a little more sleep.

13 Strong Peripheral Vision

There might be times when moms notice their little one is looking at them from the side. That's because, at the very beginning, a baby's peripheral vision is actually better than the what he sees from the front (unless it's in that nine to 12-inch window).

It's interesting to think that the baby might be watching mom walking around the room even when he is looking straight ahead. Babies are aware of a lot, but you better believe that their strongest attention is on mom, since they can identify her by her sound and her smell even better than by vision at this point.

12 Looking Into Mom's Eyes

As we've mentioned already, newborns love to gaze at faces. But even then, there are a few features that stand out the most. The first is the eyes. No one has to teach a newborn that eye contact is important — they naturally gravitate to that part of the face and focus on those eyes as if they are the window to the soul.

Babies probably focus on eyes because they contrast with other features on the face. Whereas the nose and the cheeks are pretty much the same shade of skin tone, the eyes have whites that stand out and irises in various shades that are worthy of attention.

Even if the newborn is seeing them in shades of gray, the eyes are very distinctive, and that's why babies are so good at eye contact from the very beginning.

11 Hair Distinction

The other part of the face that seems to stand out for babies is the hair, both at the hairline and — for dads — at the jawline.

It's really evident when the baby is around a man who has a beard. Even in the earliest days, the dad will notice the baby gazing at that part of his face, and once she is reaching out, she'll definitely try to grab it.

The thing about the hairline and the beard attraction is that often those are also big contrasts on the face in terms of texture and colour. It's an interesting spot that stands out, and it's really cute to see, especially with the bearded men in her life.

10 Recognizing Her Family

It's amazing how quickly a baby can start to recognize her family.

But the truth is that most of that recognition begins with the baby's other senses, which are working while she is still in the womb. The baby gets used to her mother's scent and the sound of her voice long before she sees her face. She can also be pretty in tune to her father's voice and any siblings that are in the household.

In the first few days after birth, the baby connects those voices and smells that she knows to the facial features she is checking out. She can draw conclusions really quickly and look for mom when she sees or hears her enter a room. Her vision might still be developing, but she recognizes her family pretty fast.

9 Head Turning Display

We've already mentioned the fact that a baby's peripheral vision starts out being stronger than what she can see looking forward at a particular distance. But within a few weeks, her eye muscles start to do better. What is interesting, though, is that she can't really move her eyes a lot.

Babies look around a lot, but they have to move their head to do it in the beginning. Their eye muscles are first concentrating on the vision and they won't get better at moving independently for a few months. It can be fun to watch the baby looking around and seeing what captures her full head-turning attention.

8 Developing Interest In Screens

Mother with cell phone and newborn daughter

Many moms might find it surprising that their baby turns to watch the TV or look at her phone while she is playing a game.

Of course, a newborn has no idea what is going on during Game of Thrones, but the images are still pretty interesting, and screens provide a lot of light and contrasting colours, which draw the baby's attention.

It's interesting to watch a sports event on television like football or basketball, where people run from one side of the screen to the other. The baby might follow the back and forth almost as if they are into the action. But really, it's just the play of the lights and the colours, which can be interesting in their own right.

7 Following Motion

Just like all of us, newborns can gaze at something all day long, but as soon as they see movement, they are likely to be drawn to that. In the blurry beginning, the baby might not notice as much of the things going on on the other side of the room. But as the eyes begin to develop better sight, it could only take a little bit of movement to cause the baby to look.

We all tend to notice twinkling lights and people coming and going in a room, but for a baby, those movements might not fade into the background. It doesn't take long for a newborn to start to track motions. That's a part of the vision and brain development that comes quicker than moms might think.

6 Hands And Feet

In the first few weeks, babies don't have a lot of control over their arms and legs. But once they can, their hands and feet can be some of their favourite toys. Babies spend a lot of time looking at the world around them, but it doesn't take long before they start to study themselves.

Eventually, a little one will really enjoy watching himself in a mirror, although it might take a while for him to figure out that it is his own reflection looking back at him. For a while, though, the closest things he can reach are his hands and feet. Moms agree that they are adorable.

5 Big Distractions

It's probably a good thing that newborns can't see things well in the first couple of weeks of life. They can see faces well enough to connect with their mom and dad and other loved ones, and they can use their other senses to get their feel for the world around them. But eventually, they will start to start to move and that could mean big distractions.

Each one of the baby's five senses can cause her to get distracted from what she is doing. She might notice something out of the corner of her eye while nursing and turn her head to figure out what is going on. Interesting sights can be very intriguing to the baby, and it might be a big distraction to what is going on.

4 Full-Color Spectrum

As we've said before, the research is still out on what the baby can see from birth. It's not like they are going through any vision tests or reading the eye chart. But even though black and white might be more interesting to the baby for a few weeks, doctors believe that the baby's eyes are capable of seeing the full-colour spectrum from the beginning.

Some little ones have a blindness to certain colours, although that is often discovered later on in life. Many end up with favourites. But in the beginning, the biggest thing is that contrasting colours can allow for the best vision. Eventually, the baby will be seeing all the colours of the rainbow, if her genetics allow.

3 Depth Perception Takes Time

Newborns only see in tw0 dimensions. They don't know the difference between a drawing and a sculpture, but if you think about the two art forms, it's more like looking at a painting, where it's hard to notice any depth at all.

The truth is that depth perception can take a while. It's something that babies develop over about the first four months of their life. Once they get a hang of depth, they can reach out and grab toys and figure out a lot more about their world. It's a skill that takes muscles control and brain power, but it'll kick in in time.

2 Little Details

little child lying on floor in children room and playing with toy cat

Focusing is difficult when you are new in the world. Not only do newborns have to deal with blurry vision, but they are still so excited to see things that are new that they tend to be more big picture at the beginning.

Eventually, though, the details matter. After several months of looking around and discovering the basic idea of the things in his world, a baby has the eye muscle control to dig a little deeper. He'll be able to discern different shades of colour and be able to notice not just mom's nose but the freckles on it.

There is more and more to learn about the world, and after a few months, the baby can see even better to discover it.

1 Eye-Hand Coordination Comes Later

Just because a baby's vision is progressing as normal doesn't mean that she will be able to look at things and then pick them up. In fact, it can take a while for the brain and the eye to communicate completely. As we've mentioned, the brain might not even be able to interpret colours or even see images right side up at the very beginning.

It can take a while for the baby to be able to coordinate his eyes and his hands. He might have to fumble around for an object when he reaches for it for several months. Hand-eye coordination helps with everything from drawing a picture to hitting a baseball. It develops over years. But the baby's vision is improving every day and pretty soon it'll be at it's best.

References: Parents, Today's Parent, PregMed

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