Newborn vision development plus tips to help stimulate your baby’s eyesight
How does your newborn baby’s vision develop? What can they see during the first few months?
Find out below, plus learn my favorite tips for helping to stimulate a baby’s vision development.
What Can My Baby See?
Babies can’t see very well when they are born. They have poor acuity, have trouble focusing on objects, and can’t distinguish different colors.
What they notice best are moving things, bold patterns, and of course mom and dad’s smiling faces.
Newborns will be able to focus on objects that are about 8 to 15 inches in front of them. This is why when you feed your baby, your face is at the optimal range for them to look at and recognize.
Visual acuity is how clearly or sharply you are able to see objects.
A newborn’s visual acuity is estimated to be about 20/400 (1). This will gradually improve as they get older. Visual acuity reaches normal adult levels of 20/20 around three to five years old (1).
A newborn will be able to distinguish light from dark but not yet see a full range of colors. Color vision doesn’t fully mature until after four months (2).
It is easier for babies to see black and white patterns and other high contrast objects during the newborn stage.
Your baby’s eyes may appear crossed during the first few months of life (3). The muscles that control eye movements are still developing.
Usually, between two and three months, this will resolve. At that point, both eyes should be able to remain focused on the same thing at the same time (2).
During the first few months of life, your baby’s vision will develop a lot! Here are some of the things that will start to change from the time your baby is born to the time he is a few months old:
- Eyes become more coordinated and can focus on one object at the same time.
- Baby will be able to track an object moving in front of him.
- Distance vision will improve and baby will start to see and focus on objects several feet away.
- Hand-eye coordination will begin to develop. Your baby may start to reach out and bat at objects in front of him.
- Color vision will mature and baby will start to respond more to a full range of different colors instead of just black and white or high contrast images.
How To Help Stimulate Your Baby’s Vision Development
Your baby’s visual system begins to mature during the first weeks of life. Visual stimulation is important to the development of normal vision. You can help your baby’s vision development by engaging him in age-appropriate activities.
- In the beginning, try to position objects 8 to 15 inches away from your baby’s face so they have an easier time focusing on the object. This could be your own face, a special toy, or a book you’re reading to your baby.
Around one to two months old, your baby will start to be able to focus on objects that are further away. Your baby will also begin to follow moving objects (tracking).
- You can help your baby practice tracking objects by slowly moving objects in front of her line of vision and see if she follows the movement with her eyes. For example, use your face, a brightly colored toy or black and white pictures. You can move the object up and down or side to side.
To further help stimulate your baby’s developing vision during the first few months, encourage him to look at bold patterns and colors.
- One way to do this is to create your own easy and cheap black and white pictures to place in areas your baby naturally looks toward — we hung them up over my daughter’s changing table. She loved looking at these pictures even when she was several months old!
Having these pictures near the changing table will also help your baby to turn his or her head in this direction (instead of looking at you) which can help prevent flathead from developing.
Related: 5 Tips To Prevent Flathead in Babies
You can also use these black and white pictures while doing tummy time with your baby!
DIY Black and White Pictures
- White Cardstock
- Black marker or Sharpie
- Cut your cardstock into four even pieces
- Using black markers, draw different designs on each piece – simple designs work best such as bull’s eye or checkboard.
- If you have access to a laminator, this would make your pictures more durable. Alternatively, you could try contact paper. I buy mine for cheap at the Dollar Tree!
- Tape to the wall above your changing table or anywhere else your baby is going to be looking at a lot. I used leftover painter’s tape from when we painted the nursery and just stuck it on the back of the pictures. (This held up great until my daughter was old enough to reach up and try to yank them off the wall).
- Newborn Tummy Time Tips
- Tummy Time Milestone for 3 to 6 Month Olds
- The Best Toys for Tummy Time Play
- The Best Developmental Toys for Babies (A Month by Month Guide)
- Tips to Prevent Flat Head in Babies
- Coates, D. Vision screening and assessment in infants and children. Last updated 11/27/18. From UpToDate.com https://www.uptodate.com/contents/vision-screening-and-assessment-in-infants-and-children?csi=d1c3033e-1aa4-425d-ba07-a5e32a0ce9ef&source=contentShare
- Shelov, S. Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth To Age Five, 6th Edition. From the American Academy of Pediatrics. (NOTE: There is now an updated 7th edition of this book available).
- American Optometric Association. Infant Vision: Birth to 24 Months of Age. https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/good-vision-throughout-life/childrens-vision/infant-vision-birth-to-24-months-of-age