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newborn vision, newborn eyesight, newborn visual development

All about Newborn Vision

By Terence Zach, MD October 05, 2022 Posted in: Pediatrics, Parenting

Many of your baby’s key developmental milestones depend on their vision. At the time of birth, your baby’s vision is still developing. At birth, newborn vision is very near-sighted, so babies can only focus on things that 8-10 inches away. Babies can best see their mother’s face when held close to her chest while breastfeeding. Therefore, your baby may be happiest when cuddled up near a parent’s face.

When Do Babies See Color?

At the time of birth, your baby can only see in black, white, and shades of grey. They are sensitive to bright light as they are used to the darkness of the womb. In their first several weeks, babies' eyes have difficulty focusing and coordinating their movements. It is not uncommon or concerning for a baby’s eyes to wander or seem crossed. If this persists after 3 months, you should bring it to the attention of your doctor.

Color vision begins to develop around 3-4 months. The first color babies see is red. At this age, your child will start to enjoy the colors of their toys and surroundings.

Depth perception develops around age 5-8 months as the eyes become better at coordinating their movement. This allows babies to judge depths and see object with three-dimensional view.

Newborn Vision Development Influences Other Milestones

Newborn vision development is important because it affects other developmental milestones. Color and distance vision helps your baby explore the world. Depth perception is necessary to reach for and pick up objects, which helps fine motor development and bodily awareness. Sitting, creeping, crawling, cruising, all require depth perception and bodily awareness. Depth perception is also important in learning how to use two or three finger to grasp to pick up objects.

Delays in newborn vision development may delay the progression of development milestones, so babies should have their vision and milestone development assessed at regular intervals.

Ways to Encourage Newborn Vision Development

There are several ways you can encourage and support your baby’s development as their vision matures. Before color vision develops, infants can discern black and white patterns which help eyes to focus and coordinate with each other. It can be helpful to incorporate black and white patterns in their immediate environment. As their depth perception develops, babies can work on fine motor skills and bodily awareness by grabbing, pushing, and manipulating toys. They may enjoy games like patty cake. Most babies love to look at themselves in mirrors as they develop bodily awareness! There are lots of ways to support your child as they grow. If you have any questions about how to encourage your baby’s development, feel free to consult your pediatrician.

Written in collaboration with medical student, Natalie Bolton.

Terence Zach, MD
Terence Zach, MD

Terence Zach, MD, is a professor and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Creighton University School of Medicine.

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