For your newborn, the world is blurry and hazy but engaging.
Trying to understand where the noises are coming from, what this familiar scent (parent) is, or what’s happening around you when you can’t see clearly is very challenging. Newborns can only perceive light and motion, and slowly learn to detect faces and big shapes. They can also detect opposite patterns and colors but need time to focus and differentiate among the things they see.
Your little one’s vision began to develop when their eyes started to grow around the 4th week of your pregnancy. However, it did not reach its full maturity when you welcome your baby into this world. Correlated with your baby’s fast brain development after birth, the vision of your newborn will improve quickly in the first year of life. Either looking directly at your face or keeping their eyes closed most of the time is perfectly normal and expected from a newborn. Seeing your face is very stimulating for your baby during the first few months of life so do not hesitate to get close to your little one as much as you can.
Birth to 3 to 4 Months Old
Primarily, newborns can only detect objects that are 8-10 inches away (the distance between a baby and their caregiver at feeding times). As newborns’ brain develops; so does their senses. During the first month of life, babies are not able to track moving objects but love looking at faces. When they reach the 8 weeks mark, they start paying more attention to faces.
During the second and third months of life, some babies may start to recognize their caregivers but their vision is still blurry. At this period, they also start to perceive some sort of color. Around 3 months of age, your little one’s eyes should be working together to focus and track objects. If you haven’t bought one yet, now you might consider buying a baby mobile to stimulate your baby’s vision development.
With the developing ability to track a moving object, your baby will start developing hand-eye coordination. This ability will eventually lead them to first reach for objects then grab and hold them. Moreover, it will help them to have a sense of depth perception. They also begin to see farther and may start to show more interest in colors.
5 to 12 Months Old
At around 5 to 8 months of age, a new skill appears as your baby’s brain continues to develop: depth perception. This skill is essential to understand and see the world in 3D and color. It is almost fully developed around five months old when your baby may also start mimicking your facial expressions. Around six months of age, your little one is mastering hand-eye coordination. You can play simple games with your baby such as rolling a ball back and forth to help them practice and improve this new skill. Besides, playing hide and seek with toys will enhance their visual memory (you may read more about this under our "Object Permanence" post).
Crawling usually starts around eight months of age, helps babies to improve their body-eye coordination. Correspondingly they begin to learn more from hands-on experience by exploring their surroundings. At around the same time, they may also start recognizing their caregivers and smiling at them across the room.
Around nine months of age, your baby’s eyes will probably have their final color. When the babies reach the first-year mark, they are good enough to perceive distances between objects and throw them more accurately. However, their vision will still be developing until it reaches its maturity up to 3 and 5 years old. Keep in mind that every child is unique and these milestones may change from child to child.
Signs of possible eyesight problems
Please consult your pediatrician if you notice any of the following signs in your newborn’s eyes*:
- Underlying eye problems in the family
- Significant delays in tracking objects
- Excessive tearing
- Extreme sensitivity to light
- Persistent redness or itching in the eye
- Structural abnormalities
- If they are still crossed after the first few months
*Disclaimer: This content is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as a substitute for professional medical advice.
- Boyd, Kierstan. “Vision Development: Newborn to 12 Months.” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 5 Dec. 2020, www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/baby-vision-development-first-year.
- Cook, Emily. “Understanding Your Baby’s Developing Vision.” Parents, 6 Nov. 2018, www.parents.com/baby/development/physical/understanding-your-babys-developing-vision/?slide=slide_de057864-6de5-4b26-a09f-fdaa1ec923e1#slide_de057864-6de5-4b26-a09f-fdaa1ec923e1.
- “Infant Vision: Birth to 24 Months of Age.” American Optometric Association, www.aoa.org/healthy-eyes/eye-health-for-life/infant-vision?sso=y. Accessed 18 Nov. 2021.
- Maria, Masters. “Your Baby’s Vision Development.” What to Expect, 24 June 2021, www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/baby-vision.
- Parker, Steven Jerome, MD. “How Well Can Newborn Babies See?” WebMD, 15 Mar. 2006, www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/newborn-vision.