Newborn Eyesight: What Can Infants See?


It’s pretty common knowledge that babies are not born with the vision skills that they need for life, but new mothers often wonder what exactly their newborns can actually see. During the first four months of life a baby’s eyes are developing rapidly. They are learning to focus on objects, move them, use them in sync and most importantly they are learning to process what they are seeing in their brains.

At birth and for the first few weeks a baby can’t really distinguish between 2 objects; however, high contrast objects do stand out to them, which is why it’s recommended to start your baby off with a mobile or other toy that is predominately black and white. Infants start to develop the ability to see in colour very quickly. At one week after birth, they can see red, orange, yellow and green. But it takes a little longer for them to be able to see blue and violet. This is because blue light has shorter wavelengths, and fewer colour receptors exist in the human retina for blue light.

Baby’s eyes are not very sensitive to light in the first month of life. In fact, the amount of light required for a 1-month-old infant to be aware that light is present (called the light detection threshold) is 50 times higher than that of an adult, so it’s OK to leave some lights on in the nursery — it won’t affect their ability to sleep

Over the next few weeks, babies are learning to use their eyes together. It is normal during this time if you notice the eyes crossing or wandering occasionally, but if you notice it happening regularly or constantly you should have a vision evaluation for your child.

By 8 weeks babies should be able to focus on their parents’ faces, or anyone else that is near them. At 3 months they should be able to follow a moving object with their eyes and reach for things.

Parents can support early vision development by watching for signs of vision problems such as excessive tearing, red or crusted eyelids, constant turning, extreme light sensitivity, and white pupils. Observing any of those signs warrants an evaluation.

Other activities that can promote healthy development in newborns-4 month olds are: using a nightlight in their bedroom, occasionally re-positioning their crib and the way they lay inside it and talking to your baby as you move further and closer.

Infant eye exams are important to supporting healthy eyes, which are essential to developing vision. Early detection of vision problems can help prevent delays in development.

For a comprehensive eye exam or advice, please contact Albert Park Children’s Vision Centre on 9682 8899 and we will be happy to book a time that is convenient to you.