The first time you and your baby look into each others’ eyes can be one of the most memorable moments of your life. You observe her sweet little nose or tiny rosebud lips but what does she see? Read on to learn how vision develops for infants.

What do infants see at birth?

When you hold your baby for the first time, she can see you, but in black and white and only if you are between eight and twelve inches away from her face–just about the distance to mom’s face when feeding her. Nerve cells in her retina and brain that control vision are not fully developed at this age. She also has not yet learned how to see either. Even after the eye’s physical structure has what it needs to see normally, binocular vision in which the eyes work together is a learned behavior and takes a few months to master.

Do infants recognize their parents at birth?

What she perceives right out of the womb is not entirely known. Does she know she is looking at her mom or dad? One study suggests that within a few days after birth, infants prefer looking at an image of their mother’s face to that of a stranger. Newborns tend to rely on their senses of smell and hearing more than vision, so even if she does not know you by sight, she may know it is you by your scent or voice.

When do babies see clearly?

During the first month, a baby’s eyesight is still blurry and light detection threshold, or the amount of light required to be aware light is present, is 50 times higher than that of an adult. So if you want to leave a dim light on while the baby sleeps, it won’t wake her. By month two or three, she’ll learn to shift her gaze from one object to another without moving her head and her eyes will begin to move better as a team. Color vision develops in the first four months with the first color she sees being red. Hand/eye coordination begins to develop around four months old as well. It takes around six to eight months for a baby’s eyesight to be similar to that of an adult, the last milestone being monocular vision–the ability to focus and perceive depth using just one eye.

What can I do to encourage good vision for my baby?

You can help your baby develop her vision by engaging in age-appropriate visual activites. Also, according to one study, breastfeeding has been shown to significantly improve eyesight due to the DHA content. The best way to keep your baby’s eyes healthy is by making sure she has regular eye exams, the first one by your pediatrician or a licensed eye doctor shortly after birth and then again at six months. That first eye exam is so important that the AOA established the InfantSEE program–a public health program that offers no-cost first eye assessments for infants within the child’s first year.

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