When babies are born, their eyesight is fuzzy and unclear. Like most animals, they take anywhere up to a few weeks to a few months to develop good eyesight. At birth, babies are near sighted. They can only see things that are close by and can just about make out the shapes of objects that are further away. Eyesight development occurs at quite a rapid pace in the first few months of a baby’s life, so much so, that you may be able to see differences by the week.
In the first couple of weeks (weeks 1 & 2), babies can see objects (and people) up to the distance of a foot. They can’t hold their gaze for more than a few seconds. This is how your baby sees you when being fed. In this time, babies also haven’t developed coloured vision yet, so everything they see they see in shades of grey. At such a young age, babies don’t have the ability to recognize things, however, by the second week, recognition develops. They’ll now be able to recognize your face and you’ll be able to tell because your little one starts responding to your face. They’ll smile and reach for you when they see you.
In the next couple of weeks (weeks 3 & 4), this recognition develops more along with a baby’s ability to hold their gaze for longer. This means that your little one will be able to look at you for long. They’re far sight still hasn’t developed but they do tend to move their head from side to side to look at other objects nearby, showing an increased level of curiosity.
Typically, by the time your baby is one month old, he/she is responsive to light and familiar shapes and sounds such as your voice. They will be especially responsive to a parent, however, this doesn’t mean that they don’t respond to strangers.
By the time a baby is 2 months old, he/she will be able to follow an object by moving his/her eyes as opposed to having to move the entire head. This would explain why your baby gets easily transfixed on a rattle or on your face when you’re right in front of your little one. It is also at this time when colour vision starts to develop and your baby can start differentiating between different colours. It is now when you’ll start noticing that your baby prefers brighter objects that are of the primary colours because these are the colours that are first recognized. Throughout this period, a baby’s vision also becomes clearer although their field of vision still remains small.
By the time a baby is 3 months old, their field of vision starts to increase and they can typically look at objects around the room. Colour vision continues developing till about 4 months old. This is the time when you should ideally make your baby look at a lot of picture books because they get excited about the pictures and will take in a good portion of that information. They also start “tracking” objects and thus, they can focus on an object and follow it around. Reaching for toys and objects nearby also increases.
At about 5 & 6 months old babies are able to spot small objects as well, indicating that their eyesight is becoming sharper. By 7 months, they’re also able to notice objects that are partially hidden and will try to uncover them. This sharp vision along with recognition takes a few months to fully develops and is generally properly developed at around 10 months.
By the time your baby is in his/her 11th and 12 months, they are able to recognize people through objects like glass and windows. This is also when they become more interested in visual stimuli so they will love games like peek-a-boo and hide and seek.
This is how a baby’s vision generally tends to develop. If you feel as though your baby’s vision is not developing in the right manner, then you should take your baby to see an ophthalmologist. Some warning signs may be the crossing of the eyes, excessive eye watering, extreme sensitivity to light, itchiness/irritation of the eyes, and/or structural abnormalities of the eye. These shouldn’t be taken lightly as they could lead to serious visual impairment in the future.