Baby Eyes: Colour, Vision, and More

Babies are born with a remarkably developed set of senses. And although a newborn baby's eyesight is not completely mature at birth, right from the start, your baby can see the most important thing in the world: you, as you hold your little one in your arms.

Over the first few months of life, you'll be able to observe the ways that your baby's visual skills improve — specifically, their range of vision and tracking ability, and colour perception — along with related aspects of their development, such as arm and hand control.

When Do Babies’ Eyes Change Colour?

At the same time that your baby's vision is evolving, the colour of their eyes may be changing due to a pigment called melanin, which also affects skin colour and hair colour. If your baby is born with darker eyes, brown or dark green, there's already a lot of melanin present, and your baby's eye colour probably won't change (although it could). But, light coloured eyes, such as blue or light grey, have less melanin to start with, and they could change to a different shade at some point as more melanin is produced. The timing for when babies’ eyes change colour varies quite a bit: it usually develops from 6 to 12 months. It's hard to predict, but it's fun to watch for!

Your Baby's Eyesight: Range and Distance

When can babies see? And how far can babies see? At birth, your newborn’s vision is limited, and they can only focus on something that's about eight inches from them — such as your face when you're holding your baby, or the corner of his or her cot. Within this range, they'll examine things quite closely. At first, when your baby looks at your face, those little eyes will be drawn to a single facial feature (such as your eyes), but soon, they’ll be able to include your entire face in their scope of vision.

This limited range will gradually expand, and from 1 to 3 months, your baby will look at human faces with great interest — and maybe even smile at you! By the time they’re 4 months old, as your baby’s eyes develop, distance vision has progressed and they’re visually aware of activities taking place at all distances, and can follow objects well in the distance. They may even stare out of the window or look at something on the wall with interest, and by 7 months, their distance vision will improve at all distances, but will continue to develop until your baby is 24 months.

Your Baby's Eyesight: Tracking

Another part of your baby's visual development is tracking, or the ability to watch or follow a moving object with their eyes. It's a crucial skill for learning about the world and moving around safely, as eventually your child will need to understand how to track movements of cars, for example, before crossing the road.

Notice how your newborn will struggle to watch a rattle when you shake it in front of their face, but in one to three months’ time, they have better coordination and focus in both eyes as they work together to follow the rattle's movement. From 4 to 6 months, your baby will be able to follow objects well in all directions and can put together a three-dimensional view of the world.

When your baby is about 3 to 5 months old, they’ll likely be able to use their arms and hands to start reaching out for things in front of them as their muscles develop. Practicing this hand-eye coordination is great fun for your baby and for you too! Over time, as their motor skills improve, so will their aim and tracking ability. At about age 3 or 4, your child will be skilled enough to follow a ball coming toward them and extend their hands to catch it.

Your Baby's Eyesight: Colour Perception

While newborns have some colour vision when they’re born, it is limited. Over the first couple of months, your baby’s colour perception develops rapidly, and by 3 months, your baby can actually start to see basic colours. Your baby's colour vision is fully developed by about 4 months, when they’ll be able to see lots of colours and even shades of colours.

As the months go by, enjoy your baby's progress, and share their delight in their new abilities and achievements. If you’re interested in even more development milestones, then check out the typical growth phases of 3- to 9-month-old babies. Plus, if you have any questions or concerns about your baby’s eyesight, be sure to raise them with your baby's GP.

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