When do babies eyes change colour?

You've waited so long for this moment – looking into your newborn's eyes for the very first time. But did you know it can be months or years before your baby gets his or her final eye colour? Read on to find out when your baby’s eye colour might change and what determines the colour of your little one’s eyes.

What Is Eye Colour?

Eye colour actually refers to the appearance of the iris, which is the coloured ring that surrounds the pupil (the black part) of each eye. The iris helps controls the amount of light that enters the eye.

Your baby’s pupils will always be black, and the sclera (the whites) of your baby’s eyes will almost always be white — except temporarily, for example if your little one has jaundice, giving them a yellow tint.

If the whites of your baby’s eyes ever look pink or red, your little one could have conjunctivitis, an inflammation of the eye. This isn’t usually serious but may need treatment that your baby’s doctor can prescribe.

Let your doctor, midwife or health visitor know straight away if you think your baby might have jaundice or conjunctivitis.

Are All Babies Born With Blue Eyes?

It’s a common belief that all babies are born with blue eyes, but this is actually a myth. A baby’s eye colour at birth depends on genetics. Brown is also common, for example, but a newborn baby’s eyes can range in colour from slate grey to black.

It is true, however, that you may not be able to tell your newborn baby’s final eye colour straight away, because not all babies are born with the eye colour they’ll have later on in life.

For example, a child may be born with grey eyes that turn brown several months later.

When Do Babies Get Their Final Eye Colour?

The amount of time it takes for your baby’s eyes to assume their final colour varies a lot. Usually, the final colour will be settled by the age of 3, but his or her eye colour may stop changing earlier than this.

Sometimes, eye colour can keep on changing right into adulthood, so although your baby’s eyes will probably get their colour in the first months and years after being born, you may notice them getting a little lighter or darker after this as well.

What Influences Eye Colour?

The colour of your baby’s irises depends on melanin, a protein that also gives your baby’s skin its colour.

The amount of melanin your baby produces – and other factors contributing to your eye colour – are determined by genetics. Often, babies whose heritage is dark-skinned may be born with – or eventually have – darker coloured eyes, and the opposite is true for children of lighter-skinned parents.

However, keep in mind that as the parents we inherit two copies of each gene – one from each parent – so besides the eye-colour genes that determine our eye colour, we also carry other ‘hidden’ copies of the same genes that can still be passed on to our children.

This means that even if you have brown eyes, for example, the other eye-colour gene inherited from your parents may be for a different eye colour. The same is true of your partner.

You and/or your partner may pass on these hidden genes to your baby instead of the ones that determine your own and your partner’s eye colour.

To make things a bit more complicated, some of these genes are dominant and others are what’s known as ‘recessive’. That is, they only work if there is no dominant gene present.

This is why you can’t always predict what your baby’s eye colour will eventually be just by looking at your own and your partner’s eye colour.

What Colour Will Your Baby’s Eyes Be?

Genetics is a complicated science, but here's a simplified example of how your baby might come to have different coloured eyes to you and your partner:

  • The brown-eye gene is dominant, and the blue-eye gene is recessive. So, if you've inherited the blue-eye gene from one parent and the brown-eye genes from the other, your eyes will be brown. However, you're still carrying the blue-eye gene as well, and there's a 50-50 chance that this will be the eye-colour gene you pass on to your own baby

  • Your partner's eye colour also counts. So, for example, the colour of your baby's eyes will still be brown if he or she gets the (dominant) brown genes from your partner BUT if your partner also passes on a ‘hidden' blue-eye gene (perhaps inherited from a grandparent or more distant ancestor), then your baby could end up as the only blue-eyed member of your immediate family.

Of course, brown-eyed parents with a blue-eyed child is a rarer scenario. Statistically, it's more likely that the baby of two parents with the same eye colour will also have that same colour of eyes too. This example just shows how this isn't necessarily always the case.

What If One Parent Has Blue Eyes and the Other Has Brown?

Well, the brown-eye gene is dominant and blue-eye gene is recessive, so you might think this means your baby's eyes will turn brown – and statistically you'd have a very good chance of being right.

However, there's also a possibility that the eye-colour genes you pass on to your baby aren't the ones that determine your own eye colour. If your baby inherits two of the recessive genes associated with blue eyes, then he or she may take after the blue-eyed parent.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  • It could take anything from a few months to three years for your baby to get to his or her final eye colour. Changes in eye colour can even continue into adulthood in some cases.
  • No. A baby’s eye colour at birth depends on genetics. Brown is also common, for example. Dark-skinned newborns are more likely to be born with darker coloured eyes.
  • Eye colour is mostly genetic. The colour of your baby’s eyes will be largely determined by the genes inherited from you and your partner.

The Bottom Line

Your baby’s eye colour is as unique as everything else about your little one. No matter what colour your baby’s eyes end up being, one thing is for sure, you’ll simply love gazing into them.

We hope you had fun learning a little bit about when your baby’s eye colour might change and the genetics behind it all.

In just a little time, your baby’s final eye colour will reveal itself. This is just one more of your newborn baby’s many physical and personality traits that will start to unfold before your eyes in the months and years to come.

How we wrote this article The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the National Health Service (NHS). You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.