Baby’s aren’t born with perfect vision and there are several developmental steps they need to go through.
A newborn baby’s eyesight is quite blurry and the best focus for them is around 30 cm. This is perfect for them to focus on their Mum’s face when breastfeeding.
In the first few days after birth, your baby should be doing the following:
The ability to focus on one thing, like your face, is called fixing. Babies can do this quite early on.
As your baby grows, they should be able to track slow side to side movements of nearby objects, like a dangling toy, or your face. This is called following.
You can introduce games that help your baby develop their eyesight. To help them practice fixing and following try showing them a favourite toy (black, white and red are good colours and face designs are very popular with babies) at the magic 30cm from their face. This is where their focus is strongest as described above. Then move it very slowly left and right so that they can follow it with their gaze.
If by about 6 weeks of age you don’t think your baby is fixing and following, then you should go and get them checked by your doctor.
Newborn baby’s eyes often looked cross-eyed or squinty but if it seems to be happening all the time, or if they seem to have difficulty moving their eyes in one direction, it’s worth checking with your health visitor or doctor.
Your baby’s eyes only finish growing at the end of pregnancy so babies who arrive early may have less control of their eyes yet. This is quite normal and you would expect their vision to strengthen as they come towards their expected birth date.
However, if they are premature or ‘small for dates’ they will be specifically assessed for ‘retinopathy of prematurity’ caused by not having fully developed blood vessels to the retina (the back of the eye that receives light and sends messages to the brain about colour, contrast and movement in the environment). Retinopathy of prematurity is treatable if screened and spotted.