Despite the 4 other main senses (hearing, taste, touch and smell) being almost fully developed at birth, vision is one sense that takes a while to develop. Other senses are proprioception and vestibular (balance).
New babies can see, but their vision isn’t very focused. Everything further than around 20cm away from their eyes is fuzzy. Initially, babies mostly see in black, white, and grey as their brains are unable to distinguish other colours well. From around 1-2 months old their ability to detect colour develops, although the subtle differences between colours are difficult to distinguish at first.
Whilst a newborn’s eyes can see, their brain needs to develop further so that the information can be translated correctly. Their eyesight develops gradually over the first few months through the first year – this is a great tool to see what your baby can see at various stages
If you’d like to learn more about developing baby’s senses then CubCare Baby Massage Cubs gives you all the information for baby’s physical and mental development.
How far can a baby see?
We know that initially a baby’s range of focused vision around 20-30cm. That is that ideal space between your breast, or your elbow and face – so when they are feeding or being cuddled they can take in your features and help with bonding.
At first you might notice that their eyes are uncoordinated, often moving independently of each other or being frequently crossed. This is perfectly normal at first and a combination of developing their eye muscles and brain development will stop this from happening.
You might also notice at first that they will stare at bright sources of light like a window or lamp. Again, this is perfectly fine as a newborn baby needs around 50 times more light than an adult for them to realise that it is present.
Gradually through the months baby’s sight will develop. At around 10-11 months their eyesight and ability to detect subtle colours and details will be pretty much fully developed.
Vision development games
Get close and allow them to study your face. Pull different facial expressions to see if there is any rection. Allow baby to get to you know you face during this time to help with bonding. If possible try to keep the outline of your face the same during the first month or so. Try to keep to similar hairstyles if possible to allow them to recognise you.
They will start to be able to fix on an object and follow it with their eyes so you can start to introduce some tracking games from this point.
A good tracking game is: with your face or even fingers, slowly move up and down away from them and towards their face. It is all really good practice to help with their eye development. You naturally do these things anyway but it is so great to know that we are helping baby’s development when we play with them!
As with everything, tracking objects is a developmental skill and one that requires practice, to coordinate eyes and head moving together. Usually from around 2 months this skill develops and will be honed – in class you’ll notice that at some point, as baby’s sight is developing and they can see further they will start to focus on their neighbour’s hands. It is a funny sight to see all the babies following someone else’s hands as they move – but a great thing to know that they are just enjoying their new found sight!
Baby’s vision is starting to get sharper, as is their movement. They will start to track and focus on objects more, with sometimes less movement of the head. If you talk to them as you walk around the room, or move a favourite toy around with you, they will likely follow you with their eyes now.
They can start to shift their focus from one object to another without having to move their head too. So, a great game is holding two objects, one in each of your hands and moving them around one at a time to get baby to look from one to the others.
They will also start to develop some hand to eye coordination at this point too so will start to grab at things they see – although not always accurate! Reaching and tracking games are still great fun at this age.
Their colour and depth perception is growing and you might find them attempting to move towards objects of interest to them from now. They will start to find differences in colour, texture and detail really interesting and might start examining labels of toys!
As their vision and hand-eye coordination improves, so does their speed and accuracy. You’ll start to notice they’ll start finding the teeniest things and put them directly towards their mouth. Whilst this is a great sign of readiness for food, it takes parenting to a whole new level when they find bits on the floor!
Around now your baby’s eyes will be roughly the same colour they’ll have for the rest of their life.
Their vision is almost fully developed, with distance sight improving all the time. By around 12 months they will have the same range of vision as an adult.
What if they don’t meet milestones?
When they are small, if you notice that baby has a preference for looking to one side or can track but stops when the object moves from to their unpreferred side it may be that their muscles in their neck are stiff on one side, possibly a condition called Torticollis. Gentle massage opening techniques can help to relive tension in the neck and shoulder, you can also continue to try tracking games; also alternating the direction that baby is put down in their cot or basket can encourage them to lengthen their stiff side. A cranial osteopath may be able to help too. Particularly if there is an issue with feeding.
If you are ever concerned about baby’s vision development then talking with your Health Visitor, GP and/or arranging an eye test is never a bad idea. All babies develop at their own pace so these development stages are a general guide. However, if you notice that their development is not progressing as expected and you are concerned then there are people who are there to help you.
If you’d like to learn more about developing baby’s senses then our CubCare Baby Massage Cubs and Wrigglers Baby Yoga Cubs – CubCare classes give you all the information for baby’s physical and mental development.