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WATCH: How Your Baby's Eyesight Develops In Her First Year
PHOTO BY Smart Parenting Magazine archive
  • After welcoming your new little bundle of joy into this world, you just can't help but stare at him. Here is the human being you carried in your womb for nine months, and you're in awe of every feature, from his round head to his tiny toes. Somehow you manage to grin like crazy and coo at the same time. You hope he doesn't scare easily, but then he doesn't even flinch. As a newborn, you see, your baby doesn't see very well yet. 

    Your baby's eyesight needs to adjust, from your womb to the real world. That's why providing proper visual stimulation is important. To be able to do that, you need to understand how your child's eyesight develops in the first year. 

    A newborn can distinguish light from dark, but cannot see all the colors yet. He can only see clearly from eight to 10 inches away, or roughly the same distance from your face to your baby's when you're cradling him in your arms, pediatric ophthalmologist Dr. Golareh Fazilar, M.D., tells Parents

    A newborn will close his eyes, blink, or move them from side to side, depending on what is happening around him. He will blink when he sees bright lights (never shine a bright light directly into your baby’s eyes though). A baby will also blink if you tap the bridge of his nose or blow gently across his eyes, or if he is startled by a sudden noise.

    Tip: Bond with your child while nursing or feeding him by talking to him and making different faces. Baby books with distinct black-and-white patterns or those with black, white, and red colors work best, Dr. Joy Ty-Sy, a pediatrician at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center, says in an article in Smart Parenting.

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    Two to three months
    Your baby's vision is becoming clearer. He's now able to make eye contact, and can now see objects about 16 to 18 inches away from him. He is also learning how to focus on slow moving objects; first with objects moving horizontally, then later vertically. He can already recognize facial features such as the eyes and mouth.  

    Don't worry if your baby's eyes don't immediately follow or stay when he turns his left or right. It's called the “doll's eye response,” and usually disappears after about 10 days. Some babies' eyes also wander or don't stay aligned with each other during the first few months as their eye muscles are still developing and learning how to work together. (Read here weird but normal things about your baby.)

    Tip: Hold and nurse/feed infants from alternating sides to encourage the development of both eyes. While laying him in his crib, change the crib’s location from time to time so that he can see from different viewpoints

    Four to six months
    A baby can already distinguish his mother's face from others, says Dr. Ty-Sy. He can already process high-contrast colors and simple geometric patterns. He will also start reaching for objects within his reach as he's learning about depth perception, which will help him as he begins to crawl.

    It is the best time to check with the pediatrician if you notice that your baby ignores high-contrast objects, doesn't react to bright lights, or has eyes that appear cloudy or are not straight or tracking together.

    Tip: Make sure to give baby daily "tummy time." Hang mobiles with high-contrast colors low enough for your child to try to reach. Place multi-sensory toys he can play with in his crib. Start showing him colorful pictures.  

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    Six to 12 months
    Your baby already recognizes people and facial expressions such as happy and sad faces–and he may even start to copy them, too. He will start to remember some pictures. Aside from learning about balance and coordination, your baby is also discovering that just because he doesn't see an object doesn't mean it's not there.  

    Tip: Offer to stack blocks or roll a ball with her, both of which foster hand-eye coordination. Tie bells to their booties so they can learn about their bodies through sound and movement. Play hide-and-seek with your baby.

    Research shows that providing different stimuli through children' senses, particularly their sight, has a positive effect on forming synapses in their brain. Synapses make up the complex circuitry that enables children to see, hear, touch, think, feel, and learn complex concepts in the future. Experts advise parents to take good care of their babies’ eyes to ensure reception of all the stimuli (colors, shapes, faces) surrounding their babies. 

    Consistently providing stimulation strengthens neural connections and makes them permanent. Synapses that are not used or stimulated will eventually die out. But as always, anything excess is bad. According to educational psychologist Dr. William Staso's book Brain Under Construction, overstimulation (exposing babies to too busy and too noisy environments) could be stressful for baby, which could slow down brain development 

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