Mother and Baby

When can babies see clearly? Everything you need to know about early eye development

When can babies see clearly?

Just like walking and talking, a baby’s ability to see also gradually develops over time. Babies aren’t born with perfect vision, but the health of their eyes is fundamental to their early development.

As their eyesight gets sharper in the first few months after being born, they begin to take in their surroundings and learn more about the world around them. As healthy eyes and good vision are essential to their cognitive development, it’s important that you have an idea of what stage they’re at in their development so you can track their progress.

Lots of new parents are curious about when their little one start seeing what's around there, so we’ve listed all the eye development milestones to expect in your baby’s first year. 

At what age can babies see?

Like everything else in their early development years, babies also have to learn how to see. Everything’s a blur for the baby after they exit the womb, with a newborn’s vision gradually getting sharper in the first few months of their life. They won’t see colour until they’re three months old and it will also take a few months for their eyes to start following objects. Because vision is so linked to brain development, it’s important to aid your baby’s eye development by providing stimuli to ensure their eyes are in good shape.

When will my baby’s eyes be checked?

Your child’s eyes will be checked within 72 hours of being born as part of their newborn physical examination. A follow-up physical takes place at 6-8 weeks old, where you can raise any issues you’re concerned about. After their first birthday, the NHS offer a review of your child’s health and development where eye tests can be arranged if needed.

Can my baby see colour?

It takes a few months before babies begin to see things in colour (they can see all the colours of the rainbow at six months), which means high-contrast black and white toys are really good stimuli for newborns. 

In the weeks following the birth, babies are most likely to see reds and greens first as their vision strengthens. 

Baby eyesight development

If you’re wondering when your little’un will start seeing more clearly, we’ve got the info on all the stages during the first year of their life. Remember though, each baby is different, so don’t worry too much if it’s a little different to the below.

 

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Baby’s vision at from 0-3 months old

Your baby will begin to recognise your face within the first few weeks of being born, but won’t be able to see much beyond that. That’s because, at this age, their vision will only be able to see between 8 to 12 inches in front of them.

They’ll be able to see light and recognise large objects, but that’s about it. Around three months after the birth, they’ll be better able to follow moving objects with their eyes (but don’t worry if they’re not doing that until a few weeks after the three-month point).

A three-month-old’s light detection is 10 times that of an adult, so keep lights dims during naps and at bedtime. Making subtle changes to the decor of a room will also increase stimuli and help their eyes get the best start.  
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Baby’s vision at 4-6 months old

Your baby should be able to see lots more colours now, and their eyes should be more coordinated, locating and following objects (yes, including their favourite toy). This is when your child will start to recognise you and your partner and mirror your facial expressions - meaning you could be seeing their first smile (causing Mum to shed a little tear when they do).
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Baby’s vision at 7-9 months old

At nine months, your baby’s eye colour should have reached the hue it will stay for the rest of their lives (although you might see subtle changes in the next few months). Their vision will have got a lot sharper by now and they should be better at judging distances by now.
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Baby’s vision at 10 months to one-year-old

At this age, your baby’s hand-to-eye coordination should be developing, meaning they’ll begin to pull themselves up and begin crawling. They’ll have improved their ability to judge distance further and will start grabbing for things with their thumb and forefinger.

When should I see a doctor if I’m worried about my baby’s eye development?

Although serious vision problems are rare in childhood, the NHS provides routine eye tests for newborn babies and children to detect any issues early on.

If your baby’s eyes stay fixed in a crossed position for a long period of time, or their eyes repeatedly flutter, arrange an appointment with your doctor so they can check things over.

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