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

blue eye baby

by Mother & Baby |

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, following objects and learning 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 them, so we’ve listed all the eye development milestones to expect in your baby’s first year.

In this article

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's 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.

View Gallery
4 photos
Baby laughing
1 of 4

Baby's vision at 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.

When should I see a doctor if i'm worried about my child's eyesight 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.

More from Motherandbaby.co.uk

Have you noticed your baby's eyes start to follow objects? Let us know on Twitter! And while you're there, follow us on Instagram and Facebook too!

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us