In his or her first year, your baby’s brain and eyes will begin to co-ordinate and remember what they’ve seen. As a parent, you can encourage your newborn’s healthy eye development as part of your normal routine. Proper stimulation can increase curiosity, attention span, memory and nervous system development, so be sure to give your baby plenty of interesting things to see.
Newborns can only focus on things that are about 20-30cm from their face, and they see only black, white and grey. But by their first week, your baby should begin to respond to movement and should start to focus on your face. Soon, your baby will smile when you come near them. This is an important sign that your baby sees and recognises you – a joyful moment for any parent.
Over the next 10 to 12 weeks, your baby will start to follow moving objects and recognise things – especially toys and mobiles with bold, geometric patterns. Your baby will see the full spectrum of colours by the time they are 3 months of age.
Your baby’s depth perception and eye-hand co-ordination will begin to develop at around 4 months of age.
From 4 to 6 months, your baby will begin to reach out and touch objects – something that previously only happened by chance.
Between the ages of 8 and 12 months, your baby’s ability to make connections between their eyes, movements and memories will be growing stronger. You should notice tremendous improvements in their attempts to pick up small toys and objects, roll a ball, and feed themselves finger foods like sliced fruit.
Babies are naturally curious – it’s their job to learn all about the world around them. But they won’t yet understand what’s safe for them and what isn’t.
How can I make my house safe
When there’s a baby in the house and they reach the crawling stage, all kinds of things become potential hazards. Scissors, paper clips, drawing pins, pens, pencils and coat hangers, as well as aerosol sprays, perfumes and household cleaners all represent dangers that could damage your baby’s eyes.
You can help make your home, your car and your garden as safe as possible by following these tips:
What should I do if my baby has an eye injury?If there is an accident that involves your baby’s eye, you should seek immediate, professional medical attention. If an object is stuck in their eye, do not try to remove it. If chemicals or perfume have got into your baby’s eye, flush it out thoroughly with fresh running water then seek medical help.How can I protect my baby’s eyes from the sun?These simple precautions will help to keep your baby’s eyes safe outdoors:
The best way to protect your baby’s eyes is through professional examinations. Certain infectious, congenital, or hereditary eye diseases may be present at birth or develop shortly thereafter. Yet, when diagnosed early, their impact may be greatly minimised.
Routine eye tests are offered soon after birth (about 72 hours) and at 6-8 weeks^1^. Be sure to tell the paediatrician about any eye health issues in your family, as many of these can be inherited.
Your baby may go on to have further tests between 1-2 years if you mention any concerns during a review of his or her health and development^1^. Remember, eye tests are free of charge for anyone under 16 so if you have any concerns about your growing baby’s eyes, you should talk to your GP who can arrange a test for you if necessary.
The sooner problems are addressed, the better it will be for your baby’s eyes now and in the future. Things to look out for include:
For babies under 3 months, crossed or squint eyes that point in different directions is relatively common and a part of normal development. If this continues beyond 3 months however, they may need treatment^2^. Crossed eyes can be hard to detect so if you are in any doubt you should talk to your GP.
In rare cases, babies are born with a cataract in one or both eyes. This will affect the lens inside their eye and it may cause symptoms such as a squint, poor vision, “wobbling” eyes or a white or grey pupil.
If your baby’s eyes seem to jump, wobble back and forth or move erratically, they might have a condition called nystagmus, which could be affecting their vision^3^.
A baby whose eyes seem to water all the time, whether they are happy or upset, may have blocked or infected tear ducts.
If your baby’s eyes have a sticky discharge or crustiness in the morning and are red and irritated, they may have conjunctivitis.
Very rarely, a baby will be born with glaucoma. Symptoms may include a dislike of bright lights or sunshine, and eyes that appear larger than normal and look cloudy^4^.
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