When can babies see

One of the important physical milestones of a baby is the development of his eyesight that is blurry after birth and gradually develops with the advancing months. The infant’s vision development is extremely crucial as it paves the path for your little one to achieve many other milestones.

Newborns’ vision

When can newborns see

Newborns can see since the time they are born, but their vision is blurred or fuzzy [1]. After birth, most babies are cross-eyed because the inner corners of their eyes have additional folds of skin [12]. This cross-eyed look, however, goes away by the third month [21].

What can newborns see

A newborn’s vision ranges from 20/200 to 20/400 after birth [3]. An infant being nearsighted can only see things or people clearly when they are at a distance of eight to twelve inches from them. [2, 3].  As he has not mastered the art of fixing his vision on a particular object, his eyes will be wandering around the room. Your newborn will also not be able to make any eye contact with you [1].

Do babies see upside down

It is believed that newborns tend to see things upside down in their initial days. According to some  researches, images first reach our brain through the eyes in an upside down manner. The former then flips them over so we see the images the right side up. But, the brain of a newborn is not yet practiced enough to flip the images, that may result in your baby having an inverted vision. However, there is no concrete studies about the fact.

When can babies see color

Babies develop the ability to differentiate between dark and light from the time they are in their mother’s womb [4]. The newborns can see colors right from their birth though they are unable to differentiate between them. Throughout the first month, they will be more interested in looking at contrast color objects, preferably black and white.

When their brain matures after the second month they start to distinguish between colors. Red is the first primary color that will catch his eyes once he begins to show the visual skill of identifying colors [4]. As he advances to the third month, he starts recognizing full spectrum colors such as orange, green, blue and pink. By the time he is six months of age, his color perception develops to a greater extent, with his visual acuity improving to 20/25 [5].

Depth perception in infants

When your little one is about four or five months old, he begins to develop the skill of depth perception. His eyes can coordinate together to attain a three-dimensional perspective of the world, also beginning to understand the closeness and distance of objects [5].

Till this time, babies are usually unable to locate or trace the size, shape and position of a particular object. In fact, before the fourth month their brain do not develop enough to send signals to the hand for recognizing or grasping anything. After the development of depth perception, they can spot and track objects present in the room as well as understand how near or far it is from them [4, 5, 6].

Newborn eyesight development month by month [8,9,10,11]

Baby’s age Milestones achieved
0-3 months
  • May start tracking a movable object
  • Not very sensitive to light
  • Starts getting attracted to colored objects
  • Can see people and things from a distance of eighteen inches
  • Begins to recognize and grasp at objects
  • Makes eye contact for a longer period
  • Learn to focus on different objects by moving eyes
  • Light sensitivity at the third-month increases
4-6 months
  • Can see around the room
  • Can detect subtle color contrasts (Red button on a red shirt)
  • Concept of object permanence develops as they recognize an object by seeing a part of it
7-9 months
  • Skill of tracking, grabbing and following objects improve
  • Recognition ability improves further
  • Begins pointing to ask for objects near to them
10-12 months
  • Starts searching for their favorite people or things when out of sight
  • By the twelfth month can differentiate with ease between near and far

Baby eye problems

Strabismus: There is a lack of coordination between the two eyes, causing them to look in different directions. Babies are often born with squint eyes or develop it as they grow up. Therefore, if your child appears cross-eyed even after the third month let your doctor know of it [13, 14].

Lazy eye (Amblyopia): It is a condition of infancy or early childhood where children are unable to acquire vision in a proper way in one of the eyes. It happens when there is improper communication between the brain and eyes. Therefore, the brain passes a signal to one eye ignoring the other. Eye drops, contact lenses, glasses and sometimes surgery is used to treat this condition. If not corrected at the earliest, this may result in severe vision impairment. The lazy eye may also occur if there is a delay in treating strabismus or cross-eyedness [15, 16].

Teary eyes: In some newborns it is seen that one eye or both have a watery or sticky appearance especially after a nap. This can be caused when the tear duct is blocked or not developed well. As it goes away in a few weeks or months, no medical treatment is needed. An eye specialist is to be consulted if it persists even after his first birthday [17].

Ophthalmia Neonatorum: This is a type of conjunctivitis that occurs within the first twenty-eight days of a baby’s life, caused because of certain bacteria or virus [18].

Nystagmus: The eyes move involuntarily in a back and front direction in a horizontal or diagonal manner. This condition may be there after birth or develop later.

Some more reasons to see an eye doctor

Apart from the problems mentioned above if you notice any of the following symptoms in your baby, consult your doctor [19].

  • He is not attracted by lights even after the first month.
  • One of his eyes does not open at all.
  • There is a white spot in your kid’s eye, that is reflected when photographs are taken with a flash.
  • One or both of his eyes seem to bulge out.
  • Your baby has different sized pupils or one of his eyes is bigger compared to the other.
  • Cannot follow the movement of a toy or any other object.
  • Seems to be tilting his head constantly while looking at something.

Eye test for babies

The American Optometric Association (AOA) is of the view that infants should go through their first comprehensive eye test at the age of six months. The doctor will examine your baby’s eyeballs, look for any kind of discharge or allergies, check his light sensitivity as well as his ability to track any object using both eyes [20].

How to help in your baby’s vision development

  • After your baby begins to differentiate between similar shades show him bright colored objects or toys of varied shapes to sharpen his color sense further.
  • Keep a lot of colorful books having attractive pictures in front of your baby and read out to him regularly to develop his visual as well as hearing and perception skills.
  • As his tracking and grasping skills improve, give him some toys which are easy to hold, like a rattle.
  • You can play a game of peek-a-boo with him when he is about seven months of age to check his brain-eye coordination.


  1. http://www.babycentre.co.uk/a6508/developmental-milestones-sight
  2. http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/baby-development-1-month?page=2
  3. http://kidshealth.org/parent/growth/senses/sense13m.html
  4. http://www.bausch.com/vision-and-age/infant-eyes/eye-development#.VUB80tKqqko
  5. http://www.babycenter.com/0_baby-sensory-development-sight_6508.bc
  6. http://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/good-vision-throughout-life/childrens-vision/infant-vision-birth-to-24-months-of-age?sso=y
  7. http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/baby-development-2-month-old?page=2
  8. http://www.babycentre.co.uk/a718/your-three-month-olds-development
  9. http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/baby-development-3-months?page=2
  10. http://www.webmd.boots.com/children/baby/guide/baby-development-four-month-old
  11. http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/baby-development-5-months?page=2
  12. http://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/ask-heidi/cross-eyed-baby.aspx
  13. http://www.babycenter.com/0_strabismus-and-amblyopia_10890.bc
  14. http://www.patient.co.uk/health/squint-strabismus-in-children
  15. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lazy-eye/basics/definition/con-20029771
  16. http://www.webmd.com/eye-health/amblyopia-child-eyes
  17. http://www.patient.co.uk/health/tear-duct-blockage-in-babies
  18. http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/ophthalmia-neonatorum
  19. http://www.babycenter.com/0_red-flags-signs-that-your-baby-may-have-a-vision-problem_1439840.bc
  20. http://www.babycenter.com/0_eye-examinations-for-babies_1437477.bc
  21. http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/newborn-vision [/ref]