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What Most First-Time Parents Don't Know About Their Baby's Eye Health

What Most First-Time Parents Don't Know About Their Baby's Eye Health

Babies don’t come with a “how-to” guide when they’re born, and most first-time parents (and even many old-timers) have a lot to learn — and a lot of surprises. 

As a leading pediatric eye specialist in Phoenix and Mesa, Arizona, ABC Children's Eye Specialists is devoting this post to five surprising facts about newborns’ vision, so you can feel more confident as a first-time mom or dad.

1. Newborns are very nearsighted

Right after birth, your baby is extremely nearsighted, with vision of about 20/200 or 20/400 rather than “perfect” vision of 20/20. In fact, during the first week or two of life, your newborn can see only about 8-12 inches in front of them, the perfect distance for focusing on faces.

2. Eyes that cross or drift aren’t uncommon

As adults, our eyes work together as a single unit — a feature we tend to take for granted. Newborns’ eyes haven’t learned to work together, which means that sometimes, one eye may drift inward or outward.

Typically, these movements are temporary, just a part of the eyes learning to work as a team. If the eyes remain out of alignment, it could be a sign of a vision problem that needs early correction.

3. Depth perception takes a few months to develop

Your baby’s eyes aren’t able to perceive depth yet, either. In fact, it’s not until about 5 months of age that an infant really begins to see in three dimensions. 

Most babies spend a lot of time focusing on their hands or feet as a way of understanding distances between objects. Mobiles and black-and-white pictures in the nursery give them an opportunity to try out this new, developing skill as well.

4. Color vision is limited at first

Why black-and-white pictures? Because color vision is also limited in those first weeks and months of life. Like depth perception, babies learn to see different color variations as their retinas develop. 

Initially, babies can differentiate among colors with longer wavelengths, like red, yellow, and orange, but it takes a few weeks for the eyes to become sensitive to colors with shorter wavelengths, like blue and purple. 

Black-and-white images offer plenty of contrast, which makes it easier for babies to focus at every stage of development

5. The first eye exam should happen at 6 months of age

Every parent wants their baby to be healthy, and that means screening for eye diseases and vision problems at an early age. The American Optometric Association recommends babies have their first eye doctor visit by around 6 months of age.

Having an eye exam at this stage of life means problems can be treated early, so they won’t interfere with your child’s healthy development. 

In addition to looking for vision problems like myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism, the eye doctor evaluates how your child’s eyes are developing as a “team,” how well your child is tracking objects, and other basic functions.

Give your baby’s eyes a healthy head start

Regular vision care is one habit you want to start early with your baby. With regular eye exams, your doctor has the best chance of catching problems early, so they can be treated before they affect your child’s development.

To learn more about eye care for newborns and kids of all ages, book an appointment online or over the phone with the team at ABC Children’s Eye Specialists today.

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