They may be relatively small, but our eyes are some of the most complex organs of the human body. Our eyes serve a vital purpose in collecting and focusing light and converting it into electrical signals that our brains can understand. Though it takes our eyes years to fully develop, this process of collecting and converting light is a learned behavior – one that begins before even birth.
Vision Development in Babies and Infants
There are many milestones when it comes to vision development in babies and infants – even before a child is born. In the womb, a fetus’ eyes begin to form just six weeks after conception. Near the beginning of the second trimester, eyes can start to see light even through fused eyelids. According to a recent study, fetal exposure to light is necessary for vision and eye health.
After birth, a child has not yet developed the ability to tell two objects apart, and will be most interested in objects less than a foot away and those objects that are highly contrasted from their surroundings. For those first few months of a baby’s life, her eyes are learning how to work together to track movement, and her hand-eye coordination is starting to develop. Depth perception begins at about month five, and color vision is established by this time, also. As babies learn to crawl, walk, and gain other skills, they learn more and more about how to use their eyes and hands and feet together. As they do, they become better at judging distance and depth.
Like walking and speaking, sight is a learned process, so parents and others who care for children play an important role in a child’s visual development. Babies should be brought in for their first comprehensive vision assessment between 6-12 months to look for and, if necessary, begin treatment for, any issues. Parents and caregivers can also help vision develop by engaging young babies’ vision within the 8 to 12 inch focal range; older babies’ vision can be nurtured by rolling balls back and forth or playing hand-eye coordination games such as patty cake.
Signs of Possible Issues in Infants
Here are some signs parents and caregivers can look for that may point to vision and eye problems, according to the American Optometric Association:
- Light sensitivity: extreme sensitivity may indicate elevated pressure in the eye
- Excessive tearing: may be a sign of blocked tear ducts
- White pupils: may indicate cancer of the eye
- Crusty or red lids: could be an infection
- Frequent turning of the eyes: may indicate strabismus, or misalignment of the eyes
To learn more about your infant’s vision and eye care health, read about Infantsee, a public health program designed to ensure that eye and vision care are part of overall infant wellness. To make an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam, contact us today.