Infant Vision Development From Birth to 2 Months

Smiling newborn

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Your baby came equipped with several newborn reflexes—like sucking, grasping, and stepping—to help them get by in life. Gradually, those reflexes are replaced with new skills as they grow and develop. One of the most important is vision development.

If your baby is light-skinned, their eyes are probably still blue and will be in a state of flux until around six months to one year of age. If your baby has darker skin, their eyes are probably brown and will remain so, though they may darken or lighten in the first year. Their vision isn't as good as their hearing (which is nearly perfect at birth), but it's about 20/200.

Newborns can see very clearly about 8 to 10 inches from their face, which is just right for seeing your face while they're having a meal.

At the end of the newborn period, babies start tracking objects and can see a few feet in front of them. Initially, their eyes can focus on stationary objects near their face. Later, they will focus on close objects as they are moved from one side to the other.

Vision Development Milestones

Important developmental milestones for vision in the first months of life include:

  • Seeing an object beyond their reach and trying to reach for it
  • Focusing intensely on a small object near them (like a bit of paper or lint on the carpet or a button on your sweater)
  • Starting to study their hands or feet
  • Responding to changes in light
  • By 7 weeks, studying your face (they will likely prefer this view to looking at other objects)

How to Encourage Vision Development

To promote your baby's vision development, allow them plenty of face-to-face time with adults and siblings. Look into your baby's eyes often. Change your facial expression (happy, surprise) or make silly faces. Alternate sides when you are feeding your baby, even if you are bottle feeding. Keep a shatterproof mirror close by so that they can look at their own face.

Dress your baby in colorful socks with interesting patterns. During tummy time, offer a play mat or gym. Offer a colorful mobile over their crib or bassinet. Offer brightly colored or black and white toys with good contrast and interesting patterns. Read colorful books and remember to hold them close to your baby's face so they can see the images clearly.

Experiment with different lighting. Open the blinds and let the natural light come in or offer times with dim lighting, perhaps nursing by candlelight.

Protect your baby's eyes from bright sunlight when going outside. Keep baby shielded from the sun or use a visor or baby sunglasses (like ParkerG or Frubi) that block the sun's rays.

Warning Signs of Visual Development Delays

All babies develop in their own special way and without regard to the timetables that adults like to set for them. Even if your baby seems behind any of the above milestones, keep in mind, it's probably all normal.

If at the end of the newborn period, however, you find that your baby doesn't respond to bright lights, isn't focusing on your face or other objects, or one or both eyes seem cloudy, contact a health care provider for testing.

Listen to your gut, too. While some vision issues are normal (for instance, it's okay if your baby's eyes cross now and again until they are about six months old), others are not. It's always worth mentioning to your doctor or seeking a second opinion if you don't feel reassured.

I noticed that one of my son's eyes looked different than the other just moments after he was born, but nurses and doctors said there was no problem. On my own, when he was just four days old, I took him to a pediatric ophthalmologist and he was diagnosed with a congenital unilateral cataract as well as other vision issues.

According to InfantSEE, a public health program for infants, "Pediatricians provide an important base-level eye screening that is designed to detect gross eye abnormalities. A comprehensive eye assessment by an optometrist is designed to detect much more and is an important part of your well baby care."

They recommend setting your baby's first appointment with a professional eye doctor at 6 months of age. You can use their doctor locator search tool to find a participating doctor and get a free exam for your baby (no matter what your income is).

6 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. National Research Council Committee on Disability Determination for Individuals with Visual Impairments. Assessment of vision in infants and children. In: Lennie P, Van Hemel SB, eds. Visual Impairments: Determining Eligibility for Social Security Benefits. National Academies Press.

  3. Hyvärinen L, Walthes R, Jacob N, Chaplin KN, Leonhardt M. Current understanding of what infants see. Curr Ophthalmol Rep. 2014;2(4):142-149. doi:10.1007/s40135-014-0056-2

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By Stephanie Brown
Stephanie Brown is a parenting writer with experience in the Head Start program and in NAEYC accredited child care centers.