If you’ve ever held a baby, you’ve probably thought, “I wonder what you see.” Babies are one of life’s greatest joys, but they do some pretty mysterious things. One such mystery is how exactly babies see the world. Is it fully formed in their eyes or just loud, amorphous blobs?

Turns out, it’s a mix of both. Babies are not born with their eyesight fully developed but they come a very long way in an incredibly short amount of time.

Newborn

When babies are less than a month old their eyesight is very limited. They may only see in shades of gray. They do, however, recognize their mothers early on as long as there are no major changes to the mother’s face or hairstyle during that time. Newborn babies have the ability to see 10-12 inches in front of their face, but with poor acuity. They are also known to have disproportionally large eyes as babies are born with their eyes at 65% of their adult size.

Eyes develop incredibly fast for newborns. After the first week, babies will begin to see warm colors like red, yellow, and orange. Cool colors like blue, green, and purple come later as the cones in their eyes continue to develop. This is also the time where babies’ eyes will begin to work together and the commonplace, yet always hilarious crossed-eyed look for some newborns will begin to dissipate.

2 – 4 months

Around the two-month mark, babies will start to track moving objects with their eyes. This is also the phase where they will start grabbing for things they determine are within their reach. Unfortunately, their depth perception isn’t quite there yet so expect lots of confused hands from your baby.

By month three their motor skills and hand-eye coordination will start to catch up with their intentions. Some babies will even be able to grab moving objects if they are close enough. You may want to consider putting away the dangly earrings until they get a bit better with their accuracy. They will see shiny objects they want to grab and now they will be able to. This may give the baby a sense of being all-powerful. Don’t worry. It’s just a phase.

5 – 7 months

Between three and five months a baby will develop depth perception. Most babies have a totally realized sense of depth by the time they’re five months old and can now see the world in 3D. They will be staring up at ceiling wondering how it go so far away.

Around six-months of age is a crucial milestone for babies as this will be the time to get their first eye exam. Typically, it involves a simple inspection to make sure everything is developing correctly and to see if they are nearsighted or farsighted. It is important to do this now to avoid having their eyesight impede any developmental milestones.  

7 – 12 months

After their first eye exam, it is smooth sailing for a baby’s vision. Their eyesight will continue to adjust and change as everyone does with age, but they are now seeing the world in a way that is similar to your own. You may have noticed their eye color change throughout the last seven months, but it should be settling into it is final shade at this point. Most babies are born with light eyes. The darker pigment in our eyes takes time to build up and so by nine months their true eye color should be coming out.

Barring any issues with their eyesight, a baby should be able to see normally before their first birthday. This means they’ll get to see their cake, your friends and family’s faces, their nursery, and all those wonderful things you’ve put so much thought into. We truly don’t give babies enough credit. They go from seeing everything in 2D black and white to 3D with color, in a little less than 10 months. That’s certainly a feat we should be celebrating!

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