When can newborns see?
As soon as your newborn is in your arms, they may gaze up at you with bleary eyes. Your heart flutters, and you can’t believe that you’re already establishing such a strong connection with such a tiny little person you just met. But can a newborn baby really see you?
If you’ve done some research (and we’re sure you have), you know that babies are born legally blind. Regular vision is 20/20, which means a person sees a line of letters at 20 feet that a normal-sighted person sees at 20 feet. Newborns can see around 20/100. This doesn’t mean all they see is darkness, of course, but their vision is underdeveloped and they can’t make out much more than their mothers’ face.
If you’re wondering when newborns can see, read on to learn how a baby’s vision develops over the first year of life.
At birth, a baby can perceive light and movement around them. Your baby will be able to distinguish faces that are close to them as well as large shapes. After a few days, a baby will also be able to recognize its mother’s scent. If you notice your newborn responds differently when you pick it up, it’s because they know it’s you!
Studies have also shown that newborns as young as 3-days-old could tell the difference between their mother’s breast milk and someone else’s. Although we rely heavily on our vision to recognize others, babies have “super senses” that are fine-tuned to help them survive and connect with their moms right from the start.
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When newborns can see their mother, they will feel safe and comforted. Her face will be what they tend to focus on the most when they’re awake, which will only be for a few hours a day during the first few months of life.
When Newborns Can See Color
The world is not as exciting as you might think for a newborn baby. Newborns can only see black, white and gray. Color vision will slowly begin to develop, and they will most likely be able to detect red first.
When Newborns Can See Your Face
A newborn baby can see faces of people that are holding them. They will be able to tell when the room is light or dark, and their eyes are very sensitive, which is why you should never use flash cameras around them.
When Newborns Can See Clearly
Your baby will be able to fully see the world around them by age 1, but their vision will continue to develop for the first five years of life. When newborns can see their mother or father, they tend to appear more alert. The presence of their caregivers’ faces is comforting, especially since they cannot make out much of anything else.
When Newborns Can See TV
You may be wondering when newborns can see the television since there are so many adorable kid’s shows you want to share with them. Newborn babies don’t have good hearing, so you won’t hold their interest much with television in the beginning.
When newborns can see TV, they will show little response because they cannot focus on anything from a distance. You should also avoid exposing your newborn to too many loud sounds. Small babies to best in quiet, calm environments where they can comfortably feed and sleep.
When Newborns Can See: The First Year of Your Baby’s Vision Development
The First Month
By the end of the first four weeks of life, your baby will be able to see 12 inches in front of its face. They will begin to make eye contact and focus on things that are close-by as well. This is exciting, especially if you’ve mostly spent time with a baby that sleeps 90-percent of the day.
The Second Month
During the next four weeks, your baby will go through a lot of changes. From their first smile to holding up their head, a 2-month-old baby is becoming more awake to the world. Their vision will still be limited, but it will have improved. A 2-month-old can see things that are up to 18 inches away from them.
They will start to lock eyes with you more as you feed them, and they will begin to follow moving objects. A baby’s hearing is also improving, so your little one may start to turn its attention toward loud sounds or notice when someone walks by.
The Third and Fourth Months
During month three, your baby will begin to distinguish colors. Bright toys and objects will catch their attention the most since softer shades and pastels are still hard to make out. They will also be able to recognize familiar faces, so they may smile and react when they notice a loved one even from a distance.
When newborns can see, their vision limits them to objects and people directly in front of their face. A 3-month-old, however, can make out people and things a bit further away.
Use baby mirrors to let them look at themselves. They’ll think it’s another baby! Hand-eye coordination also improves around this age, so babies may start to reach out for things that catch their attention. They should also follow objects up and down as well as left to right.
A 4-month-old can see even better still, and their vision will continue to improve this month. They’ll mostly be interested on focusing on new objects, so make sure to stop and let them examine whatever they see! Everything is fascinating to a baby, especially younger ones whose senses are just beginning to develop.
The Fifth Month
By the time your baby is 5-months-old, they will be able to see several feet at a distance and see the full color spectrum. Babies at this age will be delighted by picture books, especially one’s for babies that have lots of colors and textures. Many babies will be able to hold a sitting position at this age, so they will need something exciting to look at.
Hang a mobile or dream catcher above their crib, or buy a star projector for their bedroom ceiling. They’ll love to have something to look at as they lay in their crib.
The Sixth Month
Hand-eye coordination is improving, and your baby will want to grab things more than ever. Make sure you have plenty of toys for them to play with; they might also start to enjoy watching a few minutes of educational kid’s shows at this stage since their eyes are strong enough to focus on the television.
The Seventh and Eighth Months
Now, your baby can see far away and will be able to focus on things that they want and maneuver themselves to reach them. A 7-month-old or 8-month-old is learning how to manipulate their body to move and interact with the world. They will fix their attention on people and objects easily, and move their bodies to follow something they’re interested in.
Your baby will be highly interested in things at move now; point out different colors, shapes and objects to help them learn. Babies at this age can recognize familiar words and are starting to build strong associations.
The Ninth and 10th Months
As your baby rapidly approaches their first year of life, they will rely on their vision to help them reach other important milestones like crawling and walking. Even if your baby can take steps on their own when supported, you should encourage them to crawl first as this improves their hand-eye coordination. This will help them develop other motor skills and become more balanced before they can stand on their own.
The 11th and 12th Months
Now that your baby is a year old, they will be able to judge distances and throw things. They also recognize familiar objects and will start to show preferences. They will get excited when you show them their favorite toy or snack.
Babies will now also look through windows and be able to recognize things outside. They’ll also start to enjoy a game of hide-and-seek.
Beyond the First Year
Your child’s vision will continue to develop until they are 5-years-old. As they grow through toddlerhood, they will continue to improve their motor skills, depth perception and focus. If you notice your baby is delayed with these vision milestones, you should talk to your pediatrician right away.
They can refer you to an eye doctor who can give your baby a vision check-up and give them any necessary corrective eyewear to help them continue to develop normally.
We hope this blog has helped you understand when newborns can see and learn about all the exciting milestones that await your baby in the year ahead!