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|Quick reference medical handouts used
by Pediatric offices
What Can a Newborn See?
We used to think that newborns could see very little in the first
months of life. However, new research has shown that babies can actually
see more than we once thought. It is now presumed that newborns are able
to see at least the big "E" on a vision chart held 9-12 inches from their
face. This distance may not be coincidental, since most infants are held
about 9-12 inches from their parents while being fed!
Researchers have also determined that newborns have a preference for
human faces. There seems to be a portion of the brain that is well developed
in babies that is dedicated to allowing for facial recognition. (Studies show
that babies are even attracted to sketches of human faces!) This mechanism
probably helps develop bonding between the child and his/her parents.
Unfortunately, a newborn's vision is not clear because his/her eye muscles
are weak and uncoordinated. So, even though the vision may be advanced enough
to recognize shapes and contrasts, the uncoordinated eye muscles make it
difficult to focus. The resulting vision is blurry and fuzzy. Most
parents are familiar with the cross-eyed look of a newborn.
Initially, infants see best while looking out of the corner of their
eyes and like objects of high contrast (like a black-and-white checkerboard).
Around 2 to 3 months of age, infants are able to stare directly at something
and by 3 months like to watch their hands. Around this time babies begin
to visually follow objects (like toys and mobiles) once their eye muscles
begin to move as a unit. It turns out that babies do not recognize different
colors until after 3 months of age when the retina is able to process
Newborn babies are fascinated by their parent's face so hold them
about eight to 12 inches away..
Babies are also interested in black and white objects brought into
their field of vision from the side.
Around 3 months the baby begins to focus on objects farther away
and follows objects for a short period of time.
Between 4 and 6 months they will begin to enjoy colors and may
even show a preference for certain shades.
By 6 months they can distinguish between objects and see clear across
By the end of the first year, a baby's vision is almost fully
As a reminder, this information should not be relied on as
medical advice and is not intended to replace the advice of your childs pediatrician.
Please read our full disclaimer.