How babies see: Fuzzy vision and getting to recognise colour

Most new parents intently wait to check the colour of their newborn's eyes upon birth, but are often left confused and worried when they notice their little ones to be a little crossed and not well-coordinated.




By Dr Vanshika Gupta Adukia

Pregnancy, for every couple and parents-to-be is a time filled with joy. Parents spend long hours preparing for their little one’s arrival into the world. Colour plays an integral part while organising the baby’s room, clothes or toys. Parents often try and make these preparations in varied palettes, hoping to attract their little one’s attention towards them. But did you know that certain research state that newborns see only black, white and shades of grey? It is only at about 10-12 weeks post-birth, that different colour shades become apparent in the baby world.

Most new parents intently wait to check the colour of their newborn’s eyes upon birth, but are often left confused and worried when they notice their little ones to be a little crossed and not well-coordinated. This, in fact, is normal for newborns up to 8-10 weeks after birth.

During the first six months of life, baby eyesight develops rapidly and is believed to be closely linked to the growth of their brain. That said, all newborns are born with fuzzy vision with focusing ability limited to just about 8-10 inches. Vision begins to clear out and eyesight becomes distant at roughly around 14-16 weeks post-birth. You will also notice the baby flash a smile around this time indicating it has begun to recognise you. This is also the time when your little one will thus begin tracking objects with their eyes and reaching out for things to hold. However, hand-eye coordination is still to develop at this age.

Babies learn to perceive depth and distance from about five months onwards. This helps them with their milestone of gripping and eventually crawling followed by cruising and walking.

Crawling plays an integral part in helping develop good eye-hand-body-foot coordination. Contrary to popular belief, early walkers may in fact have lack of eye coordination when compared to those babies who crawled well before walking. Hence, crawling should be encouraged rather than focusing primarily on learning to walk.

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In order to encourage your little one to develop a strong vision, try the following:

· During the first few weeks of life, hold the baby close to you in order to have them see your face clearly while their vision is still fuzzy and limited.

· Encourage use of both eyes by stimulating them while breastfeeding. Feed from alternate breasts to stimulate each eye and encourage visual development.

· Owing to limitation in being able to see colour, start by introducing primary and contrasting colours of red, blue and yellow during the initial few days of life. Different shades of the same colour would be of no interest or stimulation to the newborn.

· Use a mobile toy to hang from the baby’s crib to encourage gaze and stare.

As the baby grows introduce activities to strengthen hand-eye coordination. These include rolling a ball back and forth, the use of hands while singing nursery rhymes, hide and seek with objects and toys to increase vision focus and visual ability while also stimulating coordination, encourage crawling before walking.

Reach out to your paediatrician or healthcare provider for help if you notice:

· Excessive crossing of eyes in or out over long periods of time post five months of age.

· Excessive tears or redness.

· Excessive itching or pain.

· Rapid shaking, fluttering up and down or side to side of eyes.

· Baby does not seem to track objects or is not interested in new objects post six months.

(The writer is founder of Therhappy. She is a pregnancy, childbirth & lactation specialist and a pelvic floor physiotherapist.)

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