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Here’s looking at you kid

From the moment they’re born, babies use their eyes to find out all about the world around them. This guidance will help you monitor how your baby’s eyesight is developing.

Vision is checked at their newborn physical examination and at their 6-8 week examination with the GP. This will include the appearance and movement of your baby’s eyes.

In the first six weeks, your baby can only focus about 20 – 30cm away from them. You can expect your baby to be:

  • staring at their surroundings when they’re awake
  • briefly holding their gaze on bright light or bright objects
  • blinking at a camera flash
  • moving their eyes and head together.

When you hold your baby close, they will be able to make out your face and will watch your facial expressions closely – they may even try to copy what you’re doing. At this age, babies can’t distinguish well between different shades of colour, but will like toys and books with high-contrast black and white patterns and shapes.

Between six weeks and six months old, your baby will:

  • start to move their eyes with less head movement
  • follow people and moving objects with their eyes (8-12 weeks)
  • enjoy watching your face when you talk and sing to them (10 – 12 weeks)
  • begin to watch their own hands (10 – 12 weeks)
  • look at their hands, food and bottle when they’re sitting (18 – 24 weeks)
  • start to look for and watch objects that are more distant (20 – 28 weeks)

By eight months, your baby will recognise the faces of familiar people. You can have fun looking at photos together. By a year old, babies can distinguish between near and far, so will be able to recognise people from a distance.

When to talk to a health professional

If your baby shows any of these symptoms, get medical advice:

  • unusual redness of the eyes or lids
  • crusted eyelids
  • styes or sores on the eyelids
  • very teary eyes
  • unusual droopiness of the eyelid
  • one eye turning in or out when your baby is tired
  • the eye(s) wobble or move on their own accord
  • bright lights or well-lit rooms cause visual distress

Spotting potential problems early is really important for preventing long-term damage.

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Page last reviewed: 19-10-2020

Next review due: 19-10-2023