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. Each baby develops at their own unique pace, and things are no different when it comes to their vision. This guidance will help you keep an eye (!) on how your baby’s eyesight is developing.

One of the things that is checked during your baby’s newborn physical examination and again at their six-eight week examination, is their eyesight. The health professional will check the appearance and movement of your baby’s eyes and make sure there are no problems that need treatment.

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.

At times it may also seem that one eye is turning in. 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: 16-10-2017

Next review due: 16-10-2020