If you are about to give birth or have just given birth to your first child, you will probably ask yourself a crucial question: When will my baby actually be able to see me?
It is known that babies have only very limited vision immediately after birth. But when does vision develop? And how do babies see in the first weeks of life?? We get to the bottom of all these questions below.
How babies see
We humans have five senses that help us to cope with everyday life in the best possible way. This includes feeling, tasting, smelling, touching and also seeing. If only one of these senses is disturbed, we have to reorganize ourselves.
But all these senses have to develop over time. This is precisely the reason why babies see very little at the time of birth. The eyesight must first develop.
Sight in babies in the first few days
At first, babies can only recognize objects blurrily and track them with their eyes. They can distinguish between light and dark, but tend to perceive the world in black, white and gray. It is not until the second and third month of life that babies perceive their first color subtleties. They then recognize contrasts and the colors blue, red and yellow, which are the so-called primary colors.
As the baby progresses, it develops the ability to recognize objects. Now the little ones can distinguish their favorite rattle from other rattles. Depth perception also changes significantly, so that from now on they are able to see in three dimensions.
How far can babies see?
After the eighth month of life, babies perceive their environment like adults – in different shades of color, contrasts and in three dimensions. Only the visual acuity is not yet fully developed. At the age of one year, it is just 50 percent and continues to develop. Through further development, visual acuity, spatial vision, and contrast vision improve.
By the age of three months, babies can already see up to two and a half meters away. This illustrates how quickly the eye develops in the first year of your little one’s life.
From when can babies see sharply?
In the first weeks of life babies see blurry. Only at a distance of approx. 20 to 30 centimeters they can see everything clearly and distinctly. However, sharp vision is almost limited to peripheral vision. Your baby therefore perceives everything that it can see laterally quite clearly. However, the view ahead will remain blurred for some time to come. So if you get very close to your little one while cuddling, he will be able to recognize you well.
You may wonder why babies see out of focus in the first place? There is a simple reason for this: in order to be able to see everything crystal clear and sharp, the visual muscles must be optimally trained. However, this is not the case for a baby immediately after birth and during the first weeks and months of life. It takes some time for the visual muscles to develop in such a way that the babies can perceive clear images.
You can compare this with a defective vision. Nearsightedness, for example, in which you see objects that are far away out of focus, also stems from a weakened visual muscle. If you try to compensate for blurred vision by wearing glasses, the optic nerve gets used to the correction and is not stimulated to make an effort itself. As a result, vision continues to deteriorate.
With your newborn, it’s basically similar. The baby’s vision is blurred at first and trains the optic nerve in the first months of life. However, this proves to be extremely strenuous, so that many babies temporarily squint.
In addition, babies are extremely sensitive to light in the first few weeks after birth. The brain must first learn to process these new impressions. Also, the nerve cells that are in the brain and retina have yet to develop. They are needed for high-contrast vision.
Babies see double?
Up to the age of three months, babies see double. Exactly the same information is provided for both eyes. This subsides in the course of the third month of life with the development of spatial vision. This means that your baby’s brain can combine the information it receives in both eyes into one picture.
Did you actually know..
… that most babies have blue eyes immediately after birth? You will only find out the actual eye color of your newborn’s iris after a few months of life.
Vision of babies in the first year of life
In the first twelve months, you will probably notice the greatest development of your newborn. This refers not only to vision, but also to all other senses and physical development.
Here’s how vision changes during your little one’s first year of life:
What do babies see at 2 weeks?
At first, babies see everything in black, white and gray. But already about a week after birth, other colors are added, which they can perceive at least in a weakened form. This includes the colors red, orange, yellow and green.
What babies see at 4 weeks?
After four weeks, the baby’s optic nerve is usually well developed. The little one can therefore already perceive high-contrast and interesting objects well. You can recognize this by the fact that your baby follows the object of its interest with its eyes.
What do babies see at 6 weeks?
Three-dimensional vision is not yet developed at the age of six weeks. This is because your baby cannot yet combine the images from both eyes into one picture. However, the optic nerve continues to develop, so that a temporary strabismus may also become noticeable in your newborn baby.
What babies see at 8 weeks?
From this point on, until around the third month of life, vision continues to improve. It then becomes easier and easier for babies to perceive and react to differences in color. They now also recognize the colors blue and purple, for example, because your baby’s receptors can now also perceive the shorter wavelength that is necessary for these colors.
What do babies see at 3. to 4. Month of life?
By the third month of life, your child’s brain is able to combine the information from both eyes into one image, so he or she no longer sees double images. At the same time, the baby’s sensitivity to light decreases significantly. From the fourth month of life, another sense develops, the sense of touch. This leads to the fact that your baby is now also better at hand-eye coordination. He can not only recognize his favorite rattle, but also reach for it and soon clasp it tightly with his fingers.
How does the baby see from 5. until 8. Month of life?
During this period, your baby develops three-dimensional vision. This improvement in vision makes babies want to explore their environment, which they now perceive in a different way, in more detail. Most toddlers begin to move around at this age, for example by rolling or crawling. Likewise, the little one can fixate objects better. You will recognize this by the fact that the eyes hardly wander anymore. By the way, the first eye examination of your little treasure also takes place during this period.
Developmental phases at a glance
- Babies see in black, white and gray.
- They can perceive faint shades of red, orange, green and yellow.
- Babies see out of focus.
- Babies can perceive contrasting and interesting objects.
- They begin to follow objects with their eyes.
- The optic nerve is forming rapidly.
- Children may become squinty at this age.
- Color differences are perceived better and better.
- Babies recognize the colors blue and purple.
- The information from both eyes combines so that babies no longer see double images.
- The sensitivity to light decreases significantly.
- Hand-eye coordination improves.
- Development of three-dimensional vision.
- Objects can be fixed well with the eyes.
Train the eyesight of babies
Normally, you do not need to specially promote the sense of sight with your little one. The body will improve the vision itself. However, there are also cases in which babies see too little, cannot see spatially or develop a red-green deficiency. Whether this is the case with your baby will become clear during the medical examinations in which your little one’s vision is tested. If the pediatrician detects a corresponding visual impairment, he or she will give you special tasks through which you can promote vision with your baby.
Parents who want to help their babies learn to see in general can use toys, such as graspers, colorful mobiles, play pillows and play trainers. The various effects support the baby’s visual perception as well as hand-eye coordination. According to experts, daylight also helps to promote the networking of nerve cells in the optic nerve.
The most important questions about babies’ sense of sight
Babies see the world upside down?
It has long been assumed that babies initially see the world upside down. However, this fact is not true, because we learn from day one which nerve cells need to be engaged to perceive the correct direction within a space.
When do babies see faces or their hands?
Faces seem to be so attractive to most babies that they notice them at just a few weeks of age. At around two weeks of age, they can already recognize the faces of their parents.
For babies to see their hands, they must not only have developed sufficient vision, but also know that they have hands at all. Usually they perceive it for the first time at the age of six to eight weeks.
Also exchange ideas with other parents in our HiPP BabyClub to learn about their experiences with the development of your baby’s sense of sight.
When do babies start seeing colors?
Babies perceive their first colors already in the first two weeks of life. Initially, it will be the colors red, orange, yellow and green. Tests have shown that babies often perceive the color red particularly intensively. Perhaps you will notice this as well – at the latest when the pediatrician tests the perception of colors and contrasts for the first time or when you playfully discover the world with your baby.
Is a baby blind at birth?
No, babies are not blind at birth. They see all objects further than 20 to 30 centimeters away from them merely out of focus. First of all, peripheral vision – seeing to the side – is well developed. Within a maximum distance of 30 centimeters, the little ones can therefore already recognize a lot. Babies, by the way, already see in the womb. You perceive light and dark there.
Anja Schroder is a mother herself and has been writing as a freelance copywriter for several major family blogs for many years. Her main focus is on family issues, which she uses storytelling to vividly portray in her texts.