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When will my baby see normally?

Asked by Bella, Charlotte, North Carolina

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I have a newborn. My pediatrician says to get close to his face when he's awake so he can see me. When will he start to see normally?

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Living Well Expert Dr. Jennifer Shu Pediatrician,
Children's Medical Group

Expert answer

Congratulations, and thanks for your question. I hear this question often from new parents.

While a baby's hearing develops fully before birth (by the end of the second trimester), a new infant can only clearly see about a foot or so in front of him -- which is conveniently about the distance between his face and yours when you are feeding or holding him.

In addition to gazing at human faces, babies tend to like bright colors and contrasts, probably because they are easiest to see. Dull objects and people at a distance may appear like shadowy figures.

For more details I consulted with Dr. Stephen Levine, a pediatric ophthalmologist at Thomas Eye Group in Atlanta. Dr. Levine reports that a baby's vision allows him to see close objects at first (about the equivalent of 20/400 vision, meaning he can clearly see an object 20 feet away that a person with normal vision can see well from 400 feet away) and then improves greatly, to about 20/60 by 6 months of age.

By a few months of age he will start to make eye contact and track moving objects around a room. A child's eyesight approaches full development around 3 years of age, although it may continue to improve slightly for several years.

Because of this rapid development of vision, it's important that any problems be addressed as early as possible in order to avoid or minimize permanent vision loss.

Your pediatrician will check your baby's eyes at every visit and screen your child's eyesight no later than his 3-year-old checkup, but if you notice eye crossing lasting longer than a few months or think your baby isn't seeing well, it's important to get the eyes checked sooner.

If you have further questions about your baby's vision, be sure to contact his doctor. Good luck!

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