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Can Blue-Eyed Parents Have a Brown-Eyed Baby?

By Katie Allison Granju |

Looking at the photo to your left – the one of that very bald, very blue-eyed baby girl of mine – it’s hard to imagine that at one point in the first 6 weeks of her life, I insisted that I thought her eyes were going to be brown.  Everyone to whom I mentioned this prediction guffawed, pointing out that both Jon and I have blue eyes (both of us actually have incredibly unremarkable blue/grey eyes), thus making it genetically impossible for me to throw a brown eyed baby.

But wait, I thought to myself,  neither of my parents have brown eyes (father-blue, mother-green) and yet my little brother’s eyes are as brown as brown can be. So unless we want to believe that a brown-eyed milkman had some role in my brother’s genetic make-up, that means that two parents without brown eyes can indeed have a baby with brown eyes.

Right?

I was a terrible science student in high school and college. I barely made it through the basic biology classes I was required to take. I remember finding the study of genetics particularly confusing, but as I continued insisting that Baby G’s eyes might be brown, and as people kept telling me that simply wasn’t possible, I thought I remembered hearing my college biology professor explain that two brown eyed parents could theoretically produce a blue eyed child.  Still, friends and family kept teasing me about my stubborn insistence that it was even POSSIBLE that G’s eyes would be brown, so I decided to do some Googling.

It turns out that I was, in fact, correct: it’s completely possible for parents who share the same eye color to produce a child with a completely different eye color.

Most of us learned the model for determining eye color that G.C. Davenport and C.B. Davenport devised in 1907. The Davenport model wrongly says brown eye color is always dominant over blue eye color, which means that two blue-eyed parents always have blue-eyed kids. We know better now.

“Although not common, two blue-eyed parents can produce children with brown eyes,” says Richard A. Sturm, a Principal Research Fellow at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.

Eye color is a complex trait that depends on the state of several interacting genes. The gene that usually decides the issue (blue eyes or brown eyes) is the OCA2 gene on chromosome 15. But it comes in different strengths. A person with a weak form of the OCA2 gene will have blue eyes. Likewise a person with a strong form will have brown eyes.

The plot thickens, though, because an individual also has other eye-color genes that each has a say in the final eye-color outcome. For example, if one of these lesser genes is strong, it can make the weak form (blue) of OCA2 work much more effectively — almost like the strong form (brown). Then the eye color may be a light brown or muddy grey. In fact, the resulting color can be any shade of brown, hazel/green, or blue depending on the strengths of the interactions.

Yes… Two brown-eyed parents can have a blue-eyed child. In fact, this is fairly common.


Aha!  I adopted a very self congratulatory tone as I shared this info with all the naysayers who were telling me that there was no way I could be right about newborn Baby G’s eyes being brown.  But then, of course, her eyes began getting blue-er and blue-er, and by 8 weeks of age, the child had eyes the color of Cookie Monster’s fur.  Totally blue. Unquestionably blue. So I had been right about the genetics but wrong about my baby’s actual eye color.  Oh well.

But it was interesting for me to confirm my understanding that two people CAN give birth to a child with totally different eye color.  And now I am curious to find out whether any of you have had a big eye color surprise with your own baby. Do you and baby’s father have blue eyes, for example, but your baby was born with brown eyes? Or the other way around?

What color are your baby’s eyes, and how do they compare to the rest of the family? Tell me in the comments below.

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About Katie Allison Granju

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Katie Allison Granju

Katie Allison Granju is the married mother of five children, ranging in age from toddler to teenager. In addition to blogging for Babble Voices, she also publishes her own blog, Big Good Thing. Katie also enjoys working in her flower garden, riding her bike, and feeding the chickens she keeps in the backyard of her family's large Victorian house. Read bio and latest posts → Read Katie Allison's latest posts →

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52 thoughts on “Can Blue-Eyed Parents Have a Brown-Eyed Baby?

  1. Tracy says:

    I have green eyes and my ex has blue-green eyes. We have a brown eyed child (as well as a child with blue eyes and a child with blue-green-gray eyes). With my husband, I have one child with hazel eyes and another child with bright blue eyes. Our family is a genetic mess.

  2. Julie says:

    I have brown and my husband has bright blue eyes, but our daughter’s eyes are gray-green. They started out gray-blue but have changed to green. She’s a year old now, so I’m curious to see whether they will continue to change. (I know they supposedly are “set” by 6 months or so, but I know several parents whose babies’ eyes changed later than that.)

  3. Sarah B says:

    I remember being in high school and learning the old-fashioned version of “two blue eyed parents cannot have a brown eyed child”. My best friend had brown eyes and her parents were blue eyed. We were convinced there was funny business somewhere along the way. Absolutely convinced. Which of course was ridiculous, but hey, bio class doesn’t lie, eh?

  4. Michelle says:

    My husband has brown eyes. Mine are a bit on the hazel side. My parents are brown as well. His parents are one brown and one blue. Our oldest son has brown eyes so dark they are almost black and our youngest has bright blues like Baby G. People constantly ask if my boys are “real” brothers and if they are both mine!

  5. Leslie says:

    Mine are blue and my husband’s are brown. #1 has his eyes, hair, and skin tone, and I thought I would never get any babies to look like me! But #2 and #3 are both blue-eyed. #4 has pale green eyes, and #5 has what I would call true hazel eyes–with shades of blue, green, and light brown.

  6. Melissa says:

    I believe it! My husband and I both have brown eyes; A ll four of my kids have blue eyes!

  7. Jenn says:

    It’s so true, anything combo is possible, and I remember my mom getting into a debate w/ her friend, who was sure my grandmother must have been cheating. My mother had two blue eyed parents, and out of the 13 children they had, three have brown eyes, and 10 have blue.

    Another example, my ex’s parents both had dark brown (Sicilian) eyes. Out of the four children they had, two have brown eyes, one has green, and one has blue.

    I think it’s fascinating!

  8. Cristina says:

    I have dark brown eyes, my husband light blue. Our 1st three kids have brown eyes (with dark hair too), our 4th child has blue eyes (blond hair). There is the 1 in 4 chance!!!!

  9. devlyn says:

    @Leslie – This gives me hope that the children I’ll eventually have with my fiancé will maybe end up with blue eyes. I have blue eyes, he has dark brown eyes. Not that I don’t love his brown eyes, but I like my own gray-blue eyes better. ;)

  10. Maggie says:

    My dad had blue eyes and my mom has light brown. Each of us 4 kids has a different eye color: green, blue, dark brown and hazel. I’m the hazel and my husband is blue/green. Our kids have blue and and dark brown.

  11. Yvonne says:

    Eye color is a mystery to me. I had bright blue eyes until I was 12 when they gradually turned blue gray and then green. They are still green. (My father was blue-eyed and my mother hazel-eyed.) My chidlren are bi-racial. Most of them started out with blue eyes, but they changed to green or brown by the time they reached 2.

  12. Earth Muffin says:

    My eyes are a brown-green-gold mix, I guess some people would call them hazel. My husband’s eyes are as blue as blue can be. My oldest son has dark brown eyes and my youngest’s eyes are a very strange grey-green mix.

    My husband’s parents both have brown eyes. His are as blue as little G’s. Go figure…

  13. wohm says:

    My husband and I both have brown eyes. Our 2yo daughter has bright blue-grey eyes.

  14. lisa says:

    Yes, the classic dominant/recessive model we all learn in high school is oversimplified (and therefore “wrong” in the eyes of most people, because our brains like rules). Nature operates on possiblities, which makes it messy and interesting, but hard to make rules about. I’m just impressed that so many people you know remember their “simplified” genetics! (This is why we teach the simple versions. If we just said “It depends” nobody would pay any attention to science teachers.)

    Btw mine are bright blue, as are both daughters, although younger’s are greying up a bit. Husband’s are a beautiful hazel, and he’s a little bummed to be unrepresented.

  15. Carrie says:

    It is amazing. My husband has mediteranean roots, with olive skin, light brown eyes and nearly black hair. I am very fair with deep blue eyes and light brown hair. We both thought that for sure his traits would be dominant. No, it’s just amazing what the genetic mix-up can come up with. Everyone says she looks just like my husband, but her skin is fair like mine, her hair light bown and her eyes – bizzaro. Her eyes catch everyone off guard. Blue around the outside edge & green in the center, not hazel, we call it aquamarine.

  16. Stacie says:

    We got the shock of our life when our second daughter popped out with big BLUE eyes, both my husband and myself have very, very dark brown eyes. Infact my oldest daughter’s eyes are so dark they are almost black…but our 7-month old has very blue eyes…causing all our friends to comment on how cute the UPS man is in our neighborhood! wink, wink!

    Both our father’s have blue eyes (so based on the old model of genetics we had a 25% chance of a “light-eyed baby”. I really think they are the same blue as my father’s and grandfather’s eyes, but completely unexpeted.

    She is also the ONLY blue-eyed girl in our family, up until her arrival only the few boys in our family had the blue eyes!

  17. utbell says:

    Both of my parents have green eyes… 2 of their 4 children have blue eyes..the other 2 have green. I’ll be curious to see what happens with our new baby. I have blue eyes and Jacob has brown.

  18. Melanie says:

    I have blue eyes (my dad had blue eyes and my mom had hazel eyes). My husband and both his parents have brown eyes. My daughter was born with blue eyes that changed to hazel sometime between the ages of 1 and 2.

  19. Shannon says:

    I have hazel eyes and my husband has light brown and we have a blue eyed boy!! I expected them to change at some point but now at four it’s not going to happen.

  20. KGP says:

    Reading these comments is so interesting!

    Mine are green (my parents are brown and blue), my husband’s are bright blue (his parents are brown and blue), and our son’s are brown.

  21. Nicki says:

    I have “ice blue” eyes. My dad has brown eyes and my mom has hazel eyes. But both my grandfathers had the ice blue eyes like mine.

    My husband has blue eyes and both my children have blue eyes too!

  22. Betsy says:

    As a child, I always wondered about my eye and hair color. I was the only blonde, blue eyed grandchild on either side of the family. As I got older and expressed my concerns, my parents laughed and showed me a picture of my paternal grandfather. Blonde with eyes so blue you knew they were blue even in a black and white photo! My maternal great-grandfather was also blue eyed so I felt relieved to know I was with the right parents!

  23. Liz says:

    My eyes are dark brown and my husband’s are very very blue. I thought I would have a shot at a blue-eyed kid, because my dad’s eyes are blue, as are both my husband’s parents. Apparently one brown-eyed parent and one brown-eyed parent rule the genetic odds though – both my boys have dark brown eyes.

  24. Clisby says:

    There’s never been any question that two brown-eyed parents could have a blue-eyed child – that’s entirely consistent with the old-fashioned biology class explanation.

    The explanation for the far less common case of two blue-eyed parents having a brown-eyed child is quite interesting.

  25. Cousin Julie says:

    Of our bio sons, two youngest are bright blue, and the oldest is brown, while I’m brown and my husband is blue.

    After reading this earlier today I can’t stop thinking about our youngest son’s birthmom. She had dark brown, almost black eyes, and wanted very much for the baby’s eyes to be hazel, like his birthfather (and they are). It was very bittersweet, because she’s a beautiful girl, with beautiful dark eyes, and we told her as much.

    Sorry for the tangent – I think Christmas is making me a little maudlin and reflective. Very interesting post, Katie, and a gorgeous pic of little G.

  26. Tina Underwood says:

    My eyes are green with brown freckles and my husband’s eyes are brown. Both of our sons have blue eyes. I never thought we would have blue-eyed children.

  27. Cheryl says:

    Fascinating! I was always teased in my family for not having blue eyes when Mom, Dad, and both my brother and sister have blue eyes. My green/hazel eyes were the result of the milkman or a mutation I was always told. My almost black-eyed Hubby and I have two kidlets, one with dark brown and another with grey. Interesting, the brown-eyed girl didn’t become that until well after her 1st birthday.

  28. jzzy55 says:

    I don’t see why it matters as long as the eyes are healthy.

  29. Dayna says:

    I have middle of the road blue eyes with a navy ring around the irises and my husband has dark brown eyes. Together we have produced an aqua eyed (no other way to describe them) boy and three dark brown eyed girls.

    It’s always great for the girls to hear from perfect strangers.. “Too bad you didn’t get your brother’s eyes!” … ugh.

    Baby G is toocute.

  30. Shannon says:

    I once wrote a column about this. If I recall correctly, two parents can produce 64 trillion unique genetic combinations in their children, and that doesn’t count mutations. I find this fascinating on two levels. First, that all that information can be contained in two microscopic cells, and second, that there was a one in 64 trillion chance that I turned out to be me. It boggles the mind!

  31. Monika says:

    My parents have green eyes (with some brown flecks) and dark brown, whereas I have (as you put it) “perfectly unremarkable blue grey eyes”.

    My husband has eyes so dark brown, I cannot distinguish the iris from the pupil. Our son has chocolate brown eyes, and our daughter hazel.

    The bigger mystery to me is hair colour… and how come our children have such light coloured hair? (my husband’s is almost black, and mine is your colour)

  32. Beth says:

    My husband has one brown eye and one half green/half brown eye! I have washed out, pale blue/green eyes. My son has beautiful true green eyes and my daughter has the most intense blue eyes. Genetics are something else…..

  33. Mel says:

    My husband & I have blue eyes & dark brown hair. Both of our sons have blue eyes, one with dark hair and the other blonde. It’s like a box of chocolates. Ya never know what you’re gonna get.

  34. cath youn says:

    I have never seen two true blue or light gray blue eyes have a true dark brown eyed child. Possible? Maybe, but unlikely. However, my husband’s uncle is married to someone with vague colored eyes, they are a gray, blue , green, hazel. The 5 kids have all different colored eyes but there is a lot of different color inflection in them. Only one has eyes that are true undisputed color and that is a true light blue like his father. So any of those vague eye colored cousin could have brown eyed children and be considered a blue eyed parent.

    My nephew has blue/gray/hazel eyes and many times he is considered blue eyed when he is not a true,clear blued eyed child. Again, if he should have a child with some one with his eye color or even a true blue, the brown could come through since the inflection is there.

    I have a child who had leukemia and while at the pediatric oncology clinic there were many surprises when DNA type testing was done for a bone marrow match. More kids than one would expect are not of the parentage one might have thought. It was an issue in that situation. One was a brown eyed child of blue eyed parents involved.

    Hair color is such a mix of genes that all kinds of combinations are possible. But again, one will rarely if ever see a truly black haired child of two very light blond parents. I’ve never seen it. It is perfect possible and even expected for dark parents to have light haired kids even though the Mendelian model is really not true for hair color. Two dominants can each have recessive traits which can pair up to come through in a child. That is no mystery at all. It’s when you see two traits that fall under the recessive category (with no mix in there) that there is an issue if the result is a dominant color that is not at all present such as two true light blue colored parents with a dark brown eyed child or two white blond parents with a black haired child. Doesn’t happen often, if at all. Still possible because neither hair nor eye color are true to the classic Mendelian model.

  35. Messa says:

    I believe it! My husband and I have dark brown eyes and our firstborn has bright bright (similar to baby G’s) blue eyes! The only blue eyes in either of our families are our maternal great grandmothers!

  36. Susan says:

    My husband has brown eyes and mine are green. We have fraternal twins, a boy and a girl, who are now 11. Our daughter has always had very dark brown eyes, but our son started out with beautiful, bright blue eyes like your Baby G. When he was about two years old, his eye color slowly began to change and they are now a dark hazel/light brown. I had so hoped he’d be blue or green eyed, but it’s looking like he, too, will have brown eyes, albeit lighter than his sister’s.

  37. Jenna says:

    I always understood that two blue-eyed parents would have blue-eyed children 99.99% of the time, with only a million to one chance of any other color. As for any other pairing, brown/brown, brown/blue, brown/green, hazel/green, etc., the sky was the limit as far as eye color of the offspring. That’s about all I recall from biology.

  38. Melane says:

    I have brown, DH has green. First son had very blue eyes for a long time. Everyone told us they would stay blue. After a year they started to turn into hazel and by 5 yes old they are now brown. Second son just born has same bright blue eyes. At 6 months they are still there. He also has blond hair when we both have brown. My mom said my sister and I had blue until almost 2, So while I would love for him to keep them I’m expecting a change. I went online and found a tool to plotthis and the percentages are there. Something like 6% for blue.

  39. Aimee V says:

    In my family, both of my parents have brown eyes. My mom had 4 children; 2 of my brothers have brown eyes, I have brown eyes and my other brother had blue! My ex-husbands mom has blue eyes and his dad had green eyes. My ex has green eyes. We have 3 children together; our oldest girl (she is 12 now) had bright bright blue eyes until she was almost 2 years old then they started changing to green. Since then she has had her dad’s beautiful green and sometimes they look blue, eyes. Our son who is 4 has my big brown eyes and our youngest daughter who is 3 has very blue eyes w/a hint of green. We thought hers would change to green like her sisters did but they are still blue!! We both have other children from previous relationships and his oldest daughter has green just like his and his son has brown. (both of their mothers have brown eyes) and my oldest son has brown eyes just like me! (his father has brown eyes also) It is all kind of interesting how it works out and both my ex and I have relatives on both sides of our family’s with blue eyes!

  40. Mary says:

    Both my husband and I have green eyes……..very green eyes. Both of our children have the bluest of eyes I have ever seen!

  41. Kata says:

    My son had the same clear lovely sea-blue eyes, as G on the foto. Now he has hazel-green, turning brown…

  42. Mar D says:

    My husband and I both have varying green colored eyes. Mine can look a little gray or blue sometimes. Our girls have very blue eyes. They are different shades, but definitely blue. My oldest sister and her husband both have lighter colored eyes (blue for her and a greenish color for him). And they have two kids with very dark brown with a greenish hue to them. One has kind of lighter brown eyes. One has blue eyes. We can’t wait to see what the new baby has.

  43. moggy says:

    According to my biology classes… (haven’t read the other posts yet)

    Yup, very very easy for two brown eyed parents to have a blue eyed child if both parents carry a recessive gene for blue eyes.

    Your brother probably has brown eyes from your green-eyed mother. Green eyes tend to come from the brown eyed gene, like in my Polynesian family (but can come from blue too). Most of us were born with brown eyes that changed to vivid green.

    Two blue parents with a brown eyed kid = very rare but possible, just like your article :)

  44. Jen M says:

    the thing i remember from HS bio class was that 2 blue eyed parents can only have blue eyed kids. since my husband and i both have blue eyes, seemed a slam dunk that our boys would too. They both started out with vivid blue – until the older boy’s started to turn grey-blue, even green at certain times. I did some research and found that I actually do NOT have blue eyes since they also have brown specs. my son got the same kind of funky eyes!

  45. Julie says:

    I think one thing people are forgetting, is the orginal model, in this, two brown eyed people can always have a possibility of having a blue eyed child. I think the real subject here, is how many people have blue eyes, and there spouse has blue eyes, and there child, when fulling developed… has dark eyes?

    I still believe the basic model, but do see what the other guy is saying, that some genes are weaker or stronger than others.

    When I had bio in school, I loved learning genetics, and went thru my whole family, and everyone followed that model. Including my daughter.. she has the same eyes I do, blue, with hints of yellow and green in the center, and her dad has baby blues.. too. My father had brown eyes, and my mother blue.

  46. laiba amjad says:

    well im 11 n i have jet black eyes wish they were blue :(

  47. audre says:

    My husband and I have an on going joke about who really fathered our son! We both have brown as brown can be eyes and hair! Our son on the other hand is the definition on a toe head! White hair and stunning blue eyes! Never in my wildest dreams did I picture our son to have these features! LOL. He is stinking adorable though. Perfect in every way!

  48. Corrina says:

    My sons father and i both have blue eyes and our son has brown eyes… his current girlfriend insisted to me that i didnt know who my sons father was but it wasnt nathan because nathan and I have blue eyes and our son has brown!!! Guess that crazy girl had no clue what she was talking about! Great to hear this story and thanks for clearing things up

  49. Erin says:

    My husband and I both have hazel green eyes. My mother has blue and his brother has blue and some scattered grandparents and our daughter has blue eyes!

  50. cath says:

    Both my husband and i have blue eyes but our 1st born has brown eyes. When she first arrived she had dark skin black hair and dark eyes. We are both blonde and pale. Now she is older she is very pale and blonde but still has brown eyes. I know who the father of my child is but yes people have thought it was their right to ask and we get looks too but she is our daughter. Both my mum and his dad have dark brown eyes. So i guess they came fron there. She was also born with a cleft lip and pallete so maybe its conected who knows.not me but as long as me and my husband know where she comes from people should mind their own business

  51. Yvonne says:

    When I gave birth to my fifth girl child I thought it odd that the doctor didn’t put her on my belly after I had delivered. She was taken across the room and put into one of those hospital baby carts and it was located by a doorway that led into another room. When I finally got to see her she had brown eyes. As she has grown she has retained the dark chocolate brown eye coloring and has an olive skin color. I can’t lie – it has pasted through my mind on several occations that maybe she had been switched in the hospital. Although my side of the family runs back to chippewa indian it has been with green eyes. One of my daughters has green eyes, one sister, my father, his father and my grandfather. My mother’s side has grey and blue eyes. My daughter’s father has grey eyes as does his mother and father. The only picture that I saw of his father’s father looked like he had grey or blue eyes. I feel teerible asking this, and I have never said a thing to her about my concerns, but should I have a DNA test run on her to see if she is my biological child without her knowing to ease my mind?

  52. Anne champkins says:

    Just to let everyone know, I have brown eyes, and my parents have blue eyes. I was taught, in a biology class, that this was impossible. A bit of a shock at age 14. I eventually did a sneaky DNA test at the age of 46, after confronting my mother in my 20′s and a denial, and it materialised that he wasn’t my father. I have read and researched many many sites that states that 2 blue eyed parents can indeed have a brown eyed child, but I would suggest that bar 1 in a million, the mother has strayed, and the only way to definitely find out is DNA, as that puts pay to speculation, it doesn’t lie. Please read and take note of the basic big b, little b rules!!!!

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