Yesterday I loaded both kids into the double stroller so we could do laps around the local park. My toddler, Violet, faces forward and Henry’s car seat drops right in the back, facing me.
Usually he sleeps through the entire walk, but this time he was wide awake, staring at me. Every thirty seconds or so I’d smile and sing-song his name.
He would grin and make noises in response. This continued for the entire thirty minutes it took to get around the park. At home we get right up close to his face to elicit a response but this was the first time I could tell he was really seeing me from the stroller.
It got me to wondering what the little guy is actually seeing. Initially, my pediatrician said to get close to his face so he could see me, so I was wondering if, at two months, he’s starting to see normally.
Experts say that 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. Often, I’ll place Henry near window blinds and position them so the light filters through the slats. He’ll stare at that until he falls asleep. Violet was the same way at that age. We had this black and white table lamp (high contrast) we purchased from IKEA and she’d stare at it for hours or until she fell asleep.
So what exactly is my son seeing right now? Dr. Stephen Levine, a pediatric ophthalmologist says 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.
What really blew my mind was that a child’s eyesight approaches full development around 3 years of age, although it may continue to improve slightly for several years. This means my 2-year-old daughter, Violet, isn’t seeing the world fully yet? I thought vision was fully developed around one-year-old or so.
Your pediatrician should check your baby’s eyes at every visit, and screen your child’s eyesight no later than his 3-year-old checkup. However, if you notice eye crossing lasting longer than a few months or you think your baby isn’t seeing well, it’s important to get the eyes checked sooner.
So yes, my little Henry guy is seeing me but any further than a few feet away and I probably look like a Picasso painting. Which, hey, it’s probably better than my actual appearance these days. Let’s just say my make-up regimen has been, how shall I say, NON-EXISTENT. Perhaps God planned it that way, you know? If newborns saw what their sleep-deprived mothers actually look like they’d probably want to crawl back into the womb.
He sure loves looking at Dad, though:
What Baby’s Smiling Means– and how it affects your chemistry!