Sunday, October 6, 2013


Sight is one of the most complex senses. The eye structure is developed in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy but the eyelids may be fused until 26 weeks and the lenses are cloudy until about 4 months after birth. The rods develop between 28 and 34 weeks and then the development of the cones begins. The rods are light sensors and allow your eyes to adjust to variations in light. They also help with peripheral vision (seeing out of the side of your eye). The cones are what allow us to see colors.  The eyes continue to develop until your child is around 3 years of age.

Vision takes a large area of the brain at the back. This area develops before the baby is born in the absence of stimulation (Usually by 34 weeks).  At birth, your baby can see at close range. The best focus is at about 8 to 10 inches from their eyes (20-25 cm). Babies can see color but early on they can see strong contrast much better. They show a preference for looking at simple geometric patterns in two contrasting colors in the first 2 months. By around 3 months, babies are more interested in faces (both real and in photos or drawings) and pay attention to more variations in color. At around 4 months, the lenses clear and baby can now focus beyond the 8-10 inch range. This is often very noticeable, especially during feeding, because all of a sudden the baby is looking all around and not focused on the task at hand.  He has just discovered a whole new world.

Vision not only involves seeing with the eyes but the ability to move the eyes in coordination. The perception of depth and the use of eye hand coordination rely on the movement of the eyes. In the first two months a baby may appear cross eyed at times but by 5 months the muscles of the eyes should be strong enough that a baby can move the eyes together to smoothly follow a moving object across, up and down and in a circle as well as to guide their hand to reach and hit an object. When babies begin to crawl, these skills develop even further. Babies first learn about depth by looking and reaching for objects that are at different distances. Although there is some concept of depth in the first few months , this learning really takes off in the second quarter (4-6 months). As baby becomes more mobile from 6-12 months, he learns more about depth and can begin to understand it better.    Visual skills continue to develop until 6 or 7 years old.

Babies eyes should be protected. They are very sensitive to light in early infancy and should be shielded as much as possible from harsh strong light in their eyes. It is never too soon to begin to use sunglasses on infants who are out in strong sunlight. If your baby is not moving his eyes smoothly to follow an object or
continues to have crossed eyes after 5 months, you should mention this to your doctor. If there is some problem, it is easier to solve if it is caught earlier and it will help in the continued visual development that takes place.

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