Since babies are born looking like they are perfectly developed and right on schedule, we often assume that they are done developing in the biological sense. In actuality, newborns have a long road of development ahead of them before they are anything like us adults. One way your newborn is a lot different than you might realize is in his eyesight. We usually assume that our baby is looking at us clearly, but his or her vision will not become clear and distinct until three months. Even then, it will still be fuzzy and mostly black and white. After that, your baby will be able to see red most clearly first. Eventually, the other colors will follow suit.

This explains why your baby responds to highly contrasting toys and patterns. Black and white checkerboard patterns and stripes are particularly engaging to your infant in the first few months, and then red and bright colored toys are exciting after that. These colors are new to your baby so he will be very excited and distracted by them. For that same reason, it’s important that you don’t go overboard when decorating the nursery. By using stark contrasts and red accents in the theme of your baby’s nursery, you could distract him or her as the eyesight slowly develops. The environment will not be very soothing. That’s why soft, pale colors are usually best for nurseries. Vibrant contrasts might make it more difficult for your baby to sleep as the bursts of color will constantly be grabbing his or her attention.

Most of us assume that we are born with the ability to see. We are, but that vision is far different than the vision we are currently used to. A baby’s eyesight is similar to that of a colorblind person who forgot to wear his glasses for nearsightedness. Things are out of focus and colorless. Luckily, your baby is hardwired to see your face, so despite the blue he will always be able to flash you a smile even before his vision is fully developed. If it seems as though your baby cannot focus on anything at three months, make sure you let the pediatrician know. The inability to focus or the appearance of one eye sinking inward is a sign that the eyesight might not be developing properly. Many early eyesight problems can be corrected with sufficient time.

Source: Dominique Bremond-Gignac et al: Visual Development in Infants: Physiological and Pathological Mechanisms. Current Opinion in Ophthalmology Volume 22 Issue 1 pp. S1-S8 April 2011


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