How Long Does It Take a Newborn Infant to Be Able to See Clearly?

Newborn babies are able to see objects clearly that are about 8 to 12 inches away from them. This is approximately the distance from your face to your baby's face when you hold her in your arms. Although your newborn can see you clearly when you hold her, much of the rest of the world is still a blur to her.

The world looks very different to newborns. (Image: Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Newborns and Vision

Newborns cannot see in color and can focus on an object about 8 to 12 inches away, but only for seconds at a time, according to the Children's Vision Information Network at the Wichita Vision Development Center. At this age, the eye muscles are not yet developed fully, so newborns can't control their eye movements perfectly and their eyes often cross. They start to be able to see in color and control their eye movements at about 4 months.

Faces and Contrasts

Newborns pay more attention to faces than they do to anything else, probably because most of the world looks blurry and indistinct to a newborn, except the face of the person holding him. Newborns also respond to objects that have contrasting shapes and colors more than they do to objects with a homogenous appearance. If you hold an object your baby finds interesting at a distance of about 12 inches away from her and move it slowly through her field of vision, she may try to follow the movement.

Eyesight

The eyesight of a newborn is about 20/400, according to pediatric ophthalmologist Dr. Steven Levine in an article in CNN Health. This means that an object about 20 feet away would look as blurry to a newborn as an object about 400 feet away would look to an adult with normal eyesight. A baby's eyesight improves to 20/60 by about 6 months and that it might take until but until age 3 for a baby's vision to reach full development, according to Dr. Levine.

Signs to Watch Out For

Parents should take their children in to the eye doctor for the first time at age 3, or earlier if the family has a history of vision problems, advises the Children's Vision Information Network. Parents should consult a doctor if their baby cannot seem to follow a moving object with his eyes, if his eyes cross or move in circles for longer than a moment or if they look cloudy or seem to have a film over them.

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