Most people know that 20/20 is perfect vision, so it may be shocking to new parents to learn that their baby is born with vision somewhere between 20/200 and 20/400. Therefore at birth, your newborn can only see about eight to twelve inches from their face.
In addition, newborns often look as if they are cross-eyed, which causes concern for some new parents. But rest assured, it is perfectly normal and common across the board for newborns.
In most instances, your baby’s eyes will right themselves in just a few months.
Why Are Babies Cross-Eyed?
There are a handful of reasons a newborn’s eyes are crossed. First among them is that their eyes are still developing. Newborns have spent the last nine months in near darkness, only seeing shadows or glimpses of light. The world outside the womb is bright; therefore, it will take a while for their eyes to adjust and learn how to focus correctly.
In addition, their eyesight and muscle control, like the rest of their body, is uncoordinated and often jerky. They aren’t able to exhibit complete control over their eyes yet, so sometimes, one goes one direction while the other travels the opposite.
Another reason babies tend to be cross-eyed is some are born with extra skin folds in the inner corner of their eyes. Or, if they have a naturally wide nose, it may give off the appearance of being cross-eyed. As they grow and the skin folds disappear, the appearance of being cross-eyed should also disappear.
With practice and time, their eyes will learn to focus and follow, and by four months, most babies will no longer appear cross-eyed.
When to be concerned
In rare instances, a newborn has a condition called strabismus. Strabismus is a misalignment of the eyes in which only one eye can focus while the other wanders. The condition tends to run in families and results from nerves and eye muscles.
Signs of Strabismus:
- Eyes that look misaligned
- Eyes that don’t move together
- Eyes that regularly drift outward or cross inward
- Your baby often tilts its head, squints, or frequently blinks, particularly when in the sun or exposed to bright light.
If your baby was premature, more than four weeks early, it is important to gauge developmental milestones by their due date, not their delivery date.
Baby Eye Development
At birth, a baby only has peripheral vision, and central vision is still developing. However, their eyes are sensitive to light. Within a few weeks, their retinas develop, and they will begin seeing shades of light and dark patterns.
Your baby can see large shapes and will enjoy bright, bold colors like red, blue, yellow, black, and white. They may also be able to focus on objects right in front of them and up to three feet away.
2 to 4-Months
Your baby’s eyes may still struggle to work together, but they’re getting there! They will likely still appear cross-eyed at times. At two months, your baby should be able to track an object with their eyes slowly, and by three months, may begin to reach out and bat at objects.
If your baby still appears cross-eyed or one eye consistently turns outwards or inwards toward their nose at four months old, speak with their pediatrician.
Helping Your Baby’s Eyes Develop
Newborns and young babies enjoy bold colors and contrasting patterns like black and white. So when purchasing toys, mobiles, and books, look for bright, bold colors and large patterns.
Babies also enjoy looking at faces. Read board books to your baby with a variety of faces in them, and provide them with an infant-safe mirror to look at and play with, especially once they can see more than a few inches from their face.
Slowly move objects in front of your baby, starting around a month old, to see if they attempt to focus or track the object. Brightly colored balls and soft blocks work well for this type of activity.
Hold your baby on your lap, facing you so they can see your face when you talk to them. Not only will they enjoy seeing your face, but the interactions will help develop their language and social skills.
Take your baby for walks and talk to them about everything you see. Point out objects, colors, shapes, etc. The more you expose your baby to the world, the more their brain develops!
As quickly as your baby’s vision develops, they won’t be able to see 20/20 until their first birthday. Your pediatrician will do regular vision checks at each check-up starting at birth and will continue throughout their childhood.
Unless there is an issue, your child won’t need to see an eye doctor until they are two or three years old. However, it is always a good idea to bring up any concerns or oddities you notice, if for nothing else, for peace of mind.
The one thing you don’t need to worry about, though, is if they are a little cross-eyed at birth. Give them time, engage them in play and conversation, and your adorable baby’s eyes should look absolutely perfect by four months!