The visual development of infants

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Visual system is widely known to enable organisms to process visual details. Through this part of the central nervous system, people can get a representation of the surrounding world. But few people know clearly about this system. In fact, infants are born with an undeveloped vision system and they will take several months to develop their vision fully. As a parent, it is really curious to know the development process of your kid’s vision system at different ages.

The pregnant period is linked with infants’ visual system

The development of an infant vision system starts when he or she is still in mother’s body, so this period is very important for babies’ health. Besides proper nutrition and the proper amount of rest, pregnant women should avoid smoking, alcohol and drugs. These toxins, especially smoking, are hazardous and can cause multiple problems in babies. Eye related conditions are also possibly caused. Some common medications such as aspirin may also need to be avoided during pregnancy.

An postnatal eye examination is necessary for infants

At birth, your baby should have an eye exam to make sure whether he has congenital cataracts or other hereditary eye problems. Generally, a newborn can only see objects in black and white and shades of gray because nerve cells in retina have not fully developed. It takes time for infants to accommodate their vision. Many researchers believe that infants prefer large, high-contrast stimuli, such as mother’s face. When your newborn baby gets an eye infection, an antibiotic ointment should be applied.

Infants of one month old can distinguish certain colors

In the first month of your baby’s life, his eyes are not sensitive to light. So the light in nursery would not affect their sleep. Infants have the ability to tell different colors. Generally, infants of one week old can see red, orange, yellow and green. And they will be able to see blue and violet later. Don’t be too nervous if your baby’s eyes sometimes appear uncoordinated. Once a large and constant misalignment of infants’ eyes is found, you should consult the eye doctor right away. To stimulate your baby’s vision, you can choose something with contrasting colors and shapes.

Visual acuity develops when infants are two to three months old

Infants develop sharper visual acuity when they are two months or three months old. In this period, your child can follow moving objects and choose what he or she wants to see without having to move the head. Infants’ eyes are also more sensitive to light. The American Optometric Association (AOA) gives some advices on the visual development of two to three months old infants. Talk to your baby when you walk around the room. Provide some lights for visual stimulation when they are awake. Change the objects around your baby or just change the location of your baby’s crib. Check your baby’s sleeping posture to decrease the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

The development of eye-hand coordination

At 4 to 6 months of age, babies have better eye-hand coordination and they can quickly locate objects. Color vision will be similar to that of adults and at this stage your child can see all colors. At the age of 6 months, babies have significant advance of the brain and should receive another eye exam. With this eye exam, you can make sure whether your child has healthy eyes and normal vision.

Avoiding eye injuries is critical for seven to twelve-month-old infants

Infants have a better awareness of their overall body and can coordinate their vision with their body movements when they are seven to twelve months old. Since this period is crucial for infants’ vision development, you should pay more attention to bumps, bruises, eye injuries and other serious injuries. Make sure you have put barriers in front of stairwells.

Premature infants are at higher risks of congenital vision problems

Babies that are born 37 weeks in advance of gestation are considered premature and they may have some vision problems. Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) can cause poor vision, retinal detachment or even scarring of the retina. All premature babies may have ROP and the newborn should be placed in a high-oxygen environment immediately after birth. Nystagmus can cause the eyes to drift slowly in one direction and then suddenly change to another direction. It can be found at birth and develop during the following weeks or months. Congenital cataracts, albinism and incomplete development of the optic nerve are also risk factors.

Regular eye exams are important for infants’ eye health

You should also pay close attention to your baby’s eye alignment. Early detection of eye alignment abnormalities such as strabismus can avoid the development of amblyopia. The cost for eye exams may be concerned. The American Optometric Association established the InfantSEE program in 2005 for children’s vision care. Optometrists as AOA member provide a comprehensive infant eye assessment within the child’s first year of life without making any charge. For detailed information of eye exam cost, you can contact the AOA.