Historically, it was believed that babies were born with little or no sight. However, we now know a newborn baby’s vision is very complex, and the muscles within his eye are actually very developed. Despite many articles stating that babies can only focus 7-10 inches away from their own face, babies are actually able to focus at many different distances. However, the muscles used control the eye and allowing it to focus, are not very well controlled until a baby is about 2 months old. In addition, the retina (or more specifically, the fovea) and the functioning of the brain are not fully developed in newborns, meaning that they even when they can physically focus their eyes on something, it can remain blurry. However the newborns vision improves very rapidly and by the time a baby is 8 months old his vision is almost as good as it ever will be.
Babies will automatically prefer to look at objects which have high contrast edges and therefore videos, pictures and toys which are black and white will make fun viewing for your baby. However it is important that the objects you surround your baby with adapt to their development. Within 1 month a baby can distinguish between two subtle shades of gray, and by 9 weeks can see a full range of colours and complex subtle patterns and shading.
What does this mean for my baby? Toys, video’s and books featuring highly contrasting patterns are not necessary in order for your babys sight to develop, and there is no evidence to prove that your baby’s sight will be better for utilising these than that of a baby who hasn’t. However we all know how fascinating it is for babies to watch and concentrate on interesting visuals and patterns in different forms. It is also great to see your babies ability to focus and concentrate develop in a way which can be measured.
Find out more about baby development with Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five.