What do babies see?

Parents will often ask this question and I can understand why. We want to understand both how they experience their world and how we can help them to develop their senses.

There are a number of different aspects to babies visual development and it doesn’t all have to do with how far they can see, which is another common question.

We know that when babies are born the optimal distance of an object from their face is about 30cm, or the distance between a baby and their mother’s face during breastfeeding. Cool coincidence right?

Newborn babies can see shapes, shadows and outlines of objects, visual acuity develops as the baby develops.

For this reason babies will often stare, fixated and still, gazing at you as if they are staring into your very soul. Babies need an object to be still to be able to concentrate on looking at it, observing the shape and texture. When your baby is looking at you we often say they are falling in love with your face. Falling in love with how you move and react, the curves and shape of your features. And gloriously noticing how it makes them feel when you gaze right back at them.

So apart from gazing lovingly at each other how can you help nurture and grow the visual centres of your babies brain?

Black and white, or contrasting shapes are easier for your baby to focus on, so using simple black and white pictures can help facilitate visual development.

A simple black and white picture that isn’t too busy or distracting allows your baby to spend time gazing and bringing the picture into focus.

Babies need to develop bifocal vision, this is when the brain brings the vision from each eye into one focussed picture that can be interpreted by the brain.

The element of interpretation is important for parents to remember. Babies and small children are new, they don’t realise that a chair is a chair and you’re supposed to stand it on four legs and sit your bottom on the flat part. Naming, describing and talking about objects is another way parents and carvers can help grow their babies senses.

If you are concerned about your babies vision, or want to know more about how to help your baby to grow and develop you can make an appointment with our Child Health Nurse.

Jessica Kumar
Child and Family Health Nurse

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