Given the significance of sight in society, parents should take extra care to ensure the proper functioning of that sense in their children at birth and otherwise early in life.
Newborns can see large shapes, faces and bright colors. By approximately 3 months, babies can focus on smaller objects. And although it’s normal for babies’ eyes to cross, they should work in a coordinated manner – termed “conjugate gaze” – by the age of 4 months. By age 1, children can see as well as adults and begin to understand what they see.
Because your own child’s vision develops quickly during the first year, parents, your doctor should ask questions or check with you about vision at every checkup. In addition to looking for these normal developmental milestones, keep an eye out (pun intended) for warning signs of vision problems.
Let your doctor know if:
• Your baby can’t make steady eye contact or can’t follow an object like a toy or your face by the age of 3 months.
• Your baby’s eyes still cross at 4 months.
• By that fourth month, your baby’s eyes misalign or drift, flutter from side to side, or react with overmuch sensitivity to light and/or look constantly red.
• You have any concerns about your baby’s vision.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Ophthalmology both recommend a thorough exam by your pediatrician at your baby’s birth and during all well-child checkups. Starting no later than the age of 3 – or sooner, depending on your child and his or her cooperation level – automatic photo refraction screening devices can be used to detect potential vision problems.
For more information about vision-related topics, concerned parents should visit mercy.net/service/childrens-eyes.
Dr. Joseph Kahn is president of Mercy Kids (mercykids.org), an expansive network of pediatric care dedicated to meeting the needs of every child, every day.