The first half year of an infant’s life is a critical period for the development of vision. During this time, baby is learning to focus both eyes, judge distances and coordinate hand/eye movements.
Parents can do a lot of simple things to help an infant develop visual skills. These are all simple activities that you already do as you enjoy your time with your baby. When my son was born, it was an opportunity for me to watch vision develop “in vivo” for the first time. I used some of these simple activities to help stimulate Max’s vision development and track his progress (oh the joys of being an optometrist and a mom!).
- Keep a dim light on in baby’s room at night. This encourages the infant to learn to locate an object.
- Place toys that are safe to be put in baby’s mouth in the crib. The process of looking at, grasping, then putting the toy in the mouth helps your infant develop hand/eye coordination.
- Hang a brightly colored mobile about six feet from the crib. The slow movements and colors encourage baby to learn to focus and track his or her eyes.
- Talk to your baby as you move about the nursery. As baby lies in the crib, he or she will learn to connect vision and hearing with direction and distance. Move the crib to a variety of locations within the room.
- Change the sides on which you carry, change or feed your baby so that the vision of the right and left eye will develop equally. This also helps the muscles of the neck to develop evenly.
Many visual problems, especially “lazy eye” (amblyopia), are thought to be the result of a poor visual development process during these early months. Visual problems can frequently be prevented if detected early. Watch for these signs:
- Frequent rubbing of the eyes
- Squinting, drooping eyelids
- Eyes that cross or turn in
- Unusual postures or appearance of the eyes
- Child is not following parents around room at 2 months
To rule out any conditions that can affect your child’s visual development, request an INFANTSEE exam from Dr. Davis. This program provides free exams for all infants under 12 months of age.