How to enhance your baby’s eye and visual development

Your baby’s eye & visual development

Vision is our most precious sense, yet an infant’s vision is much less developed at birth than their other senses, such as smell. Therefore, it is vital that parents and caregivers provide the right environment to help their baby’s visual system to develop and mature. Many parents worry about motor development of their child, yet most don’t realise that there is also very important motor development occurring in the eye muscles too.

So, here are some tips for new parents, to promote your baby’s visual development:

  • The thing your baby will enjoy looking at most is your face. Hold your baby in front of you so they can watch your face as you talk or sing to them. Infants can typically only focus within 30cm. So ensure your face is close when talking to them.
  • Rotate how you lay your baby in their crib/cot regularly from one end to the other. This ensures they get equal visual stimulation on both sides of their body when they wake up.  It is also advisable to swap their car seat to the opposite side of the car if you take regular car trips.
  • Hold your baby in front of your body as you talk to them, and rotate them slowly. From approximately three months old, your baby will begin to orientate themselves towards you and follow your face.
  • Ensure your baby has plenty of tummy time, and place objects for them to play with on both sides of their body. Lie next to them on the floor and talk or sing to them, and again, ensure you do this on both sides of their body. If your baby initially resists tummy time, DO NOT GIVE UP! Try tummy time with them lying on your stomach (whilst you lie on your back) so that they can lift their head and see your face.
  • Vestibular experience and stimulation is very important to early visual development. This is because the brain does a great deal of work to organise “what it sees” with “what it feels” to ensure it all matches up. The vestibular system comprises of the semi-circular ear canals and tells your baby’s body where it is oriented in space. As such, rolling and rocking your baby whilst maintaining eye contact is a great way to combine both visual and vestibular experience. Carrying your baby forward facing in a sling during awake time is also recommended.
  • If your baby has a favourite rocker or seat, ensure that you move the location of this rocker from time to time to take in a different perspective.
  • Movement is vital to your baby’s visual development. They learn to process and understand what they see in the world by moving through it . There is a saying we use in vision therapy a lot… “If it doesn’t get into the muscles, it doesn’t get into the brain!” A baby’s experience of the world was never meant to be static or still. Therefore, avoid television or other things that entertain your baby in a passive way.
  • When your baby begins using a highchair to eat, move their chair to different locations around the table or room. Again, this encourages varied and equal visual stimulation to both sides of the body.

When should I have my baby’s eyes checked?

Many people mistakenly assume that you cannot test someone’s eyes unless they can read a letter chart. This is definitely not the case! Early eye tests are not looking at a child’s sight (acuity on a letter chart), but rather at whether a child’s eyes are developing equally in the following ways:

  • does your baby have a full range of eye movements in all direction?
  • can your baby begin to fix and follow a target equally with both eyes?
  • is there any sign of an eye turn or lazy eye?
  • can your baby focus equally with both eyes?

Your baby’s first eye examination is recommended at between 6-9 months. After this time, we recommend further testing at 3 years old and at Prep. However, if you have any family history of eye turns or lazy eyes then you may be recommended checks more often. In addition if you have a family history of learning difficulties or attention problems (ADD/ADHD), you may also be recommended more regular reviews.

If you have any concerns about your baby’s visual development at any time, please contact our team immediately to discuss a consultation on 5520 5900.

Paul Graham

Paul believes that what he truly practices is “Optometry for the Individual”. Whether it be vision training, glasses, custom or disposable contact lenses, orthok or precision tinted lenses, Paul will consult with you, completely assess your vision and custom design a treatment approach that is right for you. If you want a fresh approach, then Paul is the Optometrist for you!