A Baby’s Journey to See
"What’s also fascinating is that a newborn’s visual system is set to seek out faces, and they will look towards the hairlines, eyes and mouth to find the contrast and help them to recognize the person in front of them – this also explains why babies are often captivated by people with dark glasses frames or bright red lips."
Your baby is amazing, as is watching them develop at an astounding rate over their first year. Their eyes play a huge part in this wonder, as when a baby is born, they have very limited vision, having spent 9 months in the dark, but on arrival into the world connections amongst their brain cells surge in response to their brand-new visual experience. Vision is a rapidly developing sense and babies have to learn how to see, which is utterly fascinating to watch.
The more a baby uses their vision, the more the connections form between their eyes and brain, and their vision improves. And the more you’ll notice them interacting with their surroundings and fixating on new things. A lot is said about young babies only seeing in black and white, but this actually isn’t true. We know this from research that shows that even newborn babies can detect some highly saturated colors from birth, such as a strong red. However, what is true is that an infant’s vision is very inaccurate vs. an adult, so the world is a blurry place to start with and as a result babies love looking at high contrast patterns, with black and white offering the highest of contrasts. An example of how a baby’s vision progresses:
What’s also fascinating is that a newborn’s visual system is set to seek out faces, and they will look towards the hairlines, eyes and mouth to find the contrast and help them to recognise the person in front of them – this also explains why babies are often captivated by people with dark glasses frames or bright red lips. Babies’ love patterns and they in fact prefer to look at a pattern than a plain surface. Between birth and 2 months old babies love looking at patterns made up of lines, whereas from 2 months onwards they prefer round shapes, especially bullseyes. By 4 months old they will enjoy looking for odd ones out, and can actually spot them! Exposure to lots of patterns is of crucial importance in a baby’s visual development because patterns offer an important source of information about their environment, and in fact research has shown that babies require patterned input for proper cognitive development.
Check out this related episode of The Informed Pregnancy Podcast:
When it comes to color, the world remains rather muted for our little ones for most of their first year. Think of it as if the saturation dial is turned down on all the colors that we take for granted. Babies are born with the receptor cells to detect color, but they are immature so it takes time for these cells to develop and for the brain to make sense of the signals from them and enable them to see in technicolor.
From birth consider introducing a strong red alongside high contrast black and white, followed by green, blue then strong yellow. Your little one will not be able to detect more subtle and pastel colors until much later on, closer to their first birthday, so try to ensure that you choose things for them that are visible at the stage of their development for playtime, but keep pale shades and pastels for their bedroom as it will keep it a calming space that doesn’t overstimulate them.
Overall, the world provides a great mix of stimulation for a baby to allow their senses to develop, and by understanding the stage of their visual development you can show them things they’re likely to be attracted to and watch how they respond. Nature is full of shapes, contrasts and colors that will attract their eye and provide visual stimulation – one simple thing to try out is to park their pram under a tree on a sunny day and watch them enjoy the contrast between the sky and the tree, the gentle movement of the wind through the leaves and the dappled sunlight providing an intriguing and changing view for their learning eyes.
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Jen Fuller is the founder of Etta Loves and mum to Etta and her little sister Uma. Jen started Etta Loves to give parents the gift of calm and babies pure wonder through sensory patterns. She wants to make everyday moments easier, more calm, and super sensory.
Etta Loves takes baby essentials and makes them scientifically sensory through the addition of science. Working alongside experts in infant vision, every shape, scale, space, and color is carefully chosen to support babies’ visual and cognitive development. The science at the heart of our products means that babies are mesmerized and stimulated, and parents get a precious moment of calm as their baby stares contentedly. Find out more at www.us.ettaloves.com and www.instagram.com/ettaloves