What Do I Need To Know About My Baby's Vision?
Babies’ eyes go through many stages of development in the first years and problems aren’t always obvious in young children. Rosie Gogan-Keogh finds out what you should keep an eye out for when it comes to baby’s vision:
Healthy eyes and vision play a huge role in how your baby develops, plays and learns about the world around them and when a child goes to school, experts estimate that 80% of what they are taught is shown visually. While vision and eye problems are very rare in babies, early detection of any potential issues is important.
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At the HSE developmental exams at birth and three months, your public health nurse will exam your baby’s eyes to ensure that her vision is developing properly. At the three-month check, this will involve making sure that your baby can fix and follow on an object.
Once your child starts school, there will be an eyesight screening in either Senior Infants or First Class to check for short or far-sightedness and other issues such as a lazy eye. This is just a screening, and if anything is spotted, your child will be referred to an ophthalmologist. Experts recommend an eyesight test at three years. Reading skills are not essential for a child to have an eyesight test as it will be done with letters, as well as shapes and colours.
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The stages of eyesight development
One to five weeks: Infants can only see objects that are eight to 10 inches from their face.
Six to eight weeks: By this time, baby should be able to ‘fix and follow’ on objects.
12-16 weeks: Eyesight begins improving and they start to see things that are further away.
Top Tip: During the first three months, talk to your baby as you move about the room, to help her vision develop.
5-8 months: Colour vision and depth perception develops. Baby begins to see the world in three dimensions.
Top Tip: From this age, it helps to hang a mobile above the cot and give baby blocks to play with.
9-12 months: Once your baby is crawling, her hand-eye co-ordination will sharpen.
Top Tip: Play hide and seek games to help develop visual memory, and name objects when trying to encourage word association.
1-2 years: By this age, children are interested in their environment, can recognise familiar objects and pictures, and can scribble.
Top Tip: Reading and telling stories will encourage your little one with her own reading and learning skills.
Red eye or excessive tearing: The most common issue in baby and children’s eyes is conjunctivitis. “The symptoms are a weepy eye, blocked tear duct or gooey, sticky eyes,” says Kathleen Hanan, nurse manager at Child Vision. “To treat this, swab the eye with cotton wool dipped in cooled, boiled water moving the swab from the inside to the outside of the eye. You might need to massage the tear duct. If it doesn’t heal, visit your GP as it is very contagious and can spread.
Constant eye turning: For the first few months, eyes may appear to wander or be crossed as they roam around and the eyes begin working together, this is normal. If one eye persists on turning out in a certain direction have it examined as it could be a sign of a lazy eye.
Sensitivity to light: Shield your baby’s eyes with a wide brimmed hat or shade. “All children and adults should wear sunglasses that protect their eyes from UV rays,” says Kathleen Haran. “If your child seems sensitive to light even on cloudy days, this could be a sign of albinism, a lack of pigment in the eyes.
Appearance of a white pupil: “Some parents notice a white spot in their children’s eye when they take a photo of them,” says Kathleen Hanan. “This can be a sign of cancer in the eye. A doctor can do a simple check by shining a light in the eye.”
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What type of eyeglasses?
If your child does need glasses, it can be daunting to find the right ones that they will want to keep on their head. It is important to be realistic and sensitive to your child’s transition to being a ‘glasses wearer’.
To encourage your child to wear them, let him or her choose a frame or colour that they like and then start by having them try them for short periods of time when they’re doing something they enjoy.
As little noses aren’t developed yet, get a pair with an adjustable nose pad and wraparound temples that go all the way around the ear or a strap that goes around the head to help them stay in place. Put the glasses back on in a firm but loving way if they take them off. It’s a good idea to carry a back up pair in case they get lost or broken and I.D. the glasses with a name and number so they might make it back to you if they get lost.
Some children can wear contact lenses, but it is very rare as eye infections are so common in children. The decision will be made on an individual basis by your ophthalmologist.
Does your child need glasses, or have other vision problems? Or did you have eye problems as a child? We’d love to hear from you.