I'm Watching You, Mommy: When a Newborn Discovers You
Few moments are as wonderful as when we visually connect with our newborn children. The moment in which you realize your baby is watching you awakens multiple sensations. But what are they really seeing? Can they differentiate their mother’s face from other members of the family?
A baby’s eyes and vision undergo many changes throughout the first 6 months of life. We must be very aware of each nuance, such as how our baby focuses his attention on objects. The eyes are an indispensable and wonderful channel through which our children discover the world.
Now, we are sure you won’t be surprised by this fact. But during a child’s first few weeks of life, there are only two essential things to focus on: you and milk. Both things represent survival. But something fascinating will also happen.
Your child will begin to recognize the significance of your face. Over time, he will begin to seek you and will be even happier to see you. The survival instinct is combined with the power of affection, and that bond is something that will never be broken.
Today, we invite you to discover the various aspects of a baby’s vision.
I’m watching you mommy, because you’re close to me
A baby’s vision is genetically programmed to connect with people, especially their parents. Newborns have very blurry vision for long distances. They cannot clearly see objects more than 30 or 40 centimeters from their faces.
This poor visual acuity for long distances during the first few months of life also responds to the survival instinct by reducing stress, fear and anxiety in order to focus on what’s important: the faces that surround him, mom’s breast or the bottle.
Let’s discover some more interesting details below.
A newborn establishes quick visual contact with their mom
- He is watching you, he sees you and he knows who you are. Few things are as important as allowing an intimate and prolonged encounter between mother and child right after delivery. Not only is the first visual contact established and skin-to-skin contact offers security, but also stress is reduced and that first link between mother and child is created.
- Faces are full of fantastic stimuli for a newborn: the mouth emits sound, eyes move around and the face itself has contours that delineate everything that is important for a baby to recognize.
It’s fantastic for babies.
My baby squints
Don’t worry, squinting is completely normal. During the first 6 months of life, the brain is learning to focus its attention and must develop this process. Although it doesn’t seem like it, it is extremely complex.
- It is common to see babies squint during the first 2 to 4 weeks of life. Their vision is still not very precise and parents sometimes panic a little when they see their baby’s eyes crisscross.
- We must keep in mind that most of a child’s visual development takes place in the brain, not in the eyes themselves.
- Thus, one of the biggest challenges for the developing brain is to coordinate the visual signals on both sides. The nerve signals from the eyes travel through the optic nerves and separate to both sides of the brain.
It is a very complex process that requires time to develop. In the end, there will be coordination of each eye in the desired direction.
Main visual milestones
- After two months, we can enjoy seeing how our children follow our faces, looking at us between smiles or looking with great interest at a toy, even going from left to right.
- At two or three months, a baby is able to distinguish faces and is frightened by strangers he has never met.
- This is also the age in which he will most enjoy visual stimuli, such as a mobile on his crib. However, since babies’ level of attention declines easily, they appreciate any novel and fun stimulus that you offer.
- The next big visual milestone occurs at 6 months of age. Now is when both sides of the brain are already at an optimal level of coordination and maturation.
- Children are now very curious, watching, seeking and discovering. Most importantly, their coordination is now perfect. We can cover one eye, and they will continue looking for a stimulus with the other. However, if your child is already 6 or 7 months old and you notice that he still squints or that one of his eyes suddenly crosses, do not hesitate to consult with your pediatrician and ophthalmologist.
The color of a baby’s eyes
There is a very common myth. It is one that we have all heard many times. We have been told that the blue color of our baby’s eyes are due to the fact that he still drinks his mother’s milk.
- There is no scientific basis to back-up such an assumption. It is simply not true. The color of the iris, like hair and skin color, depends on a protein called melanin.
- When a baby is born, it is common for the eyes to be gray or blue because he has spent a lot of time in a dark environment, and his melanocytes are not yet mature. This process requires time and will change a little bit every day.
- This process of maturation and change (or not) of the color of a baby’s eyes progresses differently in each child and depends on genetics. However, after 6 months a definite color begins to be defined, and it will be fully developed at the age of 2.
To conclude, few things are as magical as that moment when we realize our baby is looking around and watching us. He knows that we are someone who is important to him, that he needs us and that little by little he will discover many more things about us and about everything that surrounds him.