How Late Can My Baby’s Eyes Change Color?
Author: Dr. Anna Kaplan
When you are expecting a baby, you naturally wonder who he or she is going to look like. Whose eyes is the baby going to have, and whose hair? When the baby is born and you first get a look at your little one, you can count all their fingers and toes and get a pretty good idea of how healthy they are right away. But you have to wait to know about their hair and eyes, especially if they are born with light-colored eyes. How long you have to wait depends to a large extent on the eye colors in your family.
Babies are usually born with blue/blue-gray or brown eyes. If both parents are light-skinned Caucasians, blue or blue-gray may be the eye color you will first see. If you both have dark skin and brown eyes, your little one will probably have brown eyes at birth, but not necessarily. It depends on the genes for eye color that you passed down to them.
Eye color is inherited. It used to be thought that it was a simple inheritance pattern, and often it is. Brown eyes are dominant over blue eyes. Generally speaking, each person has two genes for eye color. If you have brown eyes, you might have two brown-eye genes, or one brown and one blue. If you have blue eyes, you have two genes for blue eyes. Two brown-eyed parents will usually have brown-eyed babies. However, if both parents have a blue-eye gene, they can have a blue-eyed child. To help anticipate if this might happen to you, look back at your parents and grandparents. Think if there were any blue eyes among your relatives.
Green eyes are harder to understand, genetically speaking. Green eyes are dominant over blue eyes, and brown eyes are dominant over green eyes. However, with some of these genes in the family, eye color can wind up a mixture, with hazels and other variations on green and brown. There are in fact more than two genes that actually determine eye color. That is why some people are born with eye colors that can’t be explained in the normal way. But in most people, the main genes cause the eye color, and it is not difficult to understand.
Brown eyes stay brown. So if your baby is born with brown eyes, that is the color their eyes will be as they grow up. On the other hand, blue eyes do not always stay blue.
Eye color comes from the iris, a structure surrounding the pupil, the black area in the middle of the eye. There are cells in the iris that contain the pigment called melanin, which also makes the color of your skin. All of a baby’s melanin is not present at birth. More gets synthesized with passing time. A baby who is going to have brown eyes may start with blue, and their eye color may start to darken and eventually turn to brown. This normally happens by anywhere between six and 12 months.
In fact, most people used to say the eye color was set by the time the baby turned a year old. As it turns out, that isn’t always true, especially in Caucasians. Eye color can change well past the first year of life, generally up to three years of age. There have been some studies that show small changes in color can occur even later, well into adulthood. The later changes may not be as dramatic as turning from blue to brown, but the changes can still be easy to see and significant. This is usually true for people whose eyes are in the middle, with grays or greens or light browns. Their eyes can get darker or lighter. These changes are slow and gradual.
Depending on the eye color in your family, your baby’s eyes may be their permanent color at six months or a year of age. If their eyes start brown or turn brown during their first year, they will have brown eyes. If your baby has blue eyes, or green eyes, and there is a mixture of eye colors in your family, you might have to wait longer to be sure.