Jeepers, Creepers, Your Baby’s Got Great Peepers – Keeping Your Infant’s Eyes Healthy from Birth
Your baby opens her eyes and looks into yours, and your heart melts. Then her gaze drifts across the room, where grandma waves her hand frantically as she shrieks for you to smile so she can take another picture.
If you’re concerned your baby might be frightened by grandma’s crazy antics, don’t be. Newborns can’t distinguish between different targets and images that are more than eight to ten inches away from their face. The American Optometric Association (AOA) says that babies are filled with “all kinds of visual stimulation” from the moment they are born. Think about it: after nine months curled up in a dark space, he is jettisoned into a life of color and movement. This visual stimulation can be difficult for a baby to process, so nature has designed it so she will begin to see more clearly over time, rather than all at once.
Eye Exams from Birth and Beyond
Doctors examine a newborn’s eyesight soon after birth. They look for things such as a white pupil, which might indicate cataracts, and any other possible neonatal problems. Dr. Joseph Barr, a world-renowned optometrist and a member of the global advisory council for the Pediatric Cataract Initiative, which is part of Bausch + Lomb Early Vision Institute, suggests parents have another eye exam prior to the baby’s first birthday, or if there is a significant family history of eye problems, the exam should take place within the baby’s first six months of life.
“Eye care professionals offer different recommendations on when the first eye exam should take place for a child,” says Barr. “I personally like to see my grandchildren get their eyes checked within the first 12 months. An infant’s visual system is developing so rapidly in the first year that any abnormalities in vision can have long term effects if not identified correctly.”
Some babies look as though their eyes are crossed or misaligned, but in most instances this is a simple illusion created by the baby’s relatively large eye size and their inability to track objects. Around three or four months, a baby will grow into those peepers and he will be able to use his eyes in tandem. At this point his eyes will probably look more ‘normal’.
However, crossed eyes do occur in about 4 percent of the population, and 3 percent of the population has a ‘lazy eye.’ If your child covers up or closes his eye, or if he turns his head to favor one eye, set up an appointment with the doctor, as this could mean he is having difficulty seeing correctly out of the second eye.
Protecting Those Peepers
Are you looking for ways to ensure that your infant’s eyes will stay healthy? Always protect your baby’s face from potential debris such as sand, dirt, and dust. When walking your baby, keep the stroller hood down on windy days. Keep your baby’s eyes covered with sunglasses from an early age, as this will not only decrease the risk of potential injury from sharp objects but also protect the eyes from the damaging effects of the sun.
Also, omega-3 fatty acid DHA, which represents 93 percent of all omega-3 fatty acids in the eye, has been shown through several studies to improve a child’s eyesight. A 2004 study published by the Journal of Nutrition showed one year olds, who received a DHA supplemented baby food, had improved vision equivalent to 1.5 lines on the eye chart as compared to those who did not receive the supplement. DHA is present in human breast milk as well. If your baby still in utero you should consume at least 200-300 mg of DHA daily.
No Insurance – No Problem
The AOA states that early detection of a potential eye condition is the best way to ensure healthy vision for now and in the future. For this reason, they offer InfantSEE ®, a public health program which ensures that any child, regardless of income, can have a free, comprehensive eye and vision assessments within the first year of life.