We always recommend a baby’s first eye exam to be at 6 months old. At this age, their visual skills are rapidly developing, and it is important to ensure they are seeing well so that they can learn and explore the world around them. A great question we always get is how we can do eye tests on someone who doesn’t know their 123s or ABCs. Of course, we modify our infant exams to incorporate fun lights, sounds, and toys to check eye alignment and their ability to follow moving objects. We also use patterns to check their ability to see detail, as babies will naturally pay attention to new and interesting patterns. Lastly, we use lights to look at their eye health in a very non-invasive way.
Here are my five tips for taking care of your baby’s eyes:
Baby sunglasses are a must! Up to 80% of a person’s lifetime exposure to damaging UV radiation occurs before age 18. Protect your kid’s eyes as soon as possible, whenever they are outdoors at all times of the year.
To aid visual development, keep reach-and-touch toys within your baby’s focus of about 8 to 12 inches, and help them explore different shapes and textures with their fingers. Remember daily tummy time as it is crucial for developing posture, vision, and motor coordination. Once mobile, give them the freedom to crawl and explore. Stay tuned for our next blog on primitive reflexes, which newborns have that set the stage for proper motor development!
Watch your baby’s eyes carefully, checking to see if they recognize and follow objects or faces. If you ever see an eye turn in or out (i.e. crossed eyes), bring them to see an optometrist.
Make eyelid hygiene a part of their daily routine. Removing debris and crusting will make their eyes more comfortable and reduce the risk of infection. Start with a soft washcloth dampened with warm water. With their eyes closed, gently wipe from the inner to outside corner of the eye.
Did you know a baby’s brain doubles in size by their first birthday? DHA is an Omega-3 fat that is abundant in our brains and retina, and is important for neural, cognitive, and visual development. Ensure your baby gets enough by including enough DHA in your diet during breastfeeding, or by choosing a DHA-enriched baby formula.
Written by Dr. Natalia Fong & Dr. Fabian Tai
Image Credit: Valeria Zoncoll