How to know if your baby is seeing properly

When you have a new baby, many new moms have a lot of questions about what is normal and healthy for babies. Since babies can’t talk, you are left wondering what your baby needs and if he or she is developing properly.

That’s why taking your baby to all of their well-child check-ups with their pediatrician is so important.

Jade Elliott spoke with Dr. Jenna Whitman, a pediatrician with Intermountain Healthcare, about how going to those check-ups can help you get your questions answered and how to know if your baby is seeing properly.

How pediatricians are keeping children and parents safe from viruses when they come in for a well-check

Medical providers for children around the state of Utah have largely adopted practices suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics that minimize risk of COVID-19 exposure and allow for the delivery of services to newborns and young children.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, these strategies include ways to separate children who are sick from children who come for well-child checkups such as:

• Scheduling well visits in the morning and sick visits in the afternoon.

• Separating patients spatially, such as by placing patients with sick visits in different areas of the clinic or another location from patients with well visits.

Many clinics are using other innovative strategies as well, such as check-ins from cars and expedited rooming, avoiding waiting rooms altogether. Ask your provider about the precautions they’re taking.

Well-check visits are just as important for healthy children as for sick children

At each check up your child’s doctor will cover many things including:

• Immunizations. Your child will receive immunizations recommended by your doctor and according to a suggested schedule for babies and children to help prevent common childhood diseases.

• Flu shots are recommended annually for healthy children over age six months. With all the uncertainties surrounding the current COVID pandemic, keeping children healthy by getting their flu shots has never been more important. Many parents focus on getting the immunizations required for day care or school. But, don’t forget to come back after school starts for a flu shot. Typically, they’re available by October.

• Tips for nutrition, child safety and how to keep your child healthy.

• Tracking growth and development. You can discuss your child’s physical growth and also if they’re reaching developmental milestones. You’ll also go over what social behaviors and learning to expect at every age.

• New health concerns. Your child’s check up is an excellent time to bring up any new concerns you may have about how your child.

Regular visits help create strong, trustworthy life-long relationships among pediatrician, parent and child.

How Babies See

Babies learn to see over a period of time, much like they learn to walk and talk. They are not born with all the visual abilities they need in life. The ability to focus their eyes, move them accurately, and use them together as a team must be learned. Your child’s pediatrician will follow your baby’s visual development periodically and make sure that they are meeting vision milestones at an appropriate age.

What to watch for at home to know if your baby is seeing properly

Birth to 2 months: your baby’s eyes are not well coordinated yet. They may appear to wander or to be crossed occasionally. This is usually normal. However, if one eye appears to turn in or out constantly, an evaluation is recommended. This may be a sign of a “lazy eye” and should be evaluated by your child pediatrician. During this period, babies see only what is about 8-10 inches in front of them and only black and white.

By 3 month of age: Babies should begin to follow moving objects with their eyes and reach for things.

By 6 months of age: Baby’s control of eye movements and eye-body coordination skills continue to improve. Color vision also develops by this age.

By 1-2 Years: By two years of age, a child’s eye-hand coordination and depth perception should be well developed.

What parents can do to help with visual development

Birth to 4 months

• Use a nightlight or other dim lamp in the baby’s room.

• Change the crib’s position frequently and change the child’s position in it.

• Keep your face or toys within the baby’s focus, about eight to twelve inches.

• Talk to the baby while walking around the room.

• Alternate right and left sides with each feeding.

5 to 8 months

• Hang a mobile or various objects across the crib for the baby to grab, pull and kick.

• Give the baby plenty of time to play and explore on the floor.

• Provide plastic or wooden blocks that can be held in the hands.

• Play patty cake and other games, moving baby’s hands while saying the words aloud.

9 to 12 months

• Play hide and seek games to help the baby develop visual memory.

• Name objects when talking to encourage the baby’s word association and vocabulary

• Encourage crawling and creeping.

1 to 2 years

• Roll a ball back and forth to help the child track objects visually.

• Give the child building blocks and balls of all shapes and sizes to play with to boost fine motor skills and small muscle development.

• Read or tell stories to encourage visualization and pave the way for learning and reading.

When your baby might need to see a vision specialist

There are many reasons your child’s pediatrician might send you to see an ophthalmologist. A few common concerns that might lead to a referral are:

  • An excessive amount of tears coming from the eye(s) may indicate blocked tear ducts.
  • Constant eye turning may signal a problem with eye muscle control.
  • Sensitivity to light may indicate an elevated pressure in the eye.
  •  The appearance of a white pupil could indicate the presence of eye cancer.

The Baby Your Baby program provides many resources for all pregnant women and new moms in Utah. There is also expert advice from the Utah Department of Health and Intermountain Healthcare that air each week on KUTV 2News.