Why Do Newborn Babies Keep Their Eyes Closed?

In the captivating world of infants, the act of a newborn opening their eyes just minutes after birth is nothing short of magical.

This article delves into the intricate details of a baby’s visual development, from the moments they are in the nursery to their first full year of life.

Read on to discover the intriguing science behind their first glances, and why understanding this process is essential for new parents

When Do Babies Typically Open Their Eyes?

Moments after birth, most newborns will spontaneously open their eyes, giving parents their first heartwarming glimpse of their infant’s world.

This ‘ eye opening ‘ milestone is an anticipated moment in the nursery. However, some babies, particularly those born early, might take a few more minutes or even hours to unveil their eyes.

This variability is perfectly normal and is influenced by factors such as the baby’s maturity at birth and the conditions within the womb.

How Far Can a Newborn See Within the First Week of Life?

During the first few days of life, a newborn’s vision is somewhat blurry. Studies show that they can see objects best when they are about 12 inches away, approximately the distance between a baby and the face of the person holding them.

Over several weeks, as the retina and eye, retinal

muscles mature, the clarity of their vision improves, allowing them to recognize faces and larger objects.

How Does the Infant Binocular Vision Develop by 12 Months?

Binocular vision, the ability to focus on an object with both eyes, gives us depth perception. In infants, this skill starts to develop a few months into their life.

By the time they reach 12 months, most babies have developed strong binocular vision.

This visual development is particularly important as it plays a pivotal role in their motor skills, agility, and interaction with the world.

The Role of the Eyelid and Iris in Eye Protection

A baby’s eyelids and iris play crucial roles in protecting their delicate eyes. The eyelids shield the eyes from harmful external elements, while the iris adjusts the amount of light entering the eye.

In bright light conditions, for instance, the iris constricts to protect the retina from potential damage.

Always be cautious about exposing infants to overly bright environments, as their protective reflexes might not be as mature as those in older children.

Why Do Some Newborns Keep Their Eyes Closed Longer?

There are several reasons why a newborn may keep their eyes closed for longer periods. It could be due to slight discomfort, tiredness, or simply a longer adjustment period to the external world.

For babies born prematurely, their visual systems might require more time to mature, leading to longer periods with eyes closed.

How Often Should Newborn Eye Movements be Screened?

It’s recommended to have a baby’s eyes screened by an ophthalmologist or pediatric ophthalmologist within the first year of life.

Regular screening helps detect any irregularities or issues early, ensuring that any necessary interventions are timely.

The Startling Reflex: Babies and Bright Lights

Newborns exhibit a startle reflex when exposed to sudden loud noises or bright lights. This reflex, which can make them open their eyes wide or close them tightly, is a normal protective mechanism.

However, to ensure a conducive environment for their visual development, try to keep abrupt stimuli to a minimum.

Does the Nursery Environment Affect a Baby’s Visual Development?

The nursery is the newborn’s first environment outside the womb. Ensuring it is visually stimulating and safe is vital for their visual and overall development.

Bright colors, mobiles, and toys can encourage visual exploration, while adequate lighting – not too dim or too bright – promotes healthy eye development.

Signs of Eye Health Issues: When to Talk to Your Doctor

Always be on the lookout for signs of eye health concerns in your infant. These include persistent redness, discharge, or if one eye is always closed.

If you notice any of these signs of infection or eye health concerns, it’s essential to talk to your doctor or health care provider promptly.

The Magic of a Baby’s Gaze: Bonding Moments with New Parents

Nothing compares to the emotional bond formed when a baby looks into their parent’s eyes.

This connection, rich in love and trust, is the foundation of a lifelong relationship. Cherish these moments, as they are fleeting and incredibly special.

To Remember:

  • Most babies open their eyes spontaneously minutes after birth.
  • Initially, newborn vision is blurry or cloudy in the first few days but sharpens over weeks.
  • A baby’s eyes need protection from bright lights.
  • Regular screening of an infant’s eye movements is essential.
  • The nursery environment plays a role in visual development.
  • Always be watchful for signs of eye health issues in your infant.
  • The bonding moments between baby and parent are priceless.

Your baby’s eyes are windows to their developing world. Understanding and nurturing their visual growth ensures they have the best start in life.



When do newborns typically open their eyes after birth?

Most newborns will spontaneously open their eyes minutes after birth. However, premature babies might take a bit longer.

How far can my baby see within the first week of life?

In the first few days, your baby can best see objects about 12 inches away. Over weeks, as the retina matures, their vision improves.

Should I be concerned if my infant keeps their eyes closed longer than usual?

Some infants, especially those born early, may keep their eyes closed longer. If concerned, always tell your doctor or consult with a pediatric ophthalmologist.

How does the nursery environment influence a baby’s visual development?

A visually stimulating nursery with bright colors and toys can boost visual exploration. However, ensure lighting isn’t too bright for the baby’s eyes.

When should I consider screening my baby’s eye movements?

It’s recommended to screen your baby’s eyes within the first year. Regular ophthalmologic checks can detect irregularities, ensuring timely interventions.



This post is written and edited by Sandy who is a clinical pharmacist with over 20 years of experience specializing in pre-natal and post-natal care.