how well can an infant see?

I have heard conflicting statements regarding what a baby can see when they are first born, so I decided to see what I could find on the web.

I found what I was searching for at The Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, more specifically the article entitled What Can My Baby See?

The short answer is that they can see, but it’s blurry (they can see the big ‘E’ on the eye chart, or 20/120) and by four months they have 20/60 vision.

This doesn’t mean they can’t see, because “if you hold up your thumb at arms length, it will be about 6 times wider than the big “E”! This means that a newborn infant can easily see many of the things most important to him or her: your eyes, your lips and smile, your nose, and his or her own hands, fingers, feet and toes.”

The summary says that “even at birth, a baby’s acuity is good enough so that in your arms, he or she can see many features of your face –your eyes, your mouth, your nose, even a fly landing on your nose!”

They can distinguish their parents face from others by 4 to 5 months. So, although babies can’t see extremely well, they can see well enough.

Next question: Are his smiles caused by gas or is he just a happy fella?


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  1. It’s interesting that most other mammals are almost fully functional right out of the chute. I’m surprised that humans even made it to the top of the food chain.

    Comment by jason on November 16, 2004 @ 8:39 am

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