When Can Babies See Color? Learn More About Infant Vision

When Do Babies Start Seeing Colors? Turns Out It Isn’t So Black And White

November 17, 2020 Updated November 20, 2020

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Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

When you look into your sweet newborn’s beautiful eyes, you might be wondering what it is they see when they look at you. And, more specifically, if they’re seeing a black-and-white Lucille Ball version of life. So, when can babies see color? Well, you might be surprised to learn just how quickly infants transition into seeing their surroundings in true hues.

Granted, baby still sees things differently than you do at first. However, considering how new to this whole out-of-the-womb thing they are, it’s pretty impressive how they progress from seeing nothing but fuzzy images to a finely detailed kaleidoscope of color. Curious just how fast it happens? Let’s take a look at some of the infant vision development milestones you can, ahem, keep an eye out for.

When can babies see clearly?

Before we dive into the world of color, how about clarity? When do babies have enough visual acuity to make out the things (read: you, Mama!) around them? As you probably suspected, babies are still getting the hang of vision when they’re born — after all, their eyes and visual system aren’t fully developed yet.

In those first few months, their primary focus is on whatever is 8 to 10 inches from their face. By the end of three months, though, their eyes are starting to work together. They can now focus on shapes and people close by, and even spot familiar faces in the distance.

When can babies see color?

Although the notion that babies can’t see color is commonly perpetuated, it’s actually thought that newborns can see color. Experts aren’t sure how much, but it’s thought that babies begin to notice different hues by around two to three months old. “It’s is often thought that babies see in black and white. When infants are born, their visual acuity is not fully developed. However, even newborns see and distinguish among colors such as red, blue, green, and yellow,” explains Smart Baby’s Dr. Tricia Skoler for Psychology Today.

What colors do babies see first?

Again, experts aren’t entirely sure. What they do know is that children, even in infancy, seem to have color preferences. Elaborated Skoler, “Primary colors appeal to children. Chromatic primary colors — red, green, yellow, and blue — are especially appealing to young children. When infants are presented with the full chromatic spectrum, they spend more time looking at red and blue than yellow and green.” Generally speaking, soft pastel colors are harder for baby to see and, therefore, appreciate.

When is a baby’s color vision considered good?

By the time your little one hits around five months old, their eye control and movements are improving practically every day. It’s around this time they start to develop a three-dimensional view of the world, giving them a more in-depth perception. And it’s also at this important developmental juncture that baby is believed to have good color vision.

How do you tell if a baby is color blind?

Because baby’s vision is still developing when they’re first born, vision problems or irregularities are best left to their pediatrician or ophthalmologist to diagnose. Honestly, you probably won’t know if your little one is color blind until they have the ability to express to you what it is they’re seeing. As for other issues, there are a few potential red flags you can watch for:

  • Lack of focus past four months. In the beginning, all babies have trouble focusing on one thing, even (especially) if it’s right in front of their faces. But if your little one still appears to be looking in different directions or right through you after hitting the four-month mark, check in with their doctor.
  • No “red-eye.” It goes without saying you’re going to be taking one zillion pictures of your sweet angel, right? And while no one likes a flash in their face, if yours happens to go off, check for red-eye in your baby’s snapshots. Why? It shows that their eyes are refracting light correctly.
  • Other eye irregularities. You look (read: stare adoringly) at your baby every day, so you’ll be the first to notice if something doesn’t look quite right. Examples might include eyes that constantly water or seem to bulge.

Of course, it always merits mentioning that children may reach developmental milestones at different paces. If you’re ever concerned about your child’s progress, schedule an appointment to discuss it with their doctor.