The irises of most newborn babies eyes look a steel blue / grey at birth. (Although if you look at your baby's eyes in certain light conditions, you may be able to see flecks of 'true' eye colour, for example brown.) It can take up to a year or longer for their definite eye colour to be seen. Some dark skinned babies will be born with their life long eye colouring of brown or black.
The whites of baby's eyes often look slightly bluish, because this tissue is quite thin in the first year of life. A few babies will have some small, broken blood vessels (red patches) on the whites of their eyes. These are called 'subconjunctival haemorrhages' and are due to pressure from the birth. These will disappear in about 2 weeks. Babies' eyelids are often swollen for a few days and can also have patches of red or purple on them. It is also not unusual for one of your baby's eyes to look a little bigger than the other.
Babies can see at birth. It is possible for them to focus on objects about 15 - 25 centimetres away. This is about the distance from them to their mother or father's face when being held in their arms. You will notice that when your baby is awake they will gaze intently at your face.
Newborn babies squint often and they do not have good control over their eye muscles. This means they will have difficulty looking directly at an object for a long period or following a moving object (until they are about 6 weeks of age). This initial lack of control over their eye muscles is also why many babies will look 'cross-eyed' (or not move together in unison) up until about 6 months of age.
Image 10-40 shows a baby with crossed eyes.
You may notice your baby squinting as a reaction to being sensitive to the light shining in their eyes. Your baby will also blink suddenly at loud noises or when you clap your hands near their face (as we all do!). Babies don't often produce tears during the first days and weeks. It can take some babies up to 4 - 5 months to produce tears when they cry.
Babies' eyes have a natural protective film over them that stop dust and fluff from irritating their eyes. It is not unusual to see a piece of 'something' sitting on your baby's eyes, but them behaving none the wiser. If left alone this will usually work its way off on its own, without you having to remove it.
Many babies ears will look flattened, folded or creased and out of shape soon after birth. Sometimes one will look like this and the other will look 'normal'. This is because the baby's ear tissue is very soft and has been 'compressed' in a certain way in the uterus or during the birth. Do not try to unfold your baby's ears. Most will correct themselves in the days or weeks after the birth. The ears may also be slightly bruised if forceps were used. Be careful not to inadvertently bump them if this is the case.
A baby's hearing is very acute. Take care not to talk too loudly (or shout at a sibling) when your baby's head is on your shoulder. Babies will normally startle to loud noises, letting you know they can hear. Be aware though, that it is normal for a baby not to respond to loud noises if they are distracted or tired, have just had a feed or the noise is continually repeated.
Last revised: Friday, 20 March 2009
This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.