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When I moved to Calgary in 2015, my mom told me that her cousin’s son also lived here, and he was an optometrist.
So, like the creepy cousin I apparently I am, I showed up to get my kids’ and my eyes checked and announced to the doctor that we were related! Three years and a couple of discounted pieces of eyewear later, my four kids have a baby third cousin to play with!
I’ve been chatting with my cousin Dr. Fu and his wife, Dr. Li, about eye care for the littlest patients and thought I’d share what I’ve learned.
Here are 5 fun facts about baby’s vision:
1- A child’s vision is still developing until about age 5.
Babies are born perfect in our eyes, but not with perfect vision! Their eyesight is not 20/20 at birth; in fact, it’s pretty blurry and they can probably only distinguish large shapes.
It’s important to get babies’ eyes examined as soon as possible, ideally around 6–9 months. If a baby needs a prescription but doesn’t get one, this can lead to poor vision as they grow.
A child won’t be able to tell you something’s blurry if that’s how it’s always looked to them. Optometrists can detect issues and help manage them long before babies can even say “blurry.”
2- Babies’ eyes absorb more UV rays than adults’ do.
It’s important to protect baby’s eyes early, as certain eye diseases can be worsened by the effects of UV light. Preventing excessive UV exposure can lessen the severity or delay the onset of conditions such as macular degeneration and cataracts.
As best as you can, keep baby’s eyes protected with their car seat or stroller canopy, hats and sunglasses. Look for sunglass lenses that are UV protected and not just tinted. Not all sunglasses are created equal: some lenses are coated with an adhesive UV film which loses its protective quality when damaged, while glasses with UV protection built into the lenses will remain protective despite some wear and tear.
3- Blocked tears ducts and eye infections are common issues with newborns, infants and toddlers.
Tear ducts continue developing after birth: newborns might cry a lot … but they don’t produce many tears until around 2 months, so you may not notice an underdeveloped tear duct until after this time.
Symptoms of a blocked tear duct are generally just excessive tearing, however a baby can also develop a mild infection, which can lead to swelling and pus.
To ease the symptoms of blocked ducts, massage just below the inner corners of the eye with clean fingers and rinse with clear water. If you’re concerned, see an optometrist: you don’t need a referral!
4- Baby’s eye colour changes the most between 3–9 months.
Did you know that blue eyes actually signal a lack of pigment? (So, blue eyes means colourless eyes?!) The colour of a child’s eyes changes as they develop more pigment cells. By about age 2, the child’s eye colour will be the one that winds up on their driver’s license!
5- Baby’s eyes aren’t as sensitive as ours.
A lot of sensations annoy babies: wet diapers, poopy diapers, diaper changes, gas, being picked up when they’re happily lying down and lying down when they want to be picked up, among many other things. Luckily, having an eyelash on their eyeball isn’t one of those things!
Baby’s eyes aren’t as easily irritated as ours, so avoid wiping them too hard or fussing about a fluff near their eyelid—it’s important not to introduce germs, and we may not realize we’re actually scratching their eyeball.
It’s not too soon for baby’s first eye exam!
Annual comprehensive eye exams are free for children 18 and under in Alberta. Any medically required visits are also covered by our provincial health program. Remember that you don’t need a referral to bring your child to an optometrist if you have a concern about their eyes or their vision.
Dr. Fu and Dr. Li are our family’s optometrists, and for us, they do house calls! (Like when we all came down with pink eye …)
If you are looking for quality optometry care for you and your fam-jam in Calgary, head over to Eighth Avenue Eyecare today. (They have free underground parking!) They’re awesome with babies and kids, using brightly coloured toys and clips from Paw Patrol to distract while they diagnose. (My cousin has memorized lines from a few Paw Patrol episodes because of this, much to the amusement of Little Miss Cub.)
And if you do need to purchase frames or contact lenses, mention this blog post to save 20%.