Caring for your baby's eyes

By Optometrist Tim Thurn

It's important to remember that a child or baby doesn't know if their view of the world is normal or not.

In the first few years, the eyes are establishing their connections to the brain. If an eye's vision is very blurry or if the eye is turned, (strabismus or squint), the eye may 'switch off', becoming 'lazy', (amblyopic). The right steps in the first two to three years of life can help reduce the risk.

The common consensus is that babies and toddlers should have their eyes tested at six and 18 months, and again before starting school.

A percentage of children will become short sighted in their first six years and while the symptoms are sometimes obvious, some children may show no sign of a problem, making check-ups important.

Warning signs

Warning signs are most difficult in babies but can be as simple as:

  • seeming to have a preferred side to view objects, that is, the baby deliberately turning his or her head to one side when looking at you or say a favourite toy;
  • ignoring action taking place on their non-preferred side or being seemingly un-reactive to actions;
  • constant rubbing of his or her eyes despite not being tired or due for a sleep;
  • the baby's eyes seeming to have difficulty coordinating when tracking objects.
  • A visit to the optometrist is warranted if you observe these signs over a period of time.

Ultra violet light can damage our eyes as well as our skin. UV damage to your eyes is cumulative and long term, so early protection is essential.

For babies and tiny tots, who are mostly indoors, a broad brimmed hat and keeping them out of the sun between 10am and 2pm is generally enough but you can get small sunglasses for bubs and tots - the challenge is keeping them on!