Recent scientific evidence indicates that even a pre-born child can see. When a bright light is shone on the abdomen of a pregnant woman, there are changes in the foetal brain waves, indicating that the child can distinguish light from the darkness to which he has been accustomed, even before he leaves the womb.
At birth, he is better able to distinguish light from darkness, but for the first few days of life, his eyes are like an unfocused camera. Surrounding objects are blurry and indistinct. As he spends most of his time sleeping, all the organs and systems in his little body are quickly maturing and developing to accommodate his new existence as an individual separate from his mother.
By the time he is a week old, he will have periods of wakefulness, during which he is aware, alert and interested in what is happening around him. He can see things best which are 8 to 12 inches from his face. This is the usual distance between the parent and child when he is being held or fed.
Feeding time is an opportunity for an important bonding experience. For this reason, Dad may want to offer the occasional bottle of water or juice, while Mom is occupied elsewhere
The infant has a natural preference for faces. He will gaze fixedly at a face within his optimal viewing range. He seems fascinated at its movement and changing expressions. He has no idea what they signify as yet, but he will soon learn. He even regards with attention a crude black and white sketch of a human face, when it is held close to him.
As his interest in his parents' faces grows, he is building the basis for interest and interaction with the entire human species. However, it takes about eight months before he can differentiate between a familiar face and that of a stranger. At this stage he may begin to be shy, when approached by someone with whom he is unfamiliar.
Besides faces, new-borns like to watch brightness and movement. The light from a nearby window may attract his attention. By three months, he'll be able to follow the movement of the brightly-coloured mobile above his crib.
It is normal for babies during the first weeks of life, to look cross-eyed briefly, or to have one eye wander in a different direction than the other. As the eye muscles gradually strengthen, this will correct itself.
Contrary to former thought, it is now believed that babies can see bright colours right from birth. They seem especially interested in items of contrasting colours, such as black and white, or bright red and yellow.
Thoughtful parents will give their baby lots of brightly-coloured toys to look at and later, to play with. To avoid over-stimulating him, one item of interest at a time is best. It's also a good idea to move the baby around to different places during the day. Just like us, he'll enjoy a change of scenery.