Why Won't Your Baby Make Eye Contact?

It may be a little concerning if your baby won’t make eye contact with you. Those first gazes with your little one are so special, and some days you just want to gaze into their eyes. Eye contact is a part of infant development and some babies may take longer than others to notice your eyes. In general, there is a specific timeline for when these first gazes happen, but some are earlier or later than others. This article will help you understand the timeline and when you should be concerned. There are also some helpful tips on how to encourage eye contact.

When Do Babies Make Eye Contact?

It is very special when you look into your baby’s eyes, so when your baby won’t make eye contact you may worry a little. Eye contact is an important indicator of your baby’s neurological development, and communication development. When they make eye contact with a parent or caregiver, they are showing you that they understand the meaning behind seeing a face. Babies then read your facial expressions and get to know who everyone is.

Eye gaze development happens very early on, even though you may not notice. Hours after they are born, they are already looking at you at a close distance. By one year of age they will have most likely developed direct eye contact. Here is a timeline of eye gaze development:

7 Hours after Birth

Your baby has his or her eyes open and appears to study your face during waking periods.

6 to 10 Weeks of Age

You may notice your baby looking at you from a distance and catch your eyes for a moment. They may hold your gaze and widen their eyes in a look of surprise.

3 Months of Age

Your baby may now be following you around the room with his or her eyes. Distance vision is becoming clearer.

9 to 11 Months Old

Right before your baby’s first birthday, your baby will most likely have made eye contact with you. At this time, your baby should be able to follow your gaze and look at other things you are looking at.

Should You Worry If Baby Won’t Make Eye Contact? What Causes It?

Most experts agree that if your baby is not making eye contact in the first few months, don’t worry. Eye contact is only one of many developmental milestones that occur in the first year of life. Not all babies experience them at the same time and deficits are diagnosed only if a large group of milestones is missing. Your baby may avoid eye contact, but do things like roll over, look at toys, study distant objects with their eyes, and turn their head to sounds. It could also be that you aren’t noticing the times your baby is trying to make eye contact. Doctors say “Be patient.”

However, there are some different things that may be causing your baby to do this:

1.    Vision Issues

Even in the case of an older baby not making eye contact, your pediatrician may likely suggest a vision screening. Most often, it may just be a vision issue that needs addressed.

2.    Developmental Issues

Sometimes, babies will hold off on one thing while they are trying to master another. Your baby may be moving along with things like using their hands, focusing on music and sounds, or rolling over. If your baby won’t make eye contact, make a list of other milestones they are reaching to show your doctor.

3.    The Autism Concern

There has been new research and a lot of new moms’ concerns about signs of autism in infants earlier than one-year. Keep in mind that researchers found that the signs were an actual “decrease” in eye contact between 2 and 6 months old, rather than babies not making eye contact at all. What this means is that babies that showed early signs of autism actually made eye contact at one point, and then it stopped. If this happens, then you do have some room for concern.

Ways to Encourage Eye Contact

Eye contact is mostly a learned skill and it needs to be taught by his or her primary caregivers. Some babies catch on more quickly, and others are slower to get it. Here are some tips to help things along:

  1. Give your baby eye contact frequently. You can show baby how to connect by giving eye contact yourself. Catch your baby’s gaze and hold it as long as you can. You can get their attention by making noises, talking, or singing to them. Once they catch your gaze, hold it for about 10 to 15 seconds.
  2. Use the 8 to 12 inch rule. Babies under 3 to 4 months old don’t see much past 12 inches from their face. Try to make eye contact within this range. If you are standing too far away, your face may be blurry to baby.
  3. Use bright colors, or black and white. To get your baby’s attention, hold something bright colored in their field of vision. For much younger babies, black and white contrasts are easiest to see. Place the toy 8 to 12 inches from their face, move the toy away, and keep your eyes in the same spot as the toy. Play peek-a-boo like this until they catch your gaze. You may even get a giggle if your baby is over two months.

When to See a Doctor

It is a good idea to check with the pediatrician if you don’t notice the following after the age of 6 months:

  • Lack of smiling
  • Cooing and babbling, then stopping
  • Making eye contact and then stopping
  • Does not smile in response to your smiles (After 9 months)
  • Does not wave bye-bye after one-year of age
 
 
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