Eye contact is one of the crucial developmental milestones of your baby’s development and growth. It supports the development of your baby’s brain, social, and emotional intelligence, which is an essential skill for developing relations with the people around them. Eye contact has both emotional and intellectual importance for babies. Not only does it help them in an early attachment to people around them, but also in obtaining information about the world.
Babies have the ability to stare at things right after birth, for instance, lights and various bright colors attract them a lot. When babies turn 4 months, they tend to have better and more developed visual perception and communication. They can also see colors correctly and smile back upon eye contact.
Don’t take this milestone lightly and talk to your doctor, if your baby still doesn’t make eye contact even after a year. Eye contact indicates that their baby has started taking an interest in people and things around them.
When infants start to follow their parent’s gaze, they are able to share and learn important information like language and vocabulary. When you name the object that your baby is gazing at, you are helping your baby in developing the connection between sight and the word.
Eye contact helps your baby associate your voice with your face and develops the understanding of a smile and love from you.
However, if your baby is neither making eye contact nor responding to your gestures, then this could mean that you have an autistic baby.
Needless to say, eye contact is the best part of parenting, for it makes us feel important and recognized by our babies. Nothing makes us feel more emotionally connected to our babies than those angelic eyes gazing at us. Among other milestones, this is indeed the most crucial one, as it promotes the development of your baby’s vision.
As a mother, I was looking forward to the day my baby started making eye contact. So instead of sitting idle, I did a few things to help my baby achieve this exciting milestone sooner.
I’m sure you would want to know how you can encourage eye contact in your baby as well. Below, I’ve organized all the exercises and activities to help your baby mesmerize you with his eye contact.
How does eye contact develop within babies?
The progress in your baby’s eye contact shows that his communication ability and neurological growth are right on track.
For babies, eye contact develops rather fast:
- After 7 hours of birth, babies show great interest in the face and facial expressions of their mother and try to imitate them as well.
- Around 6-10 weeks, the infants start to shift their eyes more consciously and learn to gaze directly at their mother for a longer period.
- Around the age of 3 months, babies are able to move their gaze with the movement of their caregiver.
- Around 9-11 months, babies develop the ability to spot what or where their caregiver is looking at. By this time, they are already aware of the function of eyes i.e., to look and see. Some babies might take their time in developing this skill so do not stress over it.
How to encourage eye contact with your baby
Eye contact in babies indicates the special bond being formed between the parents and the baby. With eye contact, your baby can recognize your feelings and love for him. However, each baby will take their own time to develop and master this skill.
It might take a while for your baby to learn to make eye contact, but you can play your part by encouraging them through the following tips:
- Be mindful of your baby’s mood while encouraging eye contact because babies are less likely to make eye contact when they are sick, tired, or hungry. So, make sure that you make these efforts when your baby is in a good mood, and fully responsive.
- Holding your baby 10-12 inches away from your face will encourage them to make eye contact with you.
- If your baby is making an effort of staring at you out of his own will, then try benefitting from this situation by making them stare at you for longer. You can do so by singing, making faces, and talking to them. These little gestures will get imprinted in your baby’s memory and will help in fruitful development.
- Pediatricians suggest parents pay attention to their baby when he is staring at them. When a baby stares out of his own will, he is more likely to pay attention and make eye contact.
- To develop a harmonious bond between a parent and an infant, shared eye contact followed by contact or voice is more effective.
- One of the most beneficial ways to encourage eye contact is by pointing at an object or toy and calling it by its name. This approach will also promote language development within your baby.
- Do not feel sad if your baby is not trying to make any eye contact with you. They also like to explore things around them, so give them some space and time to get back at you.
- Your baby’s eyesight is still developing which is why he is more likely to look for a short period. Do not try to hold their gaze for a longer period for they may get tired and uninterested.
What activities can promote your baby’s eye contact?
Pediatricians recommend parents get their baby’s eyesight checked between the age of 6-12 months for better development of eye contact.
This check-up is to ensure that your baby’s eyesight is healthy and has no issues like astigmatism, farsightedness, nearsightedness, etc.
The following activities will help to improve your baby’s eyesight development:
- Let the baby follow moving objects with his eyes in the first 4 months and teach him to reach out for stuff he finds appealing. This will help your baby in building hand-eye coordination.
- By constantly changing the position of your baby’s crib and your baby’s position, will prove effective for developing eye contact. Also, try handing your baby toys from different angles and positions to help him follow the movement through his eyes.
- Keep some of your baby’s toys at a distance of 8-12 inches.
- While feeding your baby, try to make the most out of this time by talking to them. Your constant chatter will force your baby to make eye contact with you and develop that special bond.
Why do babies tend to avoid eye contact?
You might find your baby avoiding eye contact for some unknown reason. Here are a few things to keep in mind before you start panicking:
- Remember that your baby can only focus on things and faces that are 30cm away. They avoid looking at things or people far from this range.
- When the baby’s visual stimulus is over-aroused, you will find him avoiding eye contact. Knowing your baby’s eye contact limit is essential for parents. If your baby seems too disturbed by some visual, then try calming him down by putting that thing away.
- Some babies tend to shy from looking when they have gazed too much at a certain spot or face. In such cases, you might find your baby avoiding any eye contact at all for some time, which is normal.
- Some babies may go without eye contact for weeks, which is entirely fine. Because they are probably taking their time to maintain eye contact.
- Babies who tend to avoid eye contact persistently could be suffering from autism. If your baby refuses to make eye contact with you even after 6 months or so, then contact your doctor immediately for a timely diagnosis.
How can I spot autism in my baby?
Babies that do not have typical developmental milestones could be at risk of autism. Here are a few symptoms that you can notice in your autistic baby.
- They avoid eye contact most of the time, even after the age of 6 months or a year
- They do not smile back at you, respond to your voice or their name
- They do not try following the objects visually
- They neither wave back at you nor follow your finger when you point at things
- They neither make noises to seek your attention nor initiate or respond to cuddling
If you find these behavior patterns in your baby, contact your doctor immediately as an early diagnosis of autism can help prevent it from worsening.
Most babies take their time to develop the ability to maintain eye contact. Do not force your baby into it. Instead, do little fun gestures or interesting activities to encourage eye contact. You can promote early eye contact in your baby through recommended activities.
Your baby’s gazing period may vary according to his age and development. It is hard to predict whether your baby has some eyesight issue when he declines to sustain eye contact. Instead of stressing, try to understand your baby’s behavior and gazing pattern.
Try these fantastic techniques, and let me know your baby’s progress in the comments below.