By Registered Health Visitor – Julia Headland

National Eye Health Week (NEHW) runs from the 18th to 24th September 2023 and aims to promote the importance of good eye health and the need for regular eye tests for all. I have been asked to write a blog about eye health, and as a health visitor, particularly focusing on children up to the ages of 5 years.

What can babies see and when?
Newborn – baby sees shapes, light and movement but only in shades of grey. Keep within 8-10 inches to keep a visual bond.
1-2 months – baby can now see red, orange, yellow and green colours and are eyes are learning to work as a team.
3-4 months – baby is recognising more colours and can use her eyes together to track and focus more.
5-6 months – baby’s depth and perception is improving and she’s developing better hand-eye co-ordination, helping her to grab things.
7-8 months – baby is now able to recognise people and objects from across the room although her short- range sight is still better.
9-10 months – baby’s eyes will now be pretty much their adult colour and her vision is also very close to that of an adult.
11-12 months – baby’s vision should now be as sharp as an adult.

(Vision Direct 2023)

Throughout a baby’s early life, medical professionals will be monitoring your baby’s eyes during routine screening, and this starts as early as within 72 hours of birth.

Within 72 Hours of Birth
Your baby will have a new-born physical examination which will look at their eyes as well as their heart, hips and in boys, their testicles.

During the new-born screen when the eyes are examined, the doctor or midwife will shine a torch into the eyes to check the appearance and movement of the eyes. They are also looking for cataracts which is a clouding of the lens inside the eye and other conditions (NHS 2023).

Although cataracts commonly affect older adults, some babies are born with cataracts known as childhood cataracts (although they are relatively rare). Cataracts can cause poor vision, wobbling eyes, and a squint (where the eyes point in different directions). It is important to spot cataracts in young children as early intervention can really reduce the risk of long-term vision problems (NHS 2023).

Midwives are also keeping a look out for sticky eyes or an infection such as conjunctivitis. Newborns are born with very small tear ducts which can become blocked and cause sticky eyes. Often, bathing them with cool boiled water is enough to soothe the eye however if there is persistent stickiness, redness, irritation, inflammation or swelling, your baby may have an infection so will need to see the GP.

6 to 8-week Check
Your baby should see both a health visitor and a GP by 8 weeks. Amongst the variety of things, we are checking, we check your baby’s eyes. For example, your health visitor might ask you if you notice whether your baby’s eyes follow you when you are in the same room, or they might ask you if you have noticed a squint (an inward or outward or an up or down turning eye).

1-year Development Check
This is often when parents report concerns for their child’s vision as they may have noticed particular behaviours which could indicate problems, for example:
Sitting too close to the TV or insisting on watching TV in the dark.
Rubbing their eyes, a lot.
Holding objects very close to their faces.
Noticing a squint- perhaps noticing that one eye turns inwards or outwards whereas the other eye looks ahead.
Being unusually clumsy.
Problems with hand-eye co-ordination.

2-year Development Check
At the 2-year development check, you will receive an ASQ questionnaire and on that there is a question asking about concerns you may have for your child’s vision. This is another opportunity for you to get a referral for an orthoptist appointment for further investigation.

4-5 Years Old
Quite often your child’s eyes will be tested when they start school, and this is called vision screening and it checks for reduced vision in one or both eyes (NHS 2023). It must be noted that not all schools do this vision screening so if your school doesn’t, you are strongly advised to take them to an optician for a thorough check up.

Eye checks are free to all children under the age of 16 years old.

So, we have discussed certain eye concerns and the importance of regular eye tests but what can we do to maintain good eye sight for both our children and ourselves? The Vision Matters Organisation (2023) has some great tips to help maintain healthy vision:

Research has shown that what we eat can affect our vision. Firstly, antioxidants found in most fruits and vegetables can help prevent retinal damage and one antioxidant in particular is very important and this is lutein.
Foods recommended for eye health include:
Broad leaf greens such as kale and spinach
Brightly coloured fruit and veg such as corn, carrots, orange sweet peppers
and oranges
Oily fish like salmon, tuna and mackeral

Exercise and Eyesight
Lack of exercise significantly contributes to several eye conditions, mostly of people aged 60 and over. It is thought that exercise reduces the risk of vision loss from narrowing or hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure and

Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to serious health conditions which can have a detrimental effect on eye health.

After ageing, smoking is the biggest risk factor for developing macular degeneration and it increases the risk of developing a cataract.

Protecting your eyes from the sun is very important and you should never look directly at the sun. Your sunglasses should have CE mark on them which ensures that they are giving you the right level of ultraviolet protection.


For those people I have not yet met, my name is Julia Headland and I am a registered health visitor and registered general nurse with a degree in public health and over 20 years of experience.  I am very pleased to work alongside the Norfolk House Nursery team.

You can arrange to meet me for confidential advice or guidance about your child’s health or development; during the pandemic these consultations are being conducted by Zoom or telephone.

My consultations are free of charge and they are confidential.

You can book an appointment with me via the Norfolk House Nursery staff.

You can also follow me on social media:

Facebook: @JuliaHeadlandPrivateHealthVisitor

Instagram: jh_privatehealthvisitor