seeing is believing
how and when a baby develops sight coincides with interest in solid foods
By Dr. Alan Greene, Pediatrician, Author and Advisor to Plum Organics. Our senses begin developing while we’re still in the womb. It’s a process perfectly orchestrated to match a baby’s needs as he or she develops. For parents, knowing what your baby can experience via the senses is incredibly thrilling. PRE-SIGHT: HEARING & SMELL In utero, babies develop a strong sense of hearing. They can even begin to recognize their parents’ voices. The sense of smell is also powerful. Scents can enter the womb through the placenta, allowing babies get to know the smell of their parents before they’re born. Interestingly, even food aromas can reach a baby. From the day they are born, babies have such a finely tuned sense of smell they can tell their own mother’s breast milk from another mother’s breast milk. SIGHT Vision is the exact opposite, because it’s not yet necessary. Before birth, babies really only see patterns of light and dark. This sets their circadian rhythm. You know how in movies, the director has the ability to make your eyes follow the camera and look at the right thing? It’s sort of similar for newborns. Their focal point is an arms length away—what comes into focus is faces and target shaped patterns. In the early months, everything is muted and black and white. They are enveloped in a visual world that only involves their parents and the food they need. It takes them a while to inherit our big, bright colorful world. This dull visual field broadens for them around 4 to 5 months old. The cones of the eyes don’t get wired up until then. Color vision begins to saturate the world and finally they can see everything. Some studies have shown babies can detect red before then, but it appears to be the brightness of the red they’re registering, not the actual color. It’s no accident that colors become profound right around the same time babies typically show an interest in solid foods. Produce is so colorful. When you look at other animals, the color of their food is attuned to what they see, too. Mosquitos, bees, and hummingbirds all see different color ranges than humans. We have three different receptors that color our world, and these are directly related to the food around us and to fruit bearing plants. Take advantage of this visual awakening. It’s a fantastic opportunity for parents to offer their babies a more interesting visual feast — something other than boxes of rice cereal and monotone foods. It’s a chance to show off nature’s vibrant array of fruits and vegetables. If all a baby sees is beige, they’re more likely to be hesitant the first time they see something green or orange or purple. So, the minute baby starts to notice what you serve, bring on the color.