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At 12 weeks, I knew that my little boy needed some help with his vision, as his eyes continued to drift inward far past the time they should have straightened out. With a family history of this issue, we quickly scheduled an assessment, knowing that any sensory challenge like vision can impact baby’s development. After being followed for many months, our son came home with adorable glasses at 13 months, and he hasn’t wanted to take them off since.
Early on, babies’ eyes are learning to focus as their ability to see grows exponentially every day. By three months, however, your baby should be evaluated by a pediatric ophthalmologist if he or she is not able to focus on objects by looking at them straight or if his or her eyes drift in or out (crossed eyes or esotropia). Catching this early ensures that your little one continues to send signals from the eyes to the brain as he or she grows and doesn’t learn to turn the signal off to the weaker eye. If you have any questions, ask your pediatrician to assess your child at their two-month appointment to help you make the right decision. Additionally, if there is a family history of eye issues, be aware that they are often genetic.
Pediatric ophthalmologists are trained to determine the course of correction based on the refraction of light off of your baby or toddler’s eye using a tool called a retinoscope. The eye exam can be held even if your child is not yet verbal. Some of the possible diagnoses in that visit include:
- Nearsightedness or farsightedness: easier to see up close than far away and vice versa
- Astigmatism: a deviation in the shape of the eye that impacts the ability to see.
- Strabismus: eye misalignment
- Amblyopia: poor vision in an otherwise normal eye due to disuse by the brain – in effect, the brain “forgets” how to use the amblyopic eye.
Your ophthalmologist may then recommend a combination of glasses and patching to try to compensate for any shortness of vision and to train the eyes to work together. The glasses industry makes some fabulous rubber, almost indestructible glasses. It is usually recommended to get the shatterproof glass as babies and toddlers love to chew on them! Also, having a strap will help keep them on. Miraflex makes a fabulous brand loved by bespectacled families everywhere that comes in all the colors of the rainbow.
The major key to success for any baby or toddler is to get them to wear their glasses. Our doctor recommended that we do anything possible to help him keep them on for the first hour of wear, and after that he would prefer them. Do everything you can to make the new glasses a special experience for your little one: take him or her to lunch, watch a special show in them, or wear your own glasses to help get your toddler into the spirit. A diligence to following your opthamologist’s instructions can lead to increased vision while with and without the glasses for years to come.