Congratulations on the birth of your bundle of joy! Your little one is perfect with ten cute toes and ten pretty fingers. While basking in the euphoria of your new baby, please take the time to observe the following eyecare tips to ensure your baby’s vision remains perfect too.
1. Ensure your newborn receives eye care within the first hour of life
This is a WHO recommendation and is especially important for premature babies because they are at risk of having retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). The process involves examining their eyes and instilling antibiotic eye drops or ointment to prevent eye infections, which can cause blindness.
2. Do not ignore a ‘crossed eye’
Some babies are born with ‘crossed eyes’ which is also called a SQUINT or STRABISMUS. It usually occurs because the eyes of babies are still figuring out how to work together. It should resolve on its own by the time the child is four months. However, it is crucial to get the baby’s eyes checked once a crossed eye is noticed as it is sometimes due to more severe eye conditions.
3. Pay attention to droopy eyelids
Occasionally babies are born with droopy eyelids called PTOSIS, which blocks the baby’s vision and can lead to a condition called AMBLYOPIA. It is a case where the eye covered by the droopy eyelid steadily gets weaker because it is covered up. If not managed quickly, it can lead to lifelong visual impairment of that covered eye. These are some of the most common ocular diseases in Nigeria.
4. Seek immediate eyecare for whitish eyes or white reflections in the eye
If a white reflection is noticed in the black portion of a baby’s eye (pupils), especially when photographs are taken, please seek immediate eye care. Also, if the black part of the baby’s eye appears cloudy and dull, please consult an eye care practitioner as soon as possible. These might be due to congenital cataracts or eye cancer (retinoblastoma).
5. Don’t self-medicate ‘pink eyes’
Babies occasionally pick up eye infections, and it shows up as a pink or red eye. Please do not self-medicate using eye drops as some eye drops that are okay for adults can be lethal for babies. Also, do not use home remedies such as breast milk as this is just providing more nutrients for the microorganism, causing the pink eye to thrive. Do not use urine as this can introduce new organisms into the eye.
6. Fear not for watery eyes but still seek care
Watery eyes in babies are quite common as it is sometimes because the tube that drains the tears out of the eyes (tear duct) is not entirely open. The duct usually opens up by the time the child is one year. Still see your eye care personnel as some remedies can help the process along and reduce the watering and discharge.
7. Be observant
Babies begin to follow moving objects and reach for things in front of their faces by three months. If your baby isn’t doing this by then or tends to look at a different direction from lit and colourful toys dangled in their face, please see an eye care professional
8. Do an eye exam at six months
An eye exam must be done at six months, even in the absence of any symptoms. This is to ensure your baby’s eyes are developing normally and to detect any not obvious eye issues as soon as possible. Even though your baby cannot read the letters on the vision chart, eye doctors can test your baby’s vision using non-verbal methods.
Despite all of these, most eye conditions in newborns are minor and easily resolved if attended to early. What is most important is to be observant and seek professional care in order to safeguard the vision and health of our babies.
Dr. Jeme Adomi is a Clinical Optometrist with over 12 years of working experience in the private and public eye care sector. She obtained her Doctor of Optometry from the University of Benin and a Masters in International Public Health from the University of Liverpool. She is also a Low Vision specialist and heads the Optics department of one of the major eye hospitals in Lagos state. She has a passion for public health education with an emphasis on eye care and wants to bring about a change in health care service delivery in Nigeria.