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BABY VISION: Free Eye Doctor Visits

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You know you need to take your baby to see his or her pediatrician, but there's another doctor who wants to see your baby before the first birthday that parents often don't think about.

You'll see many changes during your baby's first year as they learn to sit up, crawl and babble. Vision is also growing rapidly during that time. Caroline Carenza is just 9-months-old. Her dad Greg Carenza says, “She's a very good baby. She likes to eat and sleep mostly."

She also likes to look around, taking everything in. Dr. Melissa Billings with Vision Park Family Eye Care says, "About 80% of learning comes through vision. If a child is born with an eye turn, a lazy eye, eyes that don't see the same between the two, then it can lead them to a lifetime of problems academically, socially, with sports."

That's why Dr. Billings says eye doctors want to see babies between six and twelve months of age. As part of a program called InfantSee, eye doctors volunteer their time to give babies a free eye exam.  Dr. Billings says, "So we do several tests for eye alignment, just to make sure eyes are aligned."

She goes on to say, "We also check the health of the eye as well to make sure inside the eye, there aren't any diseases, such as childhood glaucoma or retinal blastoma, which is a cancer of the eye."

The exam only takes a few minutes. Dr. Billings says a child's visual system develops quickly up to the age of three, and the sooner doctors diagnose a problem, the better. She says, "The kids aren't able to communicate to their moms and dads that they can't see, so we're able to use techniques to check their prescription without them saying anything. And, that way if we do need correction, we can get that on them right away."

InfantSee is a national program for babies 6 to 12 months of age, but Dr. Billings says the best time to bring your baby is when they're 8 months old. She says, "They'll engage with me. They're not afraid of me, but they're not walking, so they'll sit nicely on mom or dad's lap and let me do what I need to do."

That's just what Caroline did, giving her dad peace of mind her vision is developing just as it should.

You can find eye doctors offering free visits for babies on the InfantSee website.

Dr. Billings says kids should also see the eye doctor at age three and before they start school.