Baby Eye Development: Why Black and White?

Baby Eye Development: Why Black and White?

Have you ever noticed that your newborn is drawn to specific toys or items around your home and then other things just seem completely invisible to them? I welcome Bianca from My Little Booky Wooky to explain the reasons behind this…

Have you ever noticed that your newborn is drawn to specific toys or items around your home and then other things just seem completely invisible to them? My newborn was incredibly drawn to a specific light fitting, a painting and my pyjamas. The reason for this only became apparent after my local maternal nurse organised a session for our mother’s group at our local library. The librarian highlighted the importance of reading to babies and which books are most appropriate for their developmental stage. She also explained that up until the age of 6 months, a baby’s eyesight is rapidly developing. They can only see in black and white and are drawn to high contrast objects. Our black light fixture in the lounge room contrasted with the white ceiling, our painting with several black and white elements and of course my pyjamas, again black and white. It all started making sense. No wonder he didn’t like this gorgeous giraffe toy I had made for him in a beautiful cream and pale blue colours! For the first several months of a baby’s life, they simply cannot see these pastel colours that the world seems to associate with babies and surround them with.


The librarian recommended getting some black and white books and placing them next to my baby as a stimulating activity for them in their early months. My little one simply hated tummy time and after the session with the librarian I placed a black and white book in front of him and HEY PRESTO! it was as if a magic switch had been flicked. Our son was lasting so much longer on his tummy than ever before, and actually enjoying it. He was simply transfixed by these images. During an outing we were driving back from the coast and got stuck in traffic. My son was getting quite distressed and I thought about trying the black and white book again. Within a few minutes he was calm and enjoyed the rest of the trip home as we flicked through the book and I made up a story for each page.

I quickly realised the book was a fantastic resource to have and I went to all my local baby stores and gift shops to purchase one but none of them stocked books for newborns or even knew about the benefits. This is how my book idea came about and 6 months on, I held in my hands my very own published black and white book titled “Let’s go outside”. It is a black and white board book with beautiful outdoor themed images. One of the best ways to enjoy the book is to snuggle up with your newborn and slowly go through the book, making up your own story for each set of images. The other wonderful benefit of doing this is that babies are introduced to books at a very early age which can support a life-long love of reading.

What are some of the benefits of black and white images on babies?
• They can have a soothing and calming effect on a crying baby.
• They can give a baby something simple to focus on, which also helps them develop concentration skills.
• They can assist with extending tummy time in an enjoyable way for the baby.
• They can encourage babies with flat head to turn their heads to the other side.
• They aide faster visual development.

From a slightly more medical point of view, there is plenty of credible research supporting both the importance of black and white for babies as well as why it has such an effect on them. When a baby is born, their retinas are not yet correctly developed. Over time as their eyesight develops, a baby goes from seeing their surroundings as black and white or light and dark to distinguishing shapes and objects and seeing things in their correct colours. Continuous visual stimulation in a baby’s early months is crucial for developing nerve cell connections in the brain. Studies to date have proven that high contrast images (such as black, white and red) register strongly on a baby’s retina which in turn sends a much stronger signal to their brain, helping their visual part of a baby’s brain develop faster. For further information about visual stimulation for newborns check out

It is recommended by many paediatricians, maternal nurses and librarians to surround your baby by black and white in their first few months. Black and white books, toys, blankets and mobiles provide your baby with a stimulating activity combined with an important developmental component. You will simply be amazed at how your baby will react to these high contrast items. It is also important to ensure that these items are within the correct distance from your baby. In their first few months your baby can only see approximately 30cm in front of them.

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