When and why do babies’ eyes change color? Are there ways to predict your baby’s permanent eye color? And when will your baby’s eyes settle into their lifelong color? We're here to give parents insight into this fascinating topic.
Your newborn baby's eyes might be blue, gray, or brown now, but will they always stay that way?
Many parents have heard that some babies' eyes can change color --- especially blue or gray eyes, which could darken over time.
But why does this happen? When do babies' eyes usually change, and when are babies' eyes most likely to be their permanent color? We have the answers here.
When do babies' eyes usually change color?
Babies' eyes can change color anytime in their first year, but the most significant and surprising changes usually happen between 3 and 6 months of age. After that 6 month mark, eye color changes are usually more subtle, but still visibly impact the hue of your little one's eyes.
As the American Academy of Ophthalmology reports, most babies will have their permanent eye color once they're around 9 months old. So, it's probably safe to fill in the "eye color" section on baby's milestone charts at the 9 month mark.
Things may still not be set in stone after 9 months, though, or even after a year. Surprisingly, some children can experience shifts in their eye color until their third birthday. (Again, though, changes after the 6-month mark still tend to be more subtle).
Why do babies' eyes change color?
So, what's responsible for the possible eye color shifts?
It's all about how much melanin is in baby's irises (the rings around the pupil that give eyes their color) over time.
Yes, melanin --- the same pigment that gives people different colors of skin --- impacts baby's eye color.
Baby's irises contain melanocytes, which are cells that produce melanin. These melanocytes respond to light and add more melanin to the irises. But the amount of melanin they could add varies from baby to baby.
All melanin is brown --- it's the amount of melanin added that determines whether an iris looks brown, blue, green, or hazel.
Learn more about how baby’s eyes grow and change color from the American Academy of Ophthalmology:
When baby was in the dark environment of the womb, the melanocytes in their eyes couldn't produce melanin.
But as baby is exposed to more light outside the womb, the melanocytes can produce melanin over time --- potentially enough to change baby's eye color by the 3-6 month mark.
This is why babies born with blue or gray eyes could (but don't always) go through drastic changes in eye color.
It's also why babies born with brown eyes probably won't experience a color change.
- Blue and gray eyes have the least amount of melanin in the irises.
- If the melanocytes only produce a little bit of melanin, baby's eyes could stay blue or gray.
- If the melanocytes produce a moderate amount of melanin, that could change baby's blue or gray eyes to green or hazel eyes.
- If the melanocytes produce lots of melanin over time, this creates brown eyes --- the most common eye color.
Eyes that are brown usually stay brown throughout someone's life.
So, if baby's blue or gray eyes become brown --- or if baby was born with brown eyes --- don't expect those brown eyes to turn blue later on.
What else impacts baby's eye color?
Skin color and genetics also impact baby's eye color --- and also play a role in whether their eye color will change.
Skin color and eye color
Babies with lighter skin are more likely to be born with blue or grey eyes, which have a chance of changing into a drastically different hue. Their eyes could even visibly change several times. Only about 1 in 5 Caucasian people who were born with blue eyes still have blue eyes as they get older
Babies with darker skin are more likely to be born with brown eyes. Anytime before their first birthday, the shade of their brown eyes could still change a bit. But the change naturally won't be as drastic (their eyes will still be brown).
Of course, a Caucasian baby could still be born with brown eyes --- and more rarely, a baby with darker skin could be born with blue eyes.
Genetics and eye color
Another factor that influences a baby's eye color is the genetics of baby's biological parents.
It's still hard to predict what color baby's eyes will be --- including whether a blue-eyed baby's eyes will remain blue --- based on genes, as many genes come into play.
We do know that "brown eye" genes are most dominant, "blue eye" genes are most recessive (least dominant), and "green eye" genes fall in the middle.
We can also look at the odds:
- If both biological parents have blue eyes, baby is more likely to be born with blue eyes that stay blue.
- If both biological parents have brown eyes, baby will be more likely to have (or end up with) brown eyes.
- If one parent has blue eyes and one parent has brown eyes, there's a nearly equal chance that baby will have (permanently) blue or brown eyes.
- If a biological grandparent has blue eyes, that slightly increases the odds that baby's eyes will stay blue (even if neither biological parent has blue eyes).
- If both parents have green eyes, baby is more likely to end up with green eyes.
- One parent with green eyes and one parent with blue eyes means a nearly equal chance of baby having green or blue eyes.
- One parent with green eyes and one parent with brown eyes means it's a bit more complicated to predict baby's eye color. Baby is more likely to end up with brown eyes, but still has a good chance of green eyes… and there's a slight chance they'll be born with blue eyes that stick around.
When should I be concerned about eye color?
If you notice that baby has two different eye colors by 6-7 months of age, or that their eye color is lightening instead of darkening by 6-7 months of age, consult your pediatrician. They may refer you to an eye doctor.
These color changes could be signs of an eye problem, other condition, or eye injury --- although they sometimes just happen due to genetics.
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