Every mother should do all in her power to safeguard her baby’s eyes. In this she follows nature’s lead, for nature has given the eyes special protection by placing them in bony cavities (the orbits) which are lined with fat.
The eyelids, eyebrows, and eyelashes all function to protect these delicate organs, which give us one of the most important of our special senses — that of sight.
But nature can be helped from the very beginning of a baby’s life.
Special attention is always given to a baby’s eyes within a few minutes of birth, in case of any infection during birth.
In the first few weeks of life every mother should observe her baby’s eyes carefully, to see if there is any redness of the eyes, any discharge, or inflammation of the eyelids, so that prompt medical attention can be given.
A baby’s tear glands do not function for the first few weeks, so that at first baby has no tears (nature’s eyewash).
Therefore, at bath time, and especially if there is any discharge, baby’s eyes should be carefully and gently irrigated with normal saline.
Prevention of eyestrain, which is so prevalent, should begin in the nursery. A baby should never be tucked down in his bassinet facing a glare of light from a window.
A screen with a dark color (green for preference) should always be arranged to protect his eyes from glare, whether he is outside or inside the house.
When the bassinet is outside, a “sunshade” made of strips of dark green, fadeless material should be fitted over the hood and taped to the back of the bassinet.
If a screen is used, a triangular-shaped piece of this material can be attached to the top of the screen at the angle formed by the two sides, to protect the eyes from direct sunshine or (on a dull day) ‘”skyshine.”
A soft cotton hat with a shady brim lined with darker color should be worn by older babies and toddlers, and it is most important that there should be protection for the back of the neck.
Sense of Color
How often a little child can be seen in a pushcart facing directly into the sun, while the mother is walking with her back to the sun.
The child’s eyes are subjected to a strong and dangerous glare of light — the very thing to be avoided.
In addition, it is quite a common sight to see on our beaches bareheaded little babies and toddlers, with no protection whatever, subjected to the strong, dangerous glare of sunlight, which is also reflected from the sand and surf.
Eye trouble in later years is sure to be the result of such careless treatment.
All baby’s first toys should be large and brightly colored, for at six to seven months the color sense begins to develop.
For that reason, colored foods should be included in the baby’s menu, so that meals may appear attractive to him.
Objects should never be held too near to baby’s eyes.
No toys should be fastened to the hood of the pram or bassinet to dangle near baby’s face, or be tied above the cot, and no one should stand behind baby looking down on him so that he rolls his eyes backwards.
Little children should not be allowed to thread beads or be taught to read under the age of five years.
A baby’s sight can easily be tested by attempting to make him look towards a moving object or a bright light.
However, in the early months, his sight has not developed sufficiently to pick out objects, especially at a distance.
It takes a baby some time to learn to focus the eyes on different objects at varying distances, and the tiny muscles of the eyes get tired and sometimes do not function quite normally, so it is common in the early weeks to find one or both eyes turned in a little at times.
This early “squinting”” is nothing to worry about. It occurs only when the eye muscles are tired.
However, if a squint is noticed in an older baby or toddler, when one eye is definitely turned in, an eye specialist should be consulted.
This is a “lazy”‘ eye, and if not treated the sight in that eye will deteriorate. Special eye-treatment and glasses are sometimes necessary for correction.
If a squint suddenly develops in a sick child, a doctor should be consulted at once. A simple, early eye-trouble can be caused by a blocked tear duct.
Usually only one eye is affected, and it looks weak and always appears to have a tear in it. This condition usually rights itself, but sometimes the blocked duct has to be pierced by an eye specialist.
The appearance of the eyes is often indicative of good or ill-health.
In good health they are bright and sparkling; but in poor health they may be dull, sunken, or unduly prominent.
In early school life teachers and parents should be on the lookout for signs of eyestrain, which is often caused by bad positions during lesson hours, or by bad lighting arrangements at home or at school.
Signs of eyestrain to be noticed are rubbing of the eyes, frequent blinking, red eyelids, conjunctivitis, and listlessness.
Periodic testing of school children’s eyes carried out thoroughly is most valuable, as the earlier an optical defect is detected, the greater are the chances of preventing serious trouble.