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Why Do Babies Stare at Me? When to Be Concerned

Updated: Jun 4

As a parent, it can feel unnerving when your baby stares at you unblinkingly. What are they seeing and why are they so fixated? Rest assured—this odd yet endearing behavior isn’t just some weird phase that babies go through—it has an important purpose in helping them develop their brain and vision!

In this article, we'll provide more insight into your baby's vision, why they stare, and how you can help support healthy development.

In this article:

How your baby's eyes work


Two to six months

Six months to one year

Why babies stare

Exploring their world

Seeking visual stimulation

Initiating social interaction

Brain development

What catches a baby's attention?

Certain types of faces

Moving objects

Distinctive objects

When to be concerned about your baby staring

FAQs about baby staring

Q: Why does my baby stare at strangers?

Q: Why does my baby stare at nothing?

Q: Why does my baby stare and smile?

The Takeaway

How your baby's eyes work

This section briefly describes some vision milestones within a baby's first year. Just remember that every baby is different and may develop visual abilities differently depending on their genetics and early experiences.


Newborn babies can see immediately after birth, but their eyesight is far from fully developed. They are not able to effectively control their eye movements, so you may notice that your baby's eyes cross or drift outward. This is only temporary in the vast majority of cases.

As a result, newborns primarily focus on things that are within 8 to 12 inches of their face. Anything farther away will appear blurry.

Moreover, newborns initially have poor contrast sensitivity. This means that they can more easily see high-contrast items (such as the black and white pictures on many baby toys).

They have trouble seeing and distinguishing objects that are similar in brightness.

Two to six months

Around 2 to 3 months, your baby's visual coordination improves and they should begin to be able to track moving objects.

By 5 or 6 months, your baby should have developed better depth perception, so they will be able to see their world in three dimensions. This helps them judge distance and reach for objects.

Around 5 or 6 months they will also have developed good color vision, although it is not as sensitive as an adult's. They can distinguish between similar colors but will probably prefer bright colors.

Six months to one year

Your baby's visual acuity (the ability to see details and distinguish shapes from a distance) has more fully developed and they can see objects that are significantly farther away. They can recognize a parent from across the room and look through a window to objects outside.

They can also notice more details and distinguish between similar items and people.

Why babies stare

Staring is a normal part of your baby's development for several reasons and is generally nothing to worry about.

Some reasons why babies stare include:

1. Exploring their world

Everything is brand new and interesting for young infants. They stare because they are constantly exploring their world and learning how it works.

2. Seeking visual stimulation

Certain objects are more visually stimulating for young babies. They are naturally attracted to high-contrast items, bright colors, bright light, and different patterns. Your baby is developing their visual skills when they stare at these objects.

3. Initiating social interaction

They may not be able to talk, but your baby is still a social creature! Babies often try to engage with and seek attention from others—especially parents and other familiar people—by staring at them.

4. Brain development

Your baby may also be staring because their brain is so busy processing all of the information that they constantly absorb and building new brain connections.

What catches a baby's attention?

1. Certain types of faces

Babies definitely stare more at certain types of faces, but different types may appeal to different babies.

Most babies tend to be drawn most to the faces of familiar people—their parents and caregivers.

This can even extend to faces that look similar to those of their favorite people.

So a baby that spends more time around women may stare more at women.

Some studies have even shown that babies as young as 3 months old can show a preference for faces of their own race and may stare more at those faces.

Babies are also naturally drawn to and will tend to stare more at attractive faces.

For babies, this means symmetrical faces with balanced features.

However, very distinct facial features might also catch your baby's eye. They may stare more at someone with colorful hair, a bushy beard, or other interesting features.

Babies are also very aware of facial expressions and are likely to stare more at people who are making distinct expressions.

They might also stare more at people who make eye contact or smile at them—this can begin to feel like a staring contest!

2. Moving objects

A baby's attention is naturally drawn to objects in motion, which provide greater visual stimulation and help them develop their visual skills. So don't be surprised to see your baby staring at ceiling fans.

Your baby is also naturally curious. Moving objects change position and direction, sometimes unpredictably. When your baby stares, they may be trying to understand how their world works.

As they get older and gain better eye coordination, babies begin to track moving objects with their eyes. Staring helps them to practice this skill.

3. Distinctive objects

Babies are naturally attracted to bright and contrasting colors and patterns.

When to be concerned about your baby staring

Staring is a normal part of a baby's developing vision and is usually nothing to worry about.

However, there are a few instances where you should discuss your baby's staring with your healthcare provider, such as:

  1. Excessive staring: Your baby is staring for extended periods of time and seems unaware of their surroundings or you are unable to get their attention or distract them from staring.

  2. Avoiding eye contact: Your baby consistently avoids eye contact with others or does not respond to visual cues such as smiling.

  3. One eye turns inward or outward: This misalignment can be a sign of strabismus, a common condition that is very treatable if diagnosed early.

  4. Delayed development: Your baby is staring and not meeting the developmental milestones expected for a child of their age. For example, they might not visually track a moving object when they have reached the expected age range for this milestone.

In these instances, staring behavior might point to a vision or developmental issue. Your healthcare provider can evaluate your baby and recommend any treatment or referrals that you need.

FAQs about baby staring

Q: Why does my baby stare at strangers?

Your baby is naturally curious about new people. A stranger may look different than the people most familiar to your baby, which might capture their attention. Your baby stares to try and figure out this new person!

As previously discussed, they may also be trying to engage with the stranger—staring is their way of initiating conversation.

Q: Why does my baby stare at nothing?

What you think is "nothing" may be something new and fascinating to your baby! Remember that the world is brand new to them and everything they see provides new information to help them make sense of it.

Try to look through your baby's eyes. That shadow on the wall might start to look pretty interesting!

Q: Why does my baby stare and smile?

Staring and smiling is a sign of your baby's healthy social and emotional development.

Your baby might stare and smile because they are happy to see a familiar face, such as a parent or caregiver, or because they are trying to engage or communicate with someone.

Babies might also stare and smile because they are mirroring someone who is smiling at them. The mirror neuron system, which develops before 1 year, helps humans understand how others are feeling. So your baby may be responding to someone else's happiness.

The Takeaway

As your baby's eyesight, social awareness, and cognitive ability develops, it's normal for them to stare while they take in their surroundings. It's a sign of their growth and exploration in the world of which they are newly aware. Whenever your little one stares off into seemingly nowhere, remember that it is part of the learning and formative process that is crucial for healthy development.


  1. Krasotkina A, Götz A, Höhle B, et al. Infants’ Gaze Patterns for Same-Race and Other-Race Faces, and the Other-Race Effect. Brain Sci. 2020 Jun; 10(6): 331. doi: 10.3390/brainsci10060331

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