Guessing what color your baby’s eyes will be is a fun and exciting prospect. Will she have Dad’s eye color? Will he have Mom’s eye color? Perhaps they will be born with neither! Your child’s eye color may change several times before it becomes set as one hue. A good rule of thumb is that your newborn’s eyes will typically go from light to dark, and most of this change will happen in the first 6-9 months. By the end of the first year, you’ll have a pretty good idea of their eye color, although there can still be subtle changes in the shade until about age three. But let’s dig deeper about when and why your baby’s eyes change color!
When will my baby’s eyes change color?
Black, Asian, or Hispanic babies have more melanin and are, therefore, more likely to be born with brown eyes that will stay. Caucasian newborns, on the other hand, are often born with blue or gray eyes that will darken over the first year.1
For Caucasian babies, anywhere from three to nine months after birth, your baby’s eyes will change color. Their final hue isn’t set until two or three years of age for some babies, but this is rarer. Here are some fun facts about how eye color breaks down among the world’s population:2
- 70%-80% of the world’s population has brown eyes
- Around 8% to 10% of the world has blue eyes
- 5% have hazel eyes
- 5% have Amber eyes
- 2% of the world has green eyes
- 3% have gray eyes
- Rarer colored eyes include gray and red/violet
How does eye color work?
We observe eye color in the “iris” of our baby’s eyeballs. This structure is the ring-shaped part containing tissue with a pigment called “melanin.”3 Melanin also gives your baby their hair and skin color. Like the sunlight turns our skin darker by triggering our bodies to produce more melanin, the same thing happens with the eye. When a baby enters the world and is exposed to light for the first time, the eye’s iris starts to produce more melanin. At around six months, melanin production results in the color change of your baby’s eyes. Eye color in newborns usually transitions from lighter to darker.
Genetics determine the amount of melanin in your little one’s eyeballs.4 Most people have brown eyes because their genetic code produces more melanin, resulting in brown eyes. Babies with blue eyes have code that produces a smaller amount of melanin. And babies with green and hazel eyes have code that produces an even smaller amount of melanin.
Why do my newborn’s eyes appear blue?
If your newborn’s eyes appear blue at birth, their irises have a low melanin concentration. Remember, melanin production typically finishes between six and nine months of age, when you will see your child’s actual eye color emerge. Eye color can continue to change up until about 9 months of age, and in some cases, it even changes as late as three years of age, though it’s much less common.6
There is no blue, green, or brown pigment in the eye at birth. Instead, the blue eye color is due to how the light gets scattered inside the iris, combined with a low melanin concentration.
The eyes will stay blue if the iris doesn’t produce much more melanin after birth.
If the iris produces more melanin, they’ll become green or hazel.
If the iris produces even more melanin, they’ll become brown or darker brown.
What if my baby’s eyes are different colors?
Some babies are born with a condition called heterochromia. This is a condition where a person has different colored eyes or more than one color in the irises of their eyes.5 There are several ways in which heterochromia can occur, such as:
- at birth due to genetics
- as a result of another condition
- due to a problem during eye development, or
- injury to the eye
Heterochromia is a rare condition that typically doesn’t cause any problems. However, if you notice two different eye colors or lightening of eye color by six or seven months of age, it’s a good idea to contact your pediatrician to be safe.
Genetics enables countless possibilities for your child’s eye color! Knowing the color of the parents’ eyes does not necessarily guarantee that you can predict their child’s eye color. It’s so exciting when your child’s eye color finally reveals itself to the world!