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ELI5: How do newborns learn to keep their eyes open?

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level 1

Most babies will tend to open their eyes more if they are held in an upright position (this is called the "doll's eye" reflex). Their vision is very out of focus at first, but they can see things within 6-10 inches away, and they are naturally fascinated by human faces, which is why it's so important to interact with even tiny newborns. Newborns sleep a ton during the first few weeks of life, so they do spend a good chunk of time with their eyes closed, but often they really enjoy being held upright and staring at mom or dad's face! Sight is the last sense to develop in newborns, so while they can often hear extremely well, their eyesight is very poor in the beginning. As their vision gets better and they are more able to focus their eyes on different objects, they keep their eyes open for longer periods of time and will often become fascinated looking at different colors and types of movement.

level 2

I thought eye muscles just work in a way which the relaxed position is actually open, and it requires more muscle use to keep your eyes closed. I mean if you complete relax your eyes, the default position is slightly open. Takes all most no effort at all to keep them all the way open unless you're extremely tired. So doesn't seem like a thing a baby would need to learn, it's just the normal state of an awake animal to have open eyes.

level 3

This is true, but not at first. When babies are first born, their eyes are still so underdeveloped that they are still very sensitive to light and aren't able to properly focus on things that are not very close to them. So, for them, it is actually more "work" for them to keep their eyes open and attempt to focus on things than it is to keep them closed. It is not so much that a baby would need to "learn" to keep his eyes open, but more like the baby just needs some time to fully develop his vision and become accustomed to focusing on things and dealing with the bright lights and colors of the world outside the womb.

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