What Determines a Baby's Eye Colour?

Posted by Kerry Nevins on

Take a look at a photo of yourself as a child, and you might notice that there’s something pretty different about you (besides being much smaller and, you know, a baby, that is). You might notice that your eyes were blue, even though it’s likely that they’re another colour now. That’s because most caucasian babies are born with blue eyes. In this blog, we’ll take a look at this interesting phenomenon.

So why does it happen?

Iris colour, like hair and skin colour, depends on a protein in the body called melanin. Our bodies contain cells called melanocytes which secrete melanin. If only a little melanin is secreted, your baby will have blue eyes, a bit more and the eyes will be green or hazel, more still and the eyes will look brown. The more the baby is exposed to sunlight, the more melanin they’ll have - the minute your baby is born, the light in the room kick-starts melanin production in the iris, and so begins the eye colour changing process. And more than just the colour of your baby’s eyes could change; you might notice that their hair and skin tone change too. 

Fun fact: did you know that blue eyes stem from a genetic mutation that happened around 7,000 years ago?

When will my baby’s eye colour change?

The colour change happens gradually and begins to slow down from 6 months of age but can still keep changing until your baby is around a year old. You might notice that their eyes slowly change from one colour to the next, before eventually settling. In some rare cases, the changes can continue into adulthood. 

What about brown eyes?

The most common eye color for babies is actually brown. African-American, Hispanic and Asian babies are almost always born with dark eyes that stay dark, though the shade may change slightly during the first year. These babies have too much melanin to have blue eyes and because they’ve already got a lot of melanin from birth, the color of the eyes usually stays the same.

What will my child’s final eye colour be?

You might love the piercing blue eyes of your baby, but don’t get too attached since the colour will most likely change. In the United States, only around 20% of caucasians have blue eyes. There’s no absolute way to tell what eye colour your baby will end up with but you can make a pretty good bet by looking at the colour of your eyes and the eyes of your baby’s grandparents. We were certain that our babies would end up with hazel or brown eyes because my eyes are green and my husband’s are brown and we thought that brown was a more ‘dominant’ colour. However, our daughter has ended up with bright blue eyes and our son’s eyes are hazel, so you just never know!

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