My 5 month old does this. This is perfectly normal for a new-born. When he was around 2 months old this happened a lot but as he has got older it doesn't seem happen so much unless it's new. Remember for the first 6 months their eyesight is still developing and everything is brand new. I would just make sure that they aren't staring at the sun.
I've had a look around to try and find some information which will help ease you a little.
My baby stares at lights. Is this OK?:
You'll probably see your baby staring at all kinds of things—everything is new to a baby! Still, it's normal to worry that staring at a lightbulb could somehow cause vision damage. In fact, your baby is probably staring at the lights because his or her long-range eyesight is still developing (depending on the age, of course), and lights provide wonderful contrast between bright and dark
So for the first six months, it's common for babies to stare at lights, ceiling fans, and other moving and/or contrasting things. There's no harm in this, and it's not a sign of any developmental issue. Afterward, as baby learns to crawl and directly interact with the environment, you'll probably notice less staring because they're too busy exploring!
Staring at lights - will he damage his eyes?:
I think all babies do this. It is all they can see at that age, so it fascinates them. They will do it less and less as they see other things better. I have never heard of it damaging eyes.
Obviously, I wouldn't let him stare into the sun or put him within a foot or less of bright lights to stare at. But from across the room, it won't hurt IMO.
Should we prevent our child from staring at lights?:
Certain light sources can definitely harm the eyes, such as lasers or the most obvious one, the sun. What makes sunlight dangerous is ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which is why ophthalmologists recommend wearing sunglasses with protection against UVA and UVB radiation. Parents of babies who are diagnosed with jaundice should be aware that the primary treatment is exposure to UV light which breaks down the chemical, bilirubin, that causes jaundice, so be sure eye goggles that block out all light are used when the baby is placed under the "bili-light." We used a "bili-blanket", which was a light paddle that slipped into the back of a vest that our daughter wore to help her get over her case of jaundice. She looked like a glow worm!
I also came across an article that suggested that blue light within the visible spectrum (at the end closest to UV, between 400-500 nm in wavelength) could be dangerous and lead to age related macular degeneration. ARMD, like the name sounds, is associated with the elderly, so I'm not sure how this applies to children.
With that in mind, our 5-month-old loves to look at lights. When we had our Christmas tree up, she would just stare at it, mezmerized by the different colors as they twinkled and flashed. When she was first born, she loved to stare at house lamps. I don't worry much about her looking at those sorts of light sources, and I think it would be pretty difficult to stop her, anyway, but I did wonder this myself when I first noticed her staring at lights.
Your Infant's Vision Development specifically Vision Development: Months 2 and 3:
Also, infants at this stage of development are learning how to shift their gaze from one object to another without having to move their head. And their eyes are becoming more sensitive to light: at 3 months old, an infant's light detection threshold is only 10 times that of an adult. So you may want to dim the lights a bit more for naps and bedtime.
Tips: To help stimulate your 2- to 3-month-old child's vision development, the American Optometric Association (AOA) has these recommendations:
- Keep a night light on to provide visual stimulation when they are awake in their crib.
I would like to edit into my answer after being made aware of light gazing.
Before reading on don't automatically assume your child has what I'm about to say based on this one symptom.
Light gazing can be a symptom of CVI:
Cortical visual impairment (CVI) is a term used to describe visual impairment that occurs due to brain injury. CVI differs from other types of visual impairment which are due to physical problems with the eyes. CVI is caused by damage to the visual centers of the brain, which interferes with communication between the brain and the eyes. The eyes are able to see, but the brain is not interpreting what is being seen.
Taking a closer look at this, specifically Light gazing and non purposeful gazing:
It is not entirely clear why this is a common characteristic among children with CVI. Children with CVI might gaze at light in order to visually stimulate themselves. Conversely, both light gazing and non purposeful gazing may be ways to avoid visual stimulation. Another theory is that because many children with CVI have difficulty processing vision and sound at the same time, they may turn away from an object when trying to listen and may therefore appear to be gazing at light or gazing without purpose. It may appear that a child who looks away from a person or object is not interested, when in fact they are trying to focus on listening.
Note in the above quote none purposeful gazing. This is when your baby will stare off into nothingness in a trance like state. This together with light gazing could be a symptom of CVI but chances are it isn't unless your child is experiencing other symptoms of CVI.
With all this in mind I think it's safe to say that there should be no issues with your baby staring at an indoor light. I personally wouldn't allow it to continue for long periods and would find something to distract them. I remember myself having this concern but it's completely gone now and as I said at the top this doesn't seem to happen so much now.
If you are seriously concerned about your baby's development or any damage being caused by staring at lights seek a medical opinion from your family doctor. They themselves will give you the assurance you may be looking for.