Babies Blink Less Than Adults

November 17, 2010 at 1:00 am 3 comments

By Kaye Nemec

I was rocking my son, trying to get him to sleep, staring at his wide-eyes as he stared back at me. I noticed that he rarely blinked and each time I blinked, I wondered if we had done it at the same time and I just missed him doing it. But, that type of coincidence can’t possibly happen every time I blink for 20 minutes, so I did some research.

It turns out, babies blink much less often than adults. Studies have found that babies, on average, blink less than twice per minute while adults blink, on average, 10 to 15 times per minute.

There are a couple of theories about why babies blink less than adults. One theory is that, because babies’ eyes are so much smaller, there is a much smaller opening through which things like dust, dirt and debris can pass. If fewer foreign particles enter the eye, less blinking and tears are needed to wash it away.

Another suggests that the more sleep a person gets, the less blinking is required. Since babies may have their eyes shut for as much as 15 hours per day, they are not as prone to dry eyes as adults, who often get 6 to 8 hours of sleep per day. When eyes are dry, blinking moisturizes them, so if babies don’t have dry eyes, there is no need to blink as often.

It is also interesting that babies do not produce tears until around the age of one month, when their tear ducts have developed. Even after that one month milestone, babies may continue to cry without tears for awhile. During the first few months, babies tend to save their tears for times when they are especially adamant about what they want or when they are in pain. So, if the purpose of blinking is to clear the eye of debris and lubricate it with tears, there is really no need for a baby to blink until they begin producing that cleansing agent.

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Sources: New York Times, The Register, Parenting

Photo: bbaunach (cc)

Entry filed under: Demystified, Health and Beauty. Tags: , , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1.  |  November 17, 2010 at 9:09 am

    I had no idea!

  • 2. ibailey  |  November 17, 2010 at 10:53 am

    I actually just listened to a story on Radio lab about blinking and there is a theory that blinking has nothing to do with moistening the eye. People in humid environments (ie. Sauna’s) still blink the same amount. A pair of Japanese researchers think that we blink to record information to our brain, it’s a break in the input from our eyes. It’s a fascinating story.

  • 3. PRW  |  November 18, 2010 at 11:41 am

    Walter Murch, film editor, believes people blink when they change thoughts. This is an oversimplification of his theory, of course, and it applies mostly to film editing, but perhaps there is a correlation. Perhaps babies blink less often because they change trains of thought less often.


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