Do Babies Get Their Eye Color From Mom or Dad?

Predicting Your Child's Eye Color

Hopefully she'll inherit your wide smile and your partner's curly hair, but which of you casts the deciding genetic vote when it comes to your baby's eye color? Neither of you, as it turns out. Using both the mother and father's eye colors, you can hazard a guess about what color your baby's eyes will be. But because the color is ultimately determined by complicated genetic factors, you can't know for sure what hue those beautiful eyes will have until after your child is born.

How is a Baby's Eye Color Determined?

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When we talk about eye color, we're talking about the iris that surrounds the black pupil at the center of the eye. The iris gets its color from a protein called melanin. Blue eyes have the least amount of melanin. Eyes with more melanin are green. The more melanin that's produced, the darker and browner the eyes get.

Two genes, OCA2 and HERC2, affect the production of melanin and therefore determine a baby's eye color. Both parents pass copies of their OCA2 and HERC2 genes down to their child. What happens then gets a little complicated because some genes are dominant over others, and mutations sometimes affect how the genes work. Several other genes also play a role in determining eye color. Because of those factors, it's impossible to accurately predict your baby's eye color before she's born. But you may be able to hazard an educated guess.

When Will Her Eye Color be Set?

Some babies, including many of those born to parents of African or Asian ancestry, are born with brown eyes that will remain brown. But if your baby has European heritage and she's born with blue eyes, they may change over time. Remember, blue eyes have the least amount of melanin.

In some babies, the cells that produce melanin in the irises keep working after birth. So if your baby is born with blue eyes, they may stay that color—or her irises may gradually darken to a deeper shade of blue or to green, hazel or brown. That change generally happens during the first year of life. By her first birthday, your baby's eyes will probably be set at their permanent color.

Can I Guess What Color Eyes My Baby Will Have?

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While you can have fun using old wives' tales to guess your baby's gender, it's not so easy to guess her eye color. After all, it may not even be set when she's born. But if both parents have the same eye color, there's a good chance the baby will share that color. If you have different eye colors, it's harder to guess. Calculate the likelihood of various eye colors using an online baby eye color calculator. Enter your and your partner's eye colors and that of your parents to get a breakdown of the possibilities.