When will I feel my baby kick?

Yet to feel your babe assert their presence in your womb? You may be wondering, “when will I feel my baby kick?”. 

Baby movements are important to keep track of in pregnancy, particularly closer to your due date. But we’re not gonna lie – it can sometimes be tricky to notice the difference between ‘baby kicking in womb’ and ‘stomach growling for lunch’, let alone keeping up a running baby kick count. 

By the way – your care team may refer to this as ‘fetal kicks’, but what they really mean is any sort of baby movement, be it twisting, turning, hiccuping, flipping, and what you’re certain to be your baby’s version of the macarena. 

In this article we’re going to look at what to expect with baby movements: When can you feel your baby kick? What does it even feel like? And why (for the love of god WHY) do babies kick so passionately at their moms’ bladders, David Beckham-style? As if we don’t need to pee enough already during pregnancy.

When do you start feeling your baby kick?

Most women feel the first subtle movements in the second trimester, typically between 18 and 24 weeks. The timing depends on a few things:

  • The position of your baby and placenta.
  • Whether this is your first pregnancy or not (first time moms usually don’t feel it as early).
  • The amount of amniotic fluid.

If you have multiple pregnancies, they’ll probably all feel different, too!

You’ll start feeling movements ‘on the inside’ long before anyone else can feel external kicks. So if your partner is asking “when can you feel the baby kick from the outside”, let them know it may not be until Week 20 or beyond. (That is, if you can encourage your baby to kick on cue for them.)

What do baby kicks feel like?

In the first trimester, it’s not super common to feel your baby move (although not impossible either). It’s wild, really, considering an ultrasound might show your baby kicking in the womb like a banshee, but you don’t feel it.

Over time baby kicking becomes more and more noticeable. The sensation will change, intensify, and freak you out sometimes. So let’s break down what you’re likely to feel over the course of your pregnancy – keeping in mind that fetal movements vary a LOT from one person and/or pregnancy to the next!

Baby kicking in weeks 16–19

  • Soft, subtle ‘swirling’ or ‘fluttering’. Almost like butterflies in your stomach.
  • Bubbly or ‘gassy’ feeling.
  • Muscle twitches.

Baby kicking in weeks 20–23

  • More defined kicks.
  • Repetitive jerking movements (baby hiccups!).
  • Rolling, tumbling movements – kinda like your stomach is rumbling.

Baby kicking in weeks 24–28

  • More predictable movement routines, with active times and sleepy times of the day.
  • Distinctive punches and jabs.
  • Baby may react to loud, sudden noises (this is fun to play with).

Baby kicking in weeks 29–34:

  • Kicks feel stronger as your baby gains weight and muscle.
  • Movements may slow down but last longer.
  • Kicks might become visible from the outside!

Baby kicking in weeks 35–40+:

  • Kicks might slow as baby gets more cramped at the end of your third trimester. But they shouldn’t stop altogether.
  • New kicking locations – i.e. under your ribs.
  • Kicks may be uncomfortable or painful sometimes. Ouch! (Consider it an expression of your baby’s heartfelt gratitude for carrying and birthing them.)

How to tell baby position by kicks: Late pregnancy movements

Your midwife or obstetrician will assess your baby’s position as you get closer to your due date.  Head-down, facing your back is the ideal position for birth, and where you feel kicks can help you identify if their legs are up (kicking at your ribs) or down (targeting your bladder). Belly mapping is one method you can use to feel where your baby is at, and is a great activity to do as you prepare for birth.

Feeling baby kicking in the womb: Why it matters

To be frank, baby kicks can become a bit of a pain in the uterus. Particularly as babies inconveniently love to kick up a storm between 9pm and 1am. It’s their fave time to party. (For real – it’s to do with your blood sugar dipping at this time.)

But despite the discomfort, movements are a good sign. As your baby gets bigger, your maternity care team will increasingly stress the importance of keeping track of kicks.

Keeping a baby kick count: When to start

From around 28 weeks, you’ll start to notice your baby develop more of a pattern with their movements. They’ll be more active at certain times of the day than others. (Note: babies sleep inside the womb, so they WILL be still sometimes.)

Once you’ve noticed a pattern, or once you’re in your third trimester, it can be beneficial to start practising kick counting. An app like FetalLife can help you track this.

Sit still or lie on your left side and note how many times your baby moves. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends noting at least 10 movements in two hours, but chat to your medical team to understand what they advise.

Can they kick TOO much?

So what if you notice your baby kicking a LOT? It’s always a good idea to mention significant movement changes to your obstetrician, but increased movement usually isn’t anything to be concerned about. (And no, it doesn’t mean you’ll have a hyperactive child.)

What to do if you stop feeling your baby kicking

You’re less likely to notice your baby’s movements when you’re active and busy. Slowing down, and sitting or lying in a quiet space can help you tune into your baby and feel for movements better. 

If you still can’t sense anything, call your midwife or obstetrician. They might ask you to come to the hospital ASAP for a checkup or monitoring.

Some ways to make baby kick

While you shouldn’t go out of your way to make your baby move, there are certain times of the day that they’re most likely to be active. Most moms report this to be:

  • After you eat a meal or something sweet.
  • After physical activity.
  • After you have a cold drink.
  • Between 9pm and 1am.

Late in your pregnancy, you may even be able to gently press against your belly and feel them shift beneath your hand. And some babies respond to their mother’s voice (cuuute!), or even do a bit of boogieing to music.

Above all else, try to trust your own body and instincts when it comes to your baby’s movements. If you’re not sure, call your maternity team for support – that’s what they’re there for!

Read next: When will my baby bump start showing?

VeryWell Family, When You Should Worry About Decreased Fetal Movement

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, FAQs – Special Tests for Monitoring Fetal Well-Being

NHS, Your baby’s movements

Tommy’s, Baby movements in pregnancy

University of Michigan Health, Your Baby’s Movements During Pregnancy

American Pregnancy Association, First Fetal Movement: Quickening

BabyCenter, When do you start feeling your baby move?

Spinning Babies, Belly Mapping Parent Handout

American Pregnancy Association, Counting Baby Kicks

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