What do baby kicks feel like, and when will you feel your baby kick?

When your baby starts to kick…

One of the best things about being pregnant is when you first get to feel your baby kicking. It’s one of the early physical signs that there is a tiny person living inside you!

As a result, the first time you feel your baby kick can be a very happy and emotional milestone for you, but it’s also ok to feel a little nervous, too! When most people think of their baby kicking, they imagine little feet prodding pregnant tummies, or being able to see their baby kicking. But each and every mum has a different experience of their little one’s first wriggles. Just remember, your baby’s small early movements are their way of showing you that they are beginning to grow and develop.

When does a baby start kicking?

Your baby will first start to wriggle and kick at around 18 to 20 weeks into your pregnancy. If this is your first baby, you might not realise that those little flutters in your tummy are your little one’s way of saying hello.

Don’t worry if you’re feeling a bit confused about what a baby kick actually feels like. Many first-time mums often confuse their first baby kicks with gas bubbles. If you’re a little nervy about what to expect, don’t be afraid to speak to your midwife or doctor – they are there to help and will be able to answer any questions you might have.

If you’ve been pregnant before, you’ll be familiar with what baby kicks feel like. You may feel your baby kicking from around 16 weeks. Though there are cycles of movement you can expect throughout pregnancy, each mum, baby and their kicking patterns are unique, so you should try to get to know what’s normal for you. After those initial exciting movements, you will begin to notice them more and more as your baby develops. Typically after 24 weeks, your baby’s movements become more distinguished and harder to miss, and around this time they begin to form the pattern.

If at any point you’re worried that your baby is moving more or less than you are used to, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with your midwife or doctor. If you don’t think you’ve felt your baby kicking at all by 24 weeks, you should definitely consult a healthcare professional. They will listen to your baby’s heartbeat and may arrange an ultrasound, just to make sure your little one is healthy.

What do baby kicks feel like?

20 to 24 weeks - At first you might feel a gentle flutter in your stomach. This is known as ‘quickening’ and is the first sign your baby is beginning to move. If this is your first pregnancy, it’s easy to mistake your baby kicking for gas, as baby kicks can sometimes feel like small bubbles inside your tummy.

24 to 28 weeks - Around this time, it is not unusual to feel your baby hiccup. You’ll know it’s hiccups because they tend to be short, repetitive movements in your tummy. There is no need to worry though, as they are an important part of your baby’s development - it’s their way of practicing their breathing! These can go on a little while, so be prepared for the odd night spent listening to your little one hiccup the evening away!

During this period, your baby kicks might also start getting a little heavier. This is because they’re becoming more attuned to the sounds around them and the odd loud noise might make them ‘jump’. But don’t worry, your womb offers plenty of protection for your baby, so feel free to talk to your little one. Doing so will let them get to know the sound of your voice.

Around 29 weeks - It is at this point that you will start to feel your baby move on the outside of your bump. It might be a small baby kick or just a cheeky little jab, but it means your partner, family and friends (if you are happy to let them, of course) can experience those magical moments too!

Around 32 weeks - By now you will be very familiar with all of your little one’s movements. At this stage, your baby will begin to move into the final birthing position (hopefully with their head down, at around 36 weeks). Your baby kick counter will be pretty high now, as they twist and turn their way into the right position.

Your baby’s kicks won’t hurt, but your little one can have pretty strong opinions on what you are doing. So if you are lying in a position that they don’t find very comfortable, do not be surprised if they let you know about it via a little kick or two. This is their way of letting you know that you need to find a position they prefer.

36 to 40 weeks - You’ll continue to experience steady, strong baby kicking movements, including little jabs to the ribs, at the same rate as before. Your baby is now gradually reaching its birth weight, which means they might not have as much room to move about, however, little one’s pattern should remain the same.

Counting baby kicks?

Paying attention to your baby’s routine and getting familiar with their movements is a good way to monitor their development and reassure yourself that they’re growing as they should. Some babies are more active at certain times of day or night (sorry, Mum!) and quieter at others.

There is no set number of kicks to expect, but try and remember your baby’s daily routine to understand their ‘normal’. If you notice the frequency of your baby kicking has changed or feels out of character, it’s important to take note. During both the day and night, your baby will have periods of sleep that mostly last between 20 and 40 minutes, and are rarely longer than 90 minutes. So it could be that they are just resting, but if this goes on for any longer than usual for you, then you should consult your midwife or doctor.

How can you encourage your baby to kick?

If you’re worried about your baby’s movements, it is always important to contact your maternity unit straight away. Here are a few little tricks to help give them a gentle nudge.  

  • Lie on your left side with your bump supported. This will allow you to feel your baby’s movements much more than you would if you were standing up or moving around.
  • Have a cold drink. Your baby will feel the slight temperature change, which may encourage them to kick.
  • Make a bit of noise. If you play some music or talk to your little one, this might gently wake them up.

Still worried about your baby’s movements?

A baby’s regular movements are a clear early sign of their health. So if you are in any way worried that your baby is not moving as much as they usually do, then call your midwife or doctor. Do not worry, midwives are more than happy to hear from you!

What if you feel kicks and you don’t think you’re pregnant?

Phantom baby kicks happen more often than you think. There can be a number of reasons for this outside of being pregnant. It could be a muscle spasm, or it could just be gas. If the feeling persists, you should consult a doctor. They will be able to give you a clear answer.

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