Sometimes it seems like there’s just so much to do during pregnancy, from drinking raspberry leaf tea for an easier labor, to making your appointments, exercising to boost baby’s brain power, and more.

So adding another thing to your to-do list? No thanks! But hear us out—fetal kick counts is something that you should definitely add to your must-do list!

Here’s HOW, WHEN, and WHY to count baby’s kicks.

When will I start feeling baby kick?

Baby’s movements increase as your pregnancy goes on, but you will probably feel those first flutters between 16 weeks and 25 weeks pregnant.

If you’re a first-time mama, it’s likely that you won’t feel much until closer to the 25-week mark.

If this ain’t your first time at the pregnancy rodeo, you may even feel those little kicks as early as 13 weeks pregnant.

Things that can prevent you from feeling kicks

You may not feel kicks if you’re distracted and not paying close attention. Take the time to slow down and really concentrate on your baby’s movements. If the placenta is in front of the uterus, baby’s movements may be less noticeable. And if you’re carrying extra weight, it will be harder for you to feel baby’s movements until later in the pregnancy.

Towards the end of pregnancy, your baby may rest for 20–75 minutes at a time, so don’t be concerned if you’re not feeling constant movement during the day.

What do baby’s kicks feel like?

Sometime around your 12th week of pregnancy, baby will start moving his or her arms and legs around, but they’re too small for you to feel the movements.

At about 16 weeks pregnant, you’ll start to feel butterfly-like flutters. Some women have even mistaken these flutters for gas or hunger pains.

But by 20 weeks pregnant, the kicks have become stronger, and the movements are called “quickening.”

Between 24 weeks and 28 weeks pregnant, those little flutters will have turned into full-blown jabs.

What things make baby kick?

When you’re up and about, your movements often lull your baby to sleep. So the best time to track kick counts is when you’re resting. You’re more likely to feel baby kick if:

  • You lay on your left side (for optimal circulation)
  • Eat or drink something, especially if it’s sweet or cold
  • It’s evening
  • You make loud noises, like yell, sing, laugh, or play music
  • It’s between 9 pm and 1 am and you’re not moving much (they’re responding to your declining blood sugar levels)

What is kick counting?

Kick counting is really simple, and it’s just what it sounds like. You’re counting baby’s kicks and movements to monitor how they’re doing. Tumbles, kicks, and punches all count; however, the little bumps from hiccups do not.

Why should I count baby’s kicks?

Unlike at-home fetal monitoring, kick counting is a safe way to bond with your baby. By keeping track of their movements, you’ll also be able to tell when something is off. It’s important to start doing kick counts to establish a pattern of what normal is for your little one. That way, if their movements significantly increase or decrease, you’ll be able to tell the difference right away.

Should all moms kick count?

Absolutely! Even if you’re not a high-risk pregnancy, the benefits of monitoring fetal movements are still there. In fact, it could even save your baby’s life. It’s an important way to identify potential problems and help to prevent stillbirths.

Your chances of having a stillbirth are 1 in 160, so it’s not as rare as you would think (not to freak you out, but it’s important to know the facts!). Many moms notice all too late that their baby has stopped moving, after much can be done. But if you’re monitoring kick counts and notice a decline in movements, the issue can be monitored immediately. This increases the likelihood that the problem will be caught in time, before a stillbirth or other issue occurs.

How to do kick counts

1. Pick the right time of day

Pick the time of day when your little one is more active, which is usually the evening. Don’t put yourself in panic mode by choosing the afternoon if you know your baby is usually resting at that time anyway. Sometimes though, even when they’re normally active at a certain time, your baby may be resting and may need a little more prompting to move around.

2. Assume the position

Get into a comfortable position—either sitting or laying down—preferably on your back or left side. Relax, and concentrate on feeling your baby move. Don’t try to do this while you’re doing the dishes or out running errands. It’s too easy to get distracted and miss movements, which defeats the whole purpose of this exercise!

3. See how long it takes baby to move 10 times

You want to time how long it takes for your baby to move 10 times. Usually they’ll move 10 times in the span of 30 minutes, however, it may take up to 2 hours.

Since your baby will be too small to feel much early on in your pregnancy, it’s not recommended to start kick counting until 28 weeks pregnant.

If you’re a high-risk pregnancy or carrying multiples, you’ll want to start doing kick counts a little earlier, at 26 weeks. It’s also recommended to monitor kick counts at the same time every day so that you really start getting a feel for baby’s patterns.

What’s normal when monitoring kick counts?

What’s normal for your baby will vary from what’s normal for another. As you’re monitoring kick counts, keep track of them on an app or a printed fetal kick counts tracker like this one. They’re simple and easy to use, and it’s a good way to have a record to show your doctor or midwife—this way you’ll be able to establish a baseline and know what’s normal for your baby.

When should I be worried?

If you can’t feel baby move 10 times within two hours at the usual time, then wait an hour and try again.

If you’re still not feeling anything, then contact your birth professional right away for further monitoring.

If you don’t feel any movements, your baby may not be getting enough oxygen or nutrients through the placenta.

Your baby’s movements will increase in frequency and intensity as the pregnancy progresses, so also inform your birth team if movements start to weaken or decline. You want to keep them updated if kick counts change drastically from one time to the next.

Final word on kick counts

Counting your baby’s movements is the perfect way for you and your family to bond with your little one. It’s simple, safe, and goes a long way at helping to prevent pregnancy complications, including stillbirths. So take some time out of your day to relax and bond with your baby as you count their movements. You’ll feel more connected to that little nugget within long before birth, and it could just save their life!