Mothers-to-be look forward to feeling their baby's first movements. The regular thumps and bumps provide reassurance that your baby is doing well and evidence that there really is a little person growing inside. While your baby will begin moving by eight weeks after your last period, the movements don't become strong enough to feel until much later. Once you begin noticing movement, it can still be difficult to distinguish which bumps come from baby and which are just gas. Rest assured, by the end of your pregnancy there will be no doubt when your baby is kicking or punching away.
Wait until you have reached 16 to 22 weeks since your last period, the average time most women start feeling their baby's movements. If you have already had a baby, you may notice your baby moving earlier since you have experience distinguishing baby kicks from cramps or gas. If you have an anterior placenta -- a placenta attached to the front of your uterus -- you may have to wait longer since the placenta will muffle baby's wiggles and punches.
Look for subtle movements at first. A baby's earliest movements feel like little taps, flutters, bubbles or swishes. Because they are so gentle, you have the best chance of noticing them while sitting still or lying quietly in bed.
Observe how the first taps and flutters you felt become stronger and more regular as your baby grows. You can confirm that your baby really is kicking and punching as the subtle movements you first noticed become more frequent. You may still have hours or days when you don't feel your baby at all, but by six months of pregnancy, a baby's movements may fall into a recognisable pattern.
Count baby kicks daily once you've reached your third trimester to check that your baby is moving normally. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends lying on your side and counting baby movements as a way to monitor your baby's health. If baby is doing well, you should feel 10 kicks or punches in less than two hours.
Watch for a bulge or the impression of a foot in your belly. By the end of your eighth month of pregnancy, your baby has gained enough strength that you can see his kicks and punches from the outside.
If you see the outline of a little hand or foot on your belly, give it a gentle push. You might find your baby kicks or pushes back!