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How to Safely Use Baby Gates

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 28, 2021

Parents rely on baby gates in their homes to keep infants and toddlers safe from harm. But gates that aren’t installed the way they should be can end up as a safety hazard. Learn how to use baby gates safely so you can protect your child.

How to Install and Use Baby Gates Safely

Babies and toddlers are always reaching, rolling, grasping, and eventually trying to crawl or walk to things within their sight. Baby gates are one way to keep your child from hurting themselves while exploring their environment. Here’s what to consider when looking for baby gates: 

Where the gates will go. If you have stairs in your home, most experts recommend putting baby gates at the top and bottom. Gates at the top of the stairs should be mounted to the wall or guardrails. Also put gates in the doorways of areas that may be dangerous for toddlers.

Consider whether you'll use the gates inside or outside. If you’re going to use gates in the yard, make sure they’re made of a material that will hold up to different weather conditions. Many baby gates meant for outdoor use come with a UV coating to keep them from fading.

Types of baby gates. There are several categories of baby gates for safety. Look into the benefits of each to make sure you get the right product for your home. Certain types of baby gates work better for safety in specific areas. Gates should also meet current safety standards. Avoid accordion gates in your home.

You may want to consider types like:  

  • Screw-fit baby gates. These are typically made of wood or metal. Measure the area where the gate will go before you buy it. Then you can install it with metal screws. Children are usually able to hold on to these styles of gates without falling or tripping over a rail.
  • Pressure-fit baby gates. These hold their position with pressure applied at four points. Again, it’s a good idea to measure the area first. If you can’t find a gate that’s the right size, you can use an extension to get it fitted. You can also add wall cups to help the gate to stay in place.
  • Travel baby gates. These can go with you when you travel. They help keep your child safe regardless of the environment. Most travel gates are made of mesh and use pressure to stay in place. They aren’t for everyday use.

Things to Consider When It Comes to Baby Gates

Overall safety. Make sure that the baby gate doesn’t have more than 1 to 2 inches between the bottom and the floor. You don’t want to leave space for your child to slip under and possibly get trapped. If the gates have stiff vertical rods or slats, make sure they’re fewer than 6 centimeters apart so your child can’t get their head stuck between them.

Certification. Look for a label from the American Society for Testing and Materials and Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (ASTM/JPMA). This ensures that you’re getting a product from a reputable manufacturer.

The safety of different components. Look at the parts that come with your baby gate. You want to make sure that none of them can come off and hurt your child. It's important to look into the manufacturer and their track record on safety.

The complexity of installation. Read the full instructions for installing your baby gate. If they seem too complicated or aren’t sure your skills are up to the task, let an expert do it. The cost can pay off in the form of reassuring you about your child’s safety. 

Use baby gates along with other products and safety tips to protect children, including:  

  • Safety covers for door knobs
  • Safety nets around railings next to stairs, balconies, and decks
  • Locks on freezers
  • Guards over the knobs on the front of stoves
  • Anti-scald devices on water faucets
  • Window guards to keep children from falling out  
  • Corner and edge bumpers on sharp edges of furniture 
  • Cordless window coverings to prevent accidental strangulation

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Doernbecher Children’s Hospital: “Baby and Toddler Safety.”

KidsHealth from Nemours: “Choosing Safe Baby Products: Gates.”

National Home Security Alliance: “Best Retractable Baby Gates for Stairs.”

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission: “Childproofing Your Home – 12 Safety Devices to Protect Your Children.”

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