The ultimate guide to choosing a baby safety gate

Toddler boy attempting to go down the stairs by himself.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Most parents consider baby safety gates essential babyproofing tools. They are. One minute your baby is playing at your feet and in the blink of an eye, he’s gone out of the room. Safety gates can keep your baby safe and prevent him from falling down the stairs, climbing them up and entering areas with potential safety risks (like the kitchen).

If you are looking to install a baby safety gate at your house and don’t know what to choose, fear not. We’re here to help you with everything you need to know.

Types of baby safety gates

There are several types of baby safety gates; take your time shopping around so you can make an informed decision. These are the main options:

Different types of baby gates

1 Hardware mounted safety gates

They attach to surrounding walls or doorframes with screws. They usually take longer to set up than pressure-mounted gates and may even cost more, but they’re sturdier and are the only safe option at the top of staircases. They don’t usually have a base bar, which means less chance of tripping. Beware that once you remove the hardware-mounted gate, you will need to do touch-ups to cover the drilled holes.

2 Pressure mounted safety gates

They rely on pressure to stay in place. They have rubbery pieces that press against the sides of door frames or walls, which hold the gate in place. These gates are quick and easy to install and leave less damage to the wall since no holes need to be drilled. They are portable, which means they can be moved from room to room or taken with you when you visit relatives. They’re a great fit for doorways but not as sturdy as the hardware option for the top of a staircase since your baby can knock them over.

3 Free standing gates

They are good when you want to keep your baby in a small, defined space, such as a living room floor or patch of grass. These gates can stand on their own and lock into place. They are portable and customizable. They are pretty much like a playpen with more room! The disadvantage of these gates is they are easy to unlock, and fun to climb for your baby, which defeats their purpose.

4 Retractable baby gates

They are fitted to one side of a wall or doorway and extend and attach to hooks on the other side. If you don’t want a permanent fixture or have unusual angles to cover, this might be an option to consider. The retractable gates are unobtrusive when not in use. However, since they are generally made from fabric, they are not as strong as other options.

Never use pressure gates at the top of the stairs. Instead, install a hardware-mounted gate; it’s much more secure.

Extra tips for selecting a baby safety gate

Before you purchase a baby safety gate, here are some things to consider:

1 Carefully measure the area you are going to section off

Be as accurate as possible. You don’t want to purchase a gate that doesn’t quite fit.

2 Consider the height of your baby

The gate should be at least three-quarters of your baby’s height. If your child is extraordinarily tall, opt for a higher gate. Beware that once your baby is more than 36 inches (∼92cm) -around two years old- you should no longer rely on a gate.

3 Choose a safety gate that meets all up-to-date safety standards

Unfortunately, if out-of-date or used improperly, safety gates can themselves pose a hazard to children. Look for certificates like JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association) or CE markings. They provide confidence that the product meets all safety requirements.

4 Consider the baby safety gate design

If the gate has vertical slats, it is recommended that they be no more than 3 inches (∼7.5 cm) apart. Your baby’s head could get trapped in a larger gap, leading to strangulation. Yes, that could happen!

5 Look for ease of open and close

Look for a safety gate that your child can’t dislodge but that you can easily open and close; otherwise, you’ll be too tempted to leave it open when you’re in a hurry.

6 Don’t install your safety gate too high

This could lead to your child being entrapped underneath it. Your gate should sit no higher than 3 inches (∼7cm) off the ground. 

7 Don’t forget to put a safety gate at the bottom of your steps too

Some parents focus on putting a gate at the top of the stairs and forget to put one at the base. Also, consider putting the base gate three steps from the bottom, so your baby has a small area to practice stair-climbing skills.

8 Consider weight and portability

If you are planning on transporting the gate, or maybe bring it with you when you travel, pay close attention to weight and portability.

Do’s and Don’ts

To help you feel more confident, we threw in here some extra Do’s and Don’ts.

1 Model positive behavior

Don’t be tempted to step over your baby gate; always use the opening. If your baby constantly sees you going over the top of the gate, he may likely want to do the same thing.

2 Beware of the baby safety gate surrounding

Never have anything like a footstool or toys that your child can stand on near the gate. He can boost himself up and fall over.

3 Visiting relatives often?

If you are planning on visiting certain relatives often and don’t want to transport your pressure-mounted gate, it would be useful to install a gate at their place too.

4 Remove the baby safety gate

A safety gate is generally intended for children between six months and two years old. It’s no longer safe once they can climb over or open it. This is the time to consider removing the gate.

In a Nutshell

As a busy, working parent, I know first-hand how difficult it can be to find the time to tackle any home project. I hope this guide helped you find the right safety gate for you and your baby.

Did you install a baby safety gate in your house? Which type did you go for? Let us know in the comments below!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. An effective and educational article about baby safety gates. I think there is a lot to learn from here. Wonderful wrap-up Rachelle.


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